[Brussels, 8 May 2015] This week, the European Women’s Lobby organised a series of activities which brought the issue of surrogacy to the attention of decision-makers, NGOs and the general public. An increasing phenomenon, surrogacy is not addressed yet in Europe as a women’s rights and children’s rights issue, and sees its market organise and grow as a multimillion dollars industry globally. These two days of advocacy on surrogacy were part of EWL work on women’s health in the framework of EWL 2015 Year of Action on Beijing+20.
On Wednesday 6 May, together with Anna Hedh MEP (S&D), the EWL organised a screening of the documentary ‘Breeders’, from the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. More than 50 persons joined us at the Swedish Permanent Representation in Brussels to hear from surrogate mothers, doctors and persons born from surrogacy, in a documentary which investigates the reality of surrogacy in the United States, where the practice is legal. After the screening, a discussion took place with two guests: Stephanie Thögersen from the Swedish Women’s Lobby, and Ana-Luana Stoicea-Deram from le Collectif pour le Respect de la Personne (CoRP), who presented their views on the phenomenon and the position of their organization. MEPs Anna Hedh and José Bové also made comments on the reality in Europe.
Some quotes from the documentary and the discussion:
- “It’s not just her uterus, it’s her whole body and 9 months of her life that a woman is giving” - a doctor
- ‘For the cost a woman has to pay, it’s not worth it” – a former surrogate mother
- “In essence, you are bought, you are a product” – a woman born from surrogacy
- “Surrogacy reinforces inequalities between women and men and is an obstacle to women’s empowerment” – Ana-Luana Stoicez-Deram
- “All forms of surrogacy, whether commercial or altruistic, is a trade with women’s bodies and children. Legalising altruistic surrogacy leads to an increase in commercial surrogacy because it creates a demand” – Stephanie Thögersen
- “Altruism is a sexist, racist and classist concept: sexist because it uses the sexist assumption that it’s a women characteristics to be altruistic; racist because couples use surrogate mothers from other countries such as India but with ‘white’ eggs from Ukrainian women; classist because couples exploit the vulnerability and precariousness of other women, but want to choose the social class of the surrogate mothers (not too poor…)” - Stephanie Thögersen
Besides the screening, the EWL also organised a meeting in the morning, with Belgian NGOs and representatives from political groups. The issue of surrogacy is currently being discussed in Belgium, especially after some American clinics organised a big fair to promote commercial surrogacy the previous Sunday.
The EWL and its guests also met with different MEPs during the two days: with Heidi Hautala, responsible for gender mainstreaming in the EP development committee, with French MEP José Bové, and with Elena Valenciano, chair of the EP sub-committee on human rights. A series of ideas was raised as a way to raise awareness on the issue at European level, especially in the context of the negotiations of The Hague Conference on private international law, which is discussing the legalization of the practice of surrogacy without consulting civil society organisations.
The month of April, dedicated to health for EWL Beijing+20 campaign, ends up with very fruitful outcome for women’s rights, and we will keep on working on the issue of surrogacy to ensure real equality between women and men.