Nearly 100 feminist organisations from all over Latin America (South, Central and Caribbean) associated with ICASM/CIAMS are launching the FIRST LATIN AMERICAN MANIFESTO AGAINST REPRODUCTIVE EXPLOITATION (surrogacy) in response to attempts to open up surrogacy in Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico.
The undersigned individuals, collectives and feminist and abolitionist organisations are organising to oppose any legislation or legislative initiatives in our countries aimed at legalising or regulating the reproductive exploitation of women, based on their gender, in its various forms by the contractual practice commonly known as “Wombs for Rent”[i], and referred to by its proponents as “surrogate motherhood”[ii], “surrogate pregnancy”, “surrogacy”, “surrogate gestation” or “uterus for rent”, as well as “oocyte donation” for commercial purposes.
The practice of “surrogate motherhood”, as an unambiguous manifestation of discrimination, violence and violation of the human and fundamental rights of women, girls and boys, is contrary to the provisions of the international conventions and treaties to which our countries are signatories and whose observance is mandatory by virtue of a constitutional mandate. The rights likely to be undermined in this way are defined by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
The initiatives for the legalisation of reproductive exploitation, to which we refer, sometimes present “surrogacy” as a medically assisted reproduction technique or, alternatively, as an option to respect the free development of the family, access to which should be guaranteed by the State, disguising a practice as a technique, which it is not, and granting the desires of some people the quality of rights. It cannot and should not be legitimised and protected by States, for several reasons:
- Firstly, “surrogacy” is not a technique insofar as gestation and childbirth by a woman who is going to relinquish the child born and hand it over to third parties by order and contract does not in any way reverse or cure the infertility or sterility of the contracting person(s).
- Secondly, a woman’s pregnancy at the request of a third party to whom she must hand over the child she is carrying and giving birth, forces that woman to renounce her fundamental rights and usurps those of the child she is giving birth to.
- Thirdly, it is a contractual relationship characterised by almost systematic social and economic inequality between the contracting parties. Because of their gender, women are regarded as consumer products and instruments for satisfying the desires of others. In these practices, women’s reproductive capacities are exploited through an exchange of money or any other remuneration or compensation in a context of economic and social inequality between the parties which affects women’s decision to be reduced to the status of gestor or oocyte donor.
- Finally, the practice, in any of its so-called contractual forms (altruistic or commercial), undermines the right to filiation of women who conceive and give birth, regardless of the genetic relationship with the child, since any regulation in this area is a contract, which forces women to renounce their fundamental right to filiation in order to transfer it to third parties.
As abolitionists and feminists, we consider and denounce this practice as a violation of women’s human and fundamental rights where a woman has to engage in a pregnancy at the request of a third party to whom she must hand over the child, dissociating herself totally from that child. It is a serious violation of the right to human dignity and to the physical and psychological integrity of women and children, unacceptable in a society that has declared itself in favour of safeguarding the human rights defined in our respective Constitutions as fundamental rights and in favour of the rights of women based on biological sex as set out in the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women).
We support the condemnation of this practice by the European Parliament in its resolution P8_TA(2015)0470[iii] , which states that “surrogacy should be prohibited as undermining the human dignity of the woman, since her body and its reproductive functions are used as commodity”. In this resolution, the European Parliament highlights the possible implications for women in vulnerable situations in countries where poverty and inequality rates are high and where a lucrative market for reproductive exploitation takes advantage of and exploits the situation of the most vulnerable women.
The organisations and individuals who have signed this manifesto adhere to the terms and content of the “International Convention on the Abolition of Surrogacy established by the International Coalition for the Abolition of Surrogacy – http://abolition-ms.org/en/news/draft-international-convention-for-the-abolition-of-surrogacy/.
THEREFORE WE DECLARE THAT :
- In addition to reinforcing the sexist stereotype that considers women as being “in the service of others”, the use of women as a means to satisfy the desires of third parties is in contradiction with the absolute imperative of ethics which affirms that the human being is an end in itself and not a means to another.
- Presented as false progressivism, the notions of freedom and desire underlying the discourse promoting the legalisation of “surrogacy” are in fact part of a neo-liberal and postmodern postulate which relies on the alleged individual freedom of women engaged as “gestors” to then legitimise the restriction of their human and fundamental rights on the basis of their gender, while disregarding the structural inequality which conditions their decision in a context of family and social pressures, the feminisation of poverty and the systematic economic and social exclusion and marginalisation in which half of the population finds itself.
- Any regulation in this area represents a contract in which women are bound to give up their children’s fundamental right to filiation by transferring it to third parties. It is incompatible with the recognition of women’s and children’s rights through international human rights instruments ratified by our countries.
- Surrogacy contracts are a form of imposed, controlled, highly medicalised and high-risk[iv] maternity transforming healthy women into functional patients to satisfy the wishes of others, according to the requirements of practitioners, which may include hypermedical treatments, the transfer of several embryos, embryo reduction procedures or induced abortions without taking into account the desires of the surrogate mothers concerned, the choice of mode of delivery and psychological therapies for dissociation from the foetus. These are acts of medical, obstetric and psychological violence against these women engaged as “gestational carriers”, violence to which should be added frequent medical visits and clinical tests, control of their daily life, sleep, diet, physical activity, movement or sexual activity. Thus, the exercise of human and fundamental rights related to women’s physical and psychological integrity, autonomy, sexual and reproductive freedom and self-determination is conditioned, limited or nullified by an asymmetrical contractual relationship in which they are at a disadvantage.
