Press release from the Iona Institute: Government’s surrogacy plans ignore ethical concerns

Press release by The Iona

surrogacy plans ignore ethical concerns

Surrogacy exploits
women and ‘splits’ motherhood

February 22, 2012 Justice Minister Alan Shatter has published new guidelines concerning the issue of surrogacy. However, the guidelines badly overlook some of the major ethic concerns surrounding surrogacy.

 Chief among these ethical concerns are:         

The strong potential to exploit the mainly poor women who offer themselves as surrogate mothers
The fact that surrogacy ‘splits’ motherhood between a birth mother (the surrogate mother) and a biological mother (the egg donor) thereby creating potentially serious identity issues for the child. Under Austrian law, for example, the legal principle in this regard is that ‘the mother must always be certain’ and therefore surrogacy is banned. (See note 3 below).
Commenting on the matter on behalf of The Iona Institute Breda O’Brien called on the Government to properly consider these concerns before pressing ahead with any reform of the law in this area.

She said: “While everyone rightly has sympathy for people who cannot have children of their own, nevertheless, surrogacy raises two very important ethical concerns. The first is that surrogacy is almost inherently exploitative in that it often involves better-off couples renting the wombs of poorer women. It’s no accident that the recent cases in the news have involved Irish couples using Indian women. These women from the developing world are expected to abandon all maternal instinct, which reduces them to little more than breeding machines.”

She continued: “The second big concern is that, in the words of the German Government, it splits motherhood between a genetic and biological mother, and maybe even a social mother. This creates potentially serious identity issues for the child.

“It is because of concerns like these that countries such as Germany, Austria, Italy and Norway ban the practice of egg donation and therefore, in effect, of surrogacy.”

Ms O’Brien concluded: “Recently the European Court of Human Rights found that bans on egg and sperm donation are not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. (See note 3). The Irish Government should carefully consider the laws in countries like Austria and Germany with a view to copying them. These laws properly protect women from exploitation as well as the rights of children. What the Government appears to be proposing will do neither. Instead, it should regularise the status of children already born through surrogacy, and prohibit the practice hereafter in the interests of women and children.”


Notes to Editors

1.     The Iona Institute is a pro-marriage organisation.

2.     Breda O’Brien is the author of The Iona Institute position paper, ‘Making Babies: Towards child-centred view of Assisted Human Reproduction’.

3.     The case before the ECHR was called S.H and Others v Austria. Austria successfully defended its legal principle, mater semper certa est [the mother is always certain]. Germany intervened in the case on the side of Austria and said its ban placing inside a woman an egg not produced by her is “intended to protect the child’s welfare by ensuring the unambiguous identity of the mother. Splitting motherhood into a genetic and a biological mother would result in two women having a part in the creation of a child”.  It continues: “Split motherhood is contrary to the child’s welfare because the resulting ambiguity of the mother’s identity might jeopardise the development of the child’s personality and lead to considerable problems in his or her discovery of identity.”