ARPA Canada Calls on Parliament to Change Surrogacy Laws
There are two different kinds of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, a child is created using the surrogate mother’s egg, resulting in a child that is genetically related to her. In gestational surrogacy, an embryo is created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and is implanted in a surrogate mother but genetically unrelated to her. Typically, a contract is signed in advance to designate who will be the legal parents of the child at the time of birth.
Together, surrogacy and IVF constitute what is called ‘assisted human reproduction.’ Like IVF, surrogacy is often seen as a way to overcome infertility in opposite-sex couples, and as a way for same-sex couples to have children. Through surrogacy, individuals or couples can commission a surrogate to carry a child for them, and the surrogate then gives the child up to the intended parent(s) after birth.
Commercial surrogacy, where a surrogate is paid for carrying a baby to term, is prohibited in Canada. Altruistic surrogacy, however, where a surrogate ‘volunteers’ to carry a baby without compensation, is permitted, and a surrogate can be reimbursed for expenses related to the pregnancy. In practice, it is difficult to differentiate between legitimate surrogacy expenses and illegitimate payments which incentivize women to become surrogates as a means of making income. The federal government recently increased possible incentives for surrogacy by expanding which expenses could be legitimately reimbursed.
ARPA Canada wants to draw attention to the commodification and exploitation of women and children that takes place through both commercial and altruistic surrogacy.
Surrogacy fractures motherhood into multiple categories and reorders natural relationships. It ultimately puts the interests of the commissioning parents ahead of the interests of the child and the surrogate mother. Children are gifts to received from God, and a mother’s bond to her children is meant to be both biological and relational. Surrogacy disrupts this natural bond, compelling a woman to bear a child and immediately give it up after birth.
One surrogate’s story illustrates this problem: “I agreed to be a surrogate for a friend who was unable to conceive, using her husband’s sperm. I stayed attached after birth and breast fed my baby … I was supposed to surrender the baby to her for adoption by her. She can be the aunt, but I am the mother. I’m sorry in a way that it didn’t work out, but it didn’t.”
Commodifying Human Life
Through surrogacy, a woman’s reproductive capacities are reduced to a business asset. This not only often leads to major legal disputes but also treats a woman’s body as a ‘womb for rent.’ Even in altruistic surrogacy, women often suffer harm as they are pressured to behave as the intended parents desire and to give up the child they have carried.
Children who are born through surrogacy often feel abandoned by their birth mother and purchased by their legal parents. Children born through surrogacy may also be abandoned or at increased risk of abuse. One American couple commissioned a surrogate in Ukraine to have a child for them. The child had multiple disabilities and her American intended parents stated, “We will not take her to America. This baby is incurable.” The child was left unwanted by both her intended parents and the surrogate mother. This is one example of what can happen when adults are not concerned with what is best for the child, but simply with their own desires.
Updated Policy Report
ARPA Canada has just released our revised and updated Respectfully Submitted policy report on surrogacy, explaining what it is and why it is bad public policy for both women and children.
Although commercial surrogacy is not permitted in Canada, various forms of commodification and exploitation through surrogacy still exist. ARPA Canada’s primary recommendation is that Canada prohibit all forms of surrogacy. Failing that, however, our recommendations focus on ensuring that human life is not commodified and that children are better protected throughout the surrogacy process.
We encourage you to read through the report and to send it to your MP and ask them to read it as well. Contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or feedback.
 For more information on IVF, see ARPA Canada’s newly updated report.
 Lois McLatchie and Jennifer Lea, “Surrogacy, Law & Human Rights,” ADF International, 2022, p. 28.