Why is there a surrogacy ban in so many countries? Here's everything you need to know
Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Elton John and Tyra Banks have all spoken out about their own use of surrogate mothers. But the concept of surrogacy has provoked much controversy. In fact, you may have heard of a "surrogacy ban" in various countries.
If you weren't already aware, opinion pieces for and against surrogacy have appeared in newspapers and online. Some people argue the process is unfair on the surrogate mother and tantamount to the commodification of the human body.
Others, however, argue that it's a much-needed lifeline for same-sex couples and prospective parents with health issues. Not forgetting those who would otherwise not have the opportunity to have a child that is biologically theirs.
How popular is surrogacy?
Surrogacy itself is nothing new, while the subject may be getting more attention.
It was first legally established in the 1970s in the US. And in the past decade, demand has soared across the world. In fact, more than double the number of babies were born through surrogacy in America in 2014 compared to 2007.
In the UK, the figure jumped by eight times between 2007 and 2016. But despite this, the practice is illegal in many countries.
But why is surrogacy banned? And does that stand to change anytime soon? Here's everything you need to know.
What is a surrogacy ban?
First things first, where can you use a surrogate mother?
At present, commercial surrogacy is only legal in a handful of counties. Commercial surrogacy is where the surrogate receives money for the undertaking.
This includes Iran, Russia and some US states. In other countries, such as the UK, most of Australia and other US states, altruistic surrogacy is legal.
Altruistic surrogacy is where expenses are covered but a financial payment is not made.
Why do countries impose surrogacy bans?
Many countries have chosen to outlaw forms of surrogacy over concerns for the welfare of surrogate mothers.
In particular, India and Nepal have recently cracked down on commercial surrogacy. The latter now only allows infertile married couples to seek the service. This comes after concerns that local women were being exploited and their wombs used as commodities.
Governments, in particular, were worried that poor and often illiterate women were being tempted by big paychecks, without understanding the contracts being placed in front of them.
They were also concerned about the overuse of caesareans and failures in post-partum care.
Some countries ban surrogacy to reduce the risk of child exploitation
In other countries, surrogacy bans are also driven by fears that children may be put at risk of exploitation.
In 2015, Thailand banned commercial surrogacy involving foreign nationals following a scandal that involved a 24-year-old Japanese billionaire. The individual fathered 16 children with 10 different surrogate mothers, each of whom had been paid thousands of dollars.
The man in question had been hunting for more surrogate mothers to produce children. In fact, he reportedly told one clinic that he wanted 1,000 children.
He stated that he only wanted a large family, but his actions sparked worries about his motives. As well as the possibility of surrogacy being exploited for the purposes of human trafficking.
In the end, a Thai court awarded him custody of all of the children. However, the children are in government care homes. and he has reportedly never been to see them.
Several western countries have banned surrogacy
But it is not only developing countries that ban surrogacy.
Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain have made the practice illegal in all forms. Likewise, some US states, such as Michigan has prohibited surrogacy.
The countries such as Italy, the reasons for this partly come from laws based on ingrained religious attitudes. In particular, from the Catholic Church.
In 1987, they declared that surrogacy creates "a division between the physical, psychological and moral elements."
The Catholic Church publicly reaffirmed this attitude once more in 2004.
But others are relaxing their laws on surrogacy
However, just as some countries are moving towards stricter surrogacy regulations, others appear to be relaxing theirs.
On January 1, 2019, Washington state decriminalised commercial surrogacy. Although it will still be subject to steep regulations.
And if it wasn't already evident, public opinion around the matter appears to be changing too.
According to figures from research consultancy Ifop, 62 per cent of French citizens now support surrogacy. Although President Emmanuel Macron has voiced opposition to the idea.
Meanwhile, in Spain, "international surrogacy has overtaken overseas adoption as the choice for would-be parents", according to national newspaper El Pais.
If you look at the reasons for bans, it's clear to see that they're well-intentioned. But at the end of the day, the decision to become a surrogate is as much a choice as becoming a parent is.