In 2015, the international surrogate community experienced a dramatic setback. India, Nepal, and Thailand acted separately to restrict foreigners from engaging in surrogacy agreements.
Closer to home, however, the practice of gestational surrogacy has recently received a much-needed show of support. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics has published guidelines strongly encouraging the practice of gestational surrogacy. The guidelines recognize surrogacy as a viable means of establishing a family, for those who would otherwise have few options available to them.
The banning of gestational surrogacy for foreigners by several countries in southeast Asia was initiated in Thailand in early 2015. Thailand’s military government responded to popular outrage over a surrogate mother refusing to turn over her baby. The largely conservative media portrayed her as a heroic individual, supposedly being victimized by the intended parents of her child.
When the Thai citizens found out that the intended parents were a gay couple, they rallied in support of the surrogate’s actions. The child was eventually released to return home to Spain with his parents, but the damage was done, and the decision to cease the practice had a ripple effect across the very traditionally-oriented cultures of the region. Thailand now allows only married Thai couples, or couples with one Thai partner who have been married for at least three years, to engage participate in gestational surrogacy. Meanwhile in Nepal, where surrogacy was already illegal for the native population, the practice has halted in its entirety—leaving the fate of thousands of foreigners’ cryogenically frozen embryos uncertain.
In certain other countries, surrogacy industry services are highly restricted. In the Ukraine, single parents and homosexuals are legally prohibited from participation in surrogacy agreements of any kind. In Israel, the law requires that the intended parents and the surrogate mother share a common religion. In Australia, and in Canada, the industry allows for altruistic surrogacy agreements only. Agencies must find surrogate mothers willing to work without any compensation for the risks they are undertaking.
The College’s Committee on Ethics did recognize the ethical, legal, and political complications involved in the practice of gestational surrogacy. However, these were cited in terms of making the practice of commercial surrogacy difficult to evaluate collectively. They were not upheld as reflecting negatively on the industry itself, or on the practice of commercialized surrogacy. Obstetricians and gynecologists are strongly encouraged to advise their patients to seek out appropriate legal assistance when considering surrogacy agreements, including international or “cross-border” surrogacy agreements. However, they are not advised to discourage their patients from investigating these opportunities, or even to place emphasis on alternative possibilities.
The choice of language on the part of the Committee, which specifies “biological necessity” as a viable reason for permitting gestational surrogacy, is also the most specific language to date which explicitly supports the acceptance of homosexual couples as intended parents.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a dues-paying, nonprofit professional association, originally founded in 1951. Its function centers upon developing and issuing ethical and procedural guidelines regarding the various specialist practices involved in women’s healthcare and medicine.
Today, it has approximately 57,000 member professionals located across the United States, and is a highly respected professional association.
ConceiveAbilities.com offers additional information relating to the practice of gestational surrogacy. Intended parents may find more information about growing their family. Potential surrogate mothers can connect with those who have served as surrogates in the past, and find out what the experience is like firsthand.
While the ACOG’s procedural and ethics guidelines are adhered to by professionals throughout the women’s health and reproductive medicine industries, they are not legal policy. Individual US states establish their own laws regarding the legality of surrogacy. Click here for more information on how different states across the country currently legislate the surrogacy industry.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.