Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are being urged to sign a petition condemning surrogacy as a violation of the fundamental rights of women and children.
There are currently three cases on the issue of surrogacy pending before the European Court of Human Rights, an institution of the Council of Europe.
The petition, from the European Centre for Law and Justice, says that “surrogate motherhood implies a contract on the unborn child and the exploitation of a woman’s womb, and that it voluntarily dissociates motherhood and manipulates filiation”.
Surrogacy involves gestating the baby in another woman's womb. A number of Irish couples have used foreign surrogate mothers, usually from India, Ukraine and America.
Presently, in such situations, Irish law, and the law in many other European countries, recognises the birth mother only as the mother for legal purposes.
The petition cites the Charter of the United Nations; the Preamble and Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (Article 3); and the CRC Optional Protocol on the sale of children (Article 2a).
Considering all these human rights treaties, it says: “The undersigned members of the Parliamentary Assembly affirm that surrogate motherhood is incompatible with the dignity of the women and children concerned and is a violation of their fundamental rights.”
The deadline for signing the petition is the 29th June. Currently, it has been signed by 22 members of the Assembly, from 11 countries.
In Ireland, the Government-appointed Commission for Assisted Human Reproduction recommended in 2005 that in surrogacy arrangements, the commissioning parents be deemed to be the legal parents.
No action has been taken by successive Governments since. Commissioning fathers must establish paternity and apply for guardianship through the Circut Court.
Austria, Germany and Italy, among other countries, ban the use of donated eggs because they believe it is wrong to split motherhood between a biological mother (that is a surrogate mother), a genetic mother (that is the egg donor), and even a social mother (that is someone who is neither the surrogate mother nor the genetic mother but who raises the child).
Austrian law seeks to ensure that medically assisted procreation takes place similarly to natural procreation, and that the basic principle of civil law, that it is always clear who the mother is, should be maintained by avoiding the possibility that two persons could claim to be the biological mother.
A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights held that Austria, in maintaining this principle, was not in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Currently, there are three cases involving surrogacy pending before the ECHR; Menesson and others v. France, Labasse and others v. France and Paradiso and Campanelli v. Italy.