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Parliamentarians voted on surrogacy in Europe: "Regulation is not enough, only a full ban will protect women"

Strasbourg – Today, 11 October 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to reject a proposal to legalize and regulate surrogacy across all 47 Member States. The Recommendation came out of a much disputed report by Belgian Senator Petra De Sutter, who was pushing for regulations that would validate prohibited surrogacy agreements in Europe. Many considered the findings to be biased as De Sutter is the head of a hospital department that offers surrogacy in Ghent, Belgium.

Affirming the rights of women and children
“Today, by rejecting De Sutter’s proposals, the Parliamentary Assembly has voted to affirm the rights and dignity of women and children. Ultimately, surrogacy exploits women and treats children as commodities. We have to move away from the unrealistic view of so-called altruistic surrogacy that De Sutter tried to convey in the reports. There are few material differences between altruistic and commercial surrogacy. Whether we talk about a favour or a business transaction, the same consequences apply to surrogate children,” said Lorcán Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International based in Strasbourg, after the historic vote.

“The Parliamentary Assembly sided with women and children who are entitled to be protected from this commoditization, and refused to adopt the approach taken by the European Court of Human Rights which has previously ruled in favour of giving effect to unlawful surrogacy arrangements.”

A biased report
Surrogacy is a practice whereby children are transferred from their birth mother to other parties, often in exchange for large sums of money. This has been criticized by many human rights organizations and was condemned in a 2011 resolution of the European Parliament as an “exploitation of the female body and her reproductive organs”.

De Sutter’s proposals regarding surrogacy have been highly controversial. Many members of the Social Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly considered the reports raised concerns about a conflict of interest given De Sutter’s connection with surrogacy clinics in India and regular comments to the media in favor of the practice. The proposals initially called for legal regulations for the recognition of surrogacy agreements across the 47 Member States.

Children are entitled to know their parents
“International law protects the right to family life, which means children are entitled to know their parents. Most cases of surrogacy render this impossible. The Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights consider themselves to be champions of human rights. If they are serious about the rights of women and children, they will not stop until they have achieved a complete ban on this problematic practice,” said Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Strasbourg. 

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is composed of 324 parliamentarians in 47 delegations from the national parliaments of each of the Member States. The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, was formed in 1949 with the mandate of upholding human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The Court is an independent organ within the Council of Europe.

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