New bill would allow commercialization of human reproduction
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Bill C-404, “An Act to amend the Assisted Human Reproduction Act”, was introduced yesterday by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather.
If the bill passes, it will decriminalize commercial surrogacy and the sale of human gametes (sperm and eggs). This will allow women to enter commercial contracts to bear children for others in exchange for money. It will also allow paying people for their eggs or sperm.
The bill is short and simple and would do nothing to regulate these practices, except to specify that gamete donors and surrogates must be capable of consenting and not coerced, and the former must be at least 18 years old, the latter 21.
The bill raises many questions.
What would a market in human gametes look like? Would people with better health and higher IQs be able to make more donating their sperm and eggs? Are people going to shop for sperm and eggs based on donor profiles? How will this impact society’s view of human nature? Will younger, healthier women be able to demand higher pay for renting their womb? What portion of profits would go to a surrogacy agency and how much to the surrogate? What if the demand for surrogates is not met? Could the emergence of a market for womb rental result in vulnerable women being pressured into it? Even trafficked? Even if trafficking and coercion could be prevented, is it ethical to pay women to bear children to deliver to others?
ARPA Canada is concerned that this bill will risk the health and wellbeing of birth mothers and children for the following reasons:
- God designed reproduction to take place in marriage, as the fruit of bodily union between a man and a woman, and for children to know and be raised by their natural parents. Introducing third parties, either as sperm or egg donors or as surrogate mothers, crosses an important boundary and consequently leads to avoidable pain and confusion.
- Surrogacy commodifies women’s reproductive capacities. This is out of line with God’s good design for human reproduction and families. It undermines human dignity.
- Surrogacy agreements often restrain a woman’s autonomy by subjecting her to a specific diet, limiting or requiring certain exercise, possibly requiring her to abort one or several children, and to undergo a caesarian section delivery (the intended parents typically consider this the less risky option for the baby).
- Commercial surrogacy commodifies children as well. There should not be a price-tag attached to a child. The object of a surrogacy agreement is the delivery of a child to the paying party. Assisted reproductive services and surrogacy are provided in response to market demand, if the price is right, and the end product is a baby.
- Children born through surrogacy arrangements have expressed a sense of loss in not knowing their birth mother and knowing that their legal parents paid for them.
- Commercial surrogacy has been banned around the world because of how it leads to exploitation of women. Impoverished women are more vulnerable as they will be most prone to enduring the physical risks and emotional hardship of bearing a child for someone else. Very few countries allow commercial surrogacy, and some that have allowed it in the past such as India, are now restricting it to curb exploitation.
- Gamete commodification is damaging to the dignity of the children and dehumanizing. For one, it separates children from their genetic parents intentionally and by design. It also leads to a “designer baby” mentality, where people choose what kind of people they want “their” baby’s DNA to come from (smart, athletic, black, white, tall, short, etc.). It makes children a product to which people feel entitled, rather than the fruit that crowns marriage and is received from God as a good and sacred gift.
- For a woman, gamete donation requires drug-use, hormone treatment, and invasive medical procedures, which can have long-lasting medical effects. For a man, it typically involves pornography and masturbation.
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*Correction: The first version of this article (May 30) stated that Bill C-404 did nothing to regulate surrogacy or gamete donation; the corrected version (June 1) notes that the bill includes consent and age requirements for donors and surrogates. We certainly did not mean to imply that the bill would permit the participation of minors or the mentally incapable. ARPA apologizes for the inaccuracy.*
If you agree take just five minutes right now and send this EasyMail letter to your MP, urging them to carefully consider this bill and the issues it raises and speak up in defense of human dignity and vulnerable persons.