The Guardian • Issue #2082

HALF THE SKY

Surrogacy – desperation and exploitation

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2082
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On 24 August 2023, Greek officials took action to break up a suspected criminal group engaged in human trafficking and illicit adoptions. The focal point was a surrogacy clinic located in Chania, Greece.

Surrogacy is a reproductive arrangement in which a woman, known as the surrogate mother, carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of another person or couple. This process is usually used by individuals or couples who are unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term themselves.

In this incident, the illegal Greek surrogacy centre was called Mediterranean Fertility. The Greek police claim that the clinic operated as a criminal organisation, allegedly exploiting 169 vulnerable foreign women for egg donation or surrogacy. They are accused of defrauding patients through deceptive embryo transfers, and engaging in illegal adoption brokering. The entire medical team of the clinic has been arrested and detained, facing charges of child trafficking. Half of the clients of this clinic are Australian, and Australian media and diplomats have spoken out about the would-be parents’ desperation.

“I’ve got women in tears to me on the phone every day saying ‘I just don’t know what to do.’ It’s been really tough, it’s awful,” said Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand President Dr Luke Rombauts. Despite the emphasis on the disappointment of Australian would-be mothers, the surrogate mothers who were caught by this illegal clinic are the ones facing real despair. All the voices from the Australian side are as hypocritical and ignorant as they could be.

Melbourne-based Dr Nicholas Lolatgis, Director of the Centre for Infertility Solutions, recommended the Mediterranean Fertility Institute to Australian couples dealing with infertility. Despite the turmoil, he praised Greece’s donor egg program. This doctor who introduced the illegal clinic to Australian customers faced no investigation at all, and was able to speak publicly condemning the Greek government’s denial of intended parents’ visitation. This shows total irresponsibility towards Australian clients, but we haven’t seen complaints on that so far.

There are so many ethical concerns for commercial surrogacy unanswered. Does the surrogate mother count as the mother to the baby? What’s the consequence if the surrogate mother dies in the process of giving birth? What happened to the disabled infants that are returned to the clinic by their intended parents?

The large wealth and power differentials between intended parents and surrogates cannot be ignored. Advocates of commercial surrogacy argue that it is a woman’s right to enter a contract and make decisions regarding her own body, overlooking the pressures on the surrogate mothers.

Poverty is not a choice, and the pressure that compels a woman to sell her uterus for money is not freedom or women’s rights. The intended parents with higher economic status have taken advantage of the poorest women in foreign countries. Commercial surrogacy is exploitation.

To quote from People’s Daily, “To regard procreation as a kind of labour, and life as a commodity is a disgrace to humanity.” Australia should be responsible and banish commercial surrogacy for the protection of women everywhere.

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