File photo of babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine who were stranded when foreign parents could not collect them File photo of babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine who were stranded when foreign parents could not collect them  (AFP or licensors)

International conference in Rome demands abolition of surrogacy

For two days, international experts, with the Holy See's participation, gather in Rome to discuss issues surrounding surrogacy, and to demand its abolition.

By Olivier Bonnel

For two days, experts from around the world come together to discuss the issues surrounding surrogacy. The conference is organized by the collective that signed the Casablanca Declaration in 2023. The Holy See is participating.

On March 3, 2023, a hundred experts from 75 nationalities, including jurists, physicians, psychologists, and philosophers, signed the "Casablanca Declaration" from the Moroccan metropolis, calling for the establishment of a treaty abolishing Surrogacy.

Condemnation of surrogacy in all forms

Convinced that "the contract by which one or more principals agree with a woman to carry a child or children for them for delivery at birth, regardless of its designation and terms," the participants called on States, through this text, to condemn surrogacy "in all its forms and under all its forms, whether paid or not, and to adopt measures to combat this practice."

This demand will be at the heart of an international conference taking place on Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6, in Rome, at the premises of Lumsa University. Among the participants are numerous personalities from Italian political life, starting with the Minister of Family, Eugenia Rocella, as well as jurists or lawyers from several continents.

Among those present is Reem Alsalem from Jordan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls.

The Holy See is also represented by Mgr Miroslaw Wachowski, Under-Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations.

Bernard Garcia-Larrain, coordinator of the Casablanca Declaration, aims to raise awareness about commodification. The objective of the conference is to highlight the ethical limits represented by surrogacy and also to alert, according to its promoters, to a booming business.

14 Billion Euro business

According to Olivia Maurel, spokesperson for the Casablanca Declaration, the surrogacy market represented 14 billion euros worldwide in 2022.

Experts from over 80 countries have now signed this declaration and are working for an interdisciplinary international treaty to be adopted diplomatically," emphasized Bernard Garcia-Larrain, a Franco-Chilean lawyer and network coordinator.

"For us," continued the attorney, "this is not a fight that should be linked to a political color, but rather a fight of humanity since we aim to protect women from this global market, from this exploitation, and obviously also the children who are the subject of a contract."

According to Bernard Garcia-Larrain, denouncing the commodification represented by surrogacy is not enough.

According to the Declaration's promoters, it is first necessary to inform about the reality of the phenomenon, a reality still too unknown by leaders.

Support from the Pope and the Holy See

This fight against surrogacy has found a favorable response from the Pope himself, who received some members of the network privately on Thursday afternoon.

The Holy Father, who during his speech of wishes to ambassadors on January 8th had publicly lamented that "the practice of surrogacy seriously harms the dignity of women and children," denounced the surrogacy market before his guests.

"I found him extremely well informed scientifically," explained Olivia Maurel, herself born of a surrogate mother. The young woman, who specified that as an atheist, she did not wish to meet the Pope as a religious figure but as a moral voice and Head of State, notably points out that Francis mentioned the transfer of stem cells that is transmitted to the mother by the baby she carried and then removed from her.

Casablanca Declaration

Besides the papal audience, members of the Casablanca Declaration had extensive discussions with Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Secretary of State reminded them of how much the Holy See was working for a treaty abolishing surrogacy to be elaborated one day, in the same spirit as that banning nuclear proliferation, for example.

"We have already been invited by the Holy See to the United Nations, three weeks ago now, as part of the commission on the dignity of women," confided Bernard Garcia-Larrain.

However, "it is not a religious voice that we came to seek," he continued, "like all the great struggles of humanity, this goes beyond believers and cultures, and Pope Francis talks a lot about the culture of dialogue. We are happy to have initiated this process, even if it will take time."

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05 April 2024, 12:34