In a saga that started in 2014, one of the richest men in Japan has just been granted custody of children he commissioned from Thai gestational mothers. In its ruling, the central juvenile court “found the father had no history of bad behaviour and would provide for the children’s happiness.”
This case first came to light in the regulatory upheaval following the case of Baby Gammy in Thailand, and resulted in the country’s eventual ban on international commercial surrogacy. It continues to raise questions as, according to Sam Everingham, a director of the Australia-based consultancy Families Through Surrogacy, an example of “an unacceptable abuse of the limited pool of gestational surrogates globally” and, more broadly, the ethics of a practice that does not protect the rights of the women and children involved.
In the mid-1990s, the international community pronounced prenatal sex selection via abortion an “act of violence against women” and “unethical.” At the same time, new developments in reproductive technology in the United States led to a method of sex selection before conception; its US inventor marketed the practice as “family balancing” and defended it with the rhetoric of freedom of choice. In Gender before Birth, Rajani Bhatia takes on the double standard of how similar practices in the West and non-West are divergently named and framed.
Bhatia’s extensive fieldwork includes interviews with clinicians, scientists, biomedical service providers, and feminist activists, and her resulting analysis extends both feminist theory on reproduction and feminist science and technology studies. She argues that we are at the beginning of a changing transnational terrain that presents new challenges to theorized inequality in reproduction, demonstrating how the technosciences often get embroiled in colonial gender and racial politics.
GIRE, a Mexico-based organization that has studied, documented, published, and advocated on international recently released a documentary on the practice in 2017. “Deseos” or “Longing” follows Mirna, a divorced gestational mother with three of her own and shines a critical light on the lack of regulation around surrogacy in Mexico.
Visit GIRE’s website and read the organization’s latest report on surrogacy in Mexico. In it, GIRE offers a comprehensive overview of the current status of surrogacy, the scope of the debate around the practice, legal frameworks, cases, and recommendations. The last includes, for example:
Legislation that defines surrogacy as a contract between gestational mothers and intended parents.
Decriminalization of all the parties involved, including any criminalization based on nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, and age.
Quality and confidential health and legal care for gestational mothers.
Guarantees that costs related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum be covered by intended parents (regardless of birth outcomes).
Contract revisions be contingent on the involvement of a competent notary/judge and consent of all parties.
Notifications of relevant state and federal authorities to avoid problems related to registration, legal parentage, and citizenship while contracts are valid or after birth.
In this update from Cambodia, a number of Australian intended parents are now being allowed to leave the country with their children. To do so, they must prove a biological link to a child and obtain a gestational mother’s approval.
The article also outlines the case against Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles, who is currently in jail in Cambodia for facilitating surrogacy arrangements and charging Australian intended parents $US 50,000 per child. If sentenced, Davis-Charles could spend up to two years in prison.
The Legal and Ethical Complexities of Sperm and Egg Donation
By Nightlife | March 27, 2017
Listen to medical research scientist, Damian Adams and Associate Professor in Health Law, Dr. Sonia Allen discuss challenges around sperm and egg donation, including issues related to the rights of parents, donors, and children.
Dr. Sonia Allen consults with the South Australian government on ARTs, sperm and egg donation. A report on her review of the South Australian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 1988 is available to read.
Update: In November 2017, the South Australian government tabled their response to the review conducted by Dr. Allan from 2015-2017. The Hon. Peter Malinauskas, Minister for Health, thanked Dr. Allan, stating the government had commissioned her due to her international expertise in the field. He then committed the government to establishing a donor-conception register, making the rights of donor-conceived people “a main priority for South Australia” and committing to implementing changes that “best reflect Dr. Allan’s recommendations.” Victoria enacted Dr. Allan’s model for access to information by donor-conceived people into law in March 2017 – the first of its kind in the world – and now South Australia has made the commitment to follow.
Legal in the Mexican state of Tabasco since 1997, international commercial surrogacy is now under fire in the country.
This article tracks changes to the law – restricting Mexican gestational mothers from carrying children for foreigners – with analysis of how the new policy will be implemented. It follows gestational mothers, for whom surrogacy is a vital source of income, in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, as well as intended parents locked in legal battle with authorities that are stalling on birth certificates after the new restriction was enforced.
With this development, Mexico is the next (fallen) chip in the global practice of international commercial surrogacy.