Is Pope Francis right calling for global ban in surrogacy?


Fact Box

  • On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church’s 266th pope. Before his papacy, he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and cardinal of Argentina’s Roman Catholic Church. 
  • On January 8, 2024, Pope Francis called for a global surrogacy ban “to prohibit this practice universally,” saying, “I consider despicable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs.”
  • Pope Francis’ views have labeled “progressive” in many areas, such as his welcoming views on homosexuality, acceptance of evolution, offering a “year of mercy” for the “sin of abortion,” and encouraging breastfeeding in public. 
  • Surrogacy consists of two types: traditional, where the “embryo is created with the surrogate’s own egg, usually through [insemination],” and gestational, where the “surrogate does not use her own egg and, therefore, is not biologically related to the child she’s carrying.” 
  • As of 2023, “commercial surrogacy” is banned in Bulgaria, France, Germany, India, Italy, Portugal, Taiwan, Thailand, and Spain. The US currently has “no legislation concerning surrogacy at the federal level.”

Dae (No)

Pope Francis's call for a global surrogacy ban triggered major backlash and discussion around reproductive rights and family-building options. Although the Pope's concerns about the potential for exploitation and ethics surrounding the practice are acknowledged, surrogacy should remain for Catholic use.

Surrogacy should not be banned for anyone; individual autonomy is crucial in the context of reproductive choices. Consenting adults are free to determine the most suitable method for building their families, provided the process adheres to ethical standards and responsible practices. This freedom requires access to surrogacy as some families face reproductive struggles, life-threatening conditions, or high-risk pregnancies that make it impossible or dangerous to conceive and deliver naturally or medically necessary to have a child via surrogate. Surrogacy serves as a viable solution for couples grappling with infertility, offering them a legitimate path to parenthood. A global ban on surrogacy could restrict access to this compassionate option, denying couples the chance to experience the joys of parenthood.

Additionally, ethical regulations already exist and currently safeguard the rights of all parties involved, addressing concerns related to potential exploitation and ensuring that surrogacy arrangements are transparent, consensual, and fair. Moreover, surrogacy can be voluntary, where close relationships like family members or friends step in to help be a solution for a loved one’s stalled reproduction. 

While Pope Francis' has a right to make the declaration, a ban is not realistic for many people relying on it as their only way to build a family and would cut off a means of income available to women of all backgrounds. Ultimately, the Pope is right in saying, 'a child is a gift,' making it all the more important that people, Catholics included, maintain their God-given right to procreate in any method they choose.

Elisa (Yes)

Pope Francis is correct that surrogate motherhood is the 'commercialization' of pregnancy, as a child is a gift and should never be part of a financial contract. Surrogacy is not only costly, but it can create complications, especially in relationships. Some women regret being surrogates, with one mom noting she felt like she sold her child. A surrogate mom will inevitably form attachments to her child from conception, and we cannot discount the lifelong connection between mother and child that starts in the womb. Breaking this special connection can have devastating psychological impacts on children later in life. 

At its worst, according to the Heritage Foundation, 'The international surrogacy market appears to have significant and growing overlap with human trafficking.' Surrogacy often becomes a cover for the 'sale of children,' a human rights issue. In places where 'for-profit' surrogacy is legalized, 'disadvantaged women are being turned into wombs for hire with no consideration of their human rights.' 

Further, the Pope has valid spiritual reasons for his call for the ban. While the Bible may not explicitly forbid surrogacy, it raises issues on whether or not it is ethical. When we look at the surrogate story of Abram and Sarai, it is clear there were severe, unintended consequences to Sarai's choice to use a surrogate mother. Even if one is not spiritual or religious, the Bible still showcases what can go terribly wrong in such situations. 

Ultimately, there are ethical and legal issues when it comes to surrogacy, such as feminist concerns, including the role and expectations of women. And truthfully, there is no such thing as ethical surrogacy, and even with the best of intentions, surrogacy gets complicated.

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