Council of Europe Rejects Surrogacy recommendations: Alliance VITA’s reaction

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rejected the draft recommendation for surrogacy on October 11, 2016, following 2 years of discussion on this extremely controversial text.

This draft recommendation requested the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to formulate guidelines to protect children born from surrogacy, without explicitly condemning the practice of surrogacy itself.

This text has been through numerous hurdles and pitfalls, and along the way its objective was laid aside. The genuine subject is highly symbolic since it concerns an attack on Human Rights, for which the Council of Europe acts as commissioner and guardian.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) includes parliamentarians from 47 member States representing 820 million Europeans. In October 2014, the PACE agenda had scheduled a draft resolution regarding “Human Rights and ethical issues related to surrogacy”.

Unexpectedly, a fierce battle began when the rapporteur of this text, Belgian senator Petra De Sutter, was named. A potential conflict of interest was subsequently revealed since this senator, as a gynecologist, practices surrogacy in Belgium, where surrogacy is illegal although tolerated. Furthermore, professional links between Petra De Sutter and an Indian clinic were also revealed.

On March 15, 2016, the first draft resolution was rejected by the Committee on Social Affairs. It recommended drawing up guidelines for surrogacy, even though this unlawful practice violates human rights for women and children.

In a tense atmosphere, during the meeting on April 20, 2016 the same Committee re-elected the rapporteur. De Sutter then proposed drafting a text, which no longer corresponded to the initial proposal, restricting her study to condemning “commercial” surrogacy and defining legal guidelines for children born from surrogacy.

Then, last June, the Committee on Social Affairs decided to suspend its examination of the second draft report for procedural irregularity since some deputies had brought an action for successive inappropriate interpretations of the text.

The rapporteur finally submitted a modified report to the Committee for Social Affairs on September 21, 2016 in Paris. It was annexed with a draft resolution (text usually addressed to the member States to motivate them to take action) and a draft recommendation (text addressed to the Committee of Ministers and thereby to the respective governments): these texts only condemned “for-profit” surrogacy and were giving guidelines for supposedly “altruistic” surrogacy. Again the report was dismissed, as well as the draft resolution. Only the draft recommendation annexed to the resolution was adopted, with amendments to include all forms of surrogacy without discrimination.

In the Strasbourg plenary session held on October 11, 2016, the deputies dismissed the draft recommendation, thereby refusing any reference to Petra De Sutter’s propositions on surrogacy.

The texts at the Council of Europe are often elaborated without European citizens being aware of the issues or being involved. But on surrogacy, the rapporteur’s ambiguities and maneuvers have led non-partisan citizen groups to voice their opinion.

Backed by this momentum the international collective group No Maternity Traffic (of which Alliance VITA is an active member) was able to gather over 100,000 European signatures requesting to explicitly condemn all forms of surrogacy. This petition was validated by the Council of Europe in May 2016 and the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly called for the petition to be taken in to account during the debates.

Caroline Roux, Director of VITA International and member of No Maternity Traffic states: « We are relieved that this text was rejected since in essence it was a Trojan horse which would have implemented guidelines at an international level for surrogacy, without condemning its practice. The majority of the legislators were not eluded by this insidious snare