- Surrogacy” is directly associated with another very lucrative activity for this industry. We are referring to “egg donation”, which is literally a purchase and sale of gametes and thus another form of reproductive exploitation. Using aggressive hormonal treatment for ovarian stimulation, its effects on women’s health have not been systematically studied and its medium and long-term implications for the health of the donors are not known.
- Another right that being at risks to be violated by this practice is the legal termination of pregnancy, a conquest and victory of the women’s movement and of a large number of women, achieved in some countries but not in others. This is why feminists find it unacceptable to make abortion conditional on so-called surrogacy agreements, usually through the establishment of “economic reparation quotas” that are impossible to achieve for women who no longer wish to continue the pregnancy they have contracted.
- For those born of the so-called “surrogate motherhood”, there is usurpation and violation of human rights. This practice violates the right to dignity of persons by transforming them into an object by means of a contract. It violates their right not to be separated from their parents and to be brought up by them, it violates the right to filiation and breastfeeding, it violates the right to identity and knowledge of one’s origins and it also violates the right to family reunification. To all this, we must add the serious repercussions of the dissociation imposed by this practice, both for surrogates and babies. The future consequences have not yet been studied. [v]
In addition, it makes children the object of commercial transactions, by allocating “graduated prices” to them according to the commercial packages on offer, which may include eugenic practices such as the selection of gametes according to certain desired characteristics or physical aspects in the future baby, including sex selection.
- As has already happened in other countries, altruistic regulatory proposals open the door to trade regulation, increasing the risk of reproductive tourism and trafficking in women and children. In addition to being incompatible with the prohibition of the sale of minors as defined by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 2)[vi], they are in flagrant contradiction with the provisions of existing penal codes regarding the sale and trafficking of minors. However protective they may be, the proposals for non-profit (altruistic) regulation are carried out within the framework of a contractual relationship which, like the business model, requires the renunciation of women’s fundamental rights and usurps the rights of children, girls or boys, not to mention the long-term effects that these practices may have on their lives. On the other hand, the practice includes for-profit medical and legal services and procedures, as well as economic compensation for “altruistic” surrogate mothers, which increases the risk of clandestine commercialisation, exploitation and sale of reproduction and trafficking of girls and boys. Finally, altruistic practice does not guarantee that women will not be coerced and pressured to help their families or others.
FIRST: Do not endorse any legislative initiative concerning “surrogacy”, or any of the euphemisms for reproductive exploitation, or any provision that undermines the human dignity and rights of women because of their gender or promoting any form of exploitation.
SECOND: Do not legislate on individual desires by elevating them to the rank of rights, such as the right to produce children with a certain genetic load at the expense of human dignity. Do not disguise the reproductive exploitation of women as assisted human reproduction or the free development of families. We remind you that pregnancy is a complex biological process involving the body and mind, which can pose risks to women’s health and lives, and therefore cannot be treated in a superficial, irresponsible or dehumanising manner.
THIRD: Legislate in the best interests of children. Children must receive additional protection from States, which are obliged to guarantee the same fundamental rights to all persons equally from the moment they are born into the world. The precautionary principle and non-discrimination must be the guiding principle for all legislation that impacts on children’s lives.
FOURTH: legislate to facilitate adoption procedures by ensuring the best interests of children. This is an ethical and practical means of satisfying the legitimate desire for motherhood/paternity without undermining the dignity and rights of women and children in terms of substantive equality and non-discrimination, while meeting their needs when they are orphans.
FIFTH: Legislate so that maternity can be exercised freely, when, how, with whom and at the times we choose, without subordination or violation of our rights, with access to contraception and to legal, safe and free abortion, without being subject to conditions.
Because we give birth, we decide and claim the right to decide what kind of motherhood we want, as a reaction to the assignment to motherhood as the central and fundamental role of our condition as women, while “surrogate motherhood” acts exactly the opposite.
SIXTH: Public policies to combat the historic feminisation of poverty exacerbated by the pandemic, which is being used to turn our countries into havens for sexual and reproductive exploitation.
SEVENTH: To accede to and promote the International Convention for the Abolition of Surrogacy for Others with a view to its subsequent signature and ratification. It is available at the following address: http://abolition-ms.org/en/news/draft-international-convention-for-the-abolition-of-surrogacy/
EIGHTH: Organise an open space for public discussion on legislative initiatives with the organisations that promote and sign this manifesto.
Sign and share the Manifesto
because we are women but not incubators
[i] So called in reference to the instrumentalization of women’s bodies and their reproductive capacity, reduced to a uterus to be used as a means of satisfying the desires of others.
[ii] a term which conceals the fact that the practice concerns the pregnancy or physiological maternity of a woman, at the request of a third party, which cannot be substituted or subrogated because it is impossible to substitute or subrogate biological processes
[iii] Resolution of the European Parliament https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2015-0470_FR.html
[iv] There are systematic reviews published in specialist journals that provide evidence of high-risk pregnancies associated with surrogacy:
[v] Söderström-Anttila, V., Wennerholm, U.-B., Loft, A., Pinborg, A., Aittomäki, K. ,
Romundstad, L. B., y Bergh, C. (2015). Surrogacy: outcomes forsurrogate mothers, children and the resulting families-a systematic review. Reproduction humaine.
Summary of the results of the report on surrogacy in Sweden. Olika vägar till föräldraskap Different pathways to parenthood. Surrogacy Section in Sweden http://www.sou.gov.se/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SOU- 2016_11_webb.pdf
[vi]Article 2 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography states that: “Sale of children means any act or transaction whereby a child is delivered by one person or group of persons to another person or group of persons for remuneration or any other consideration”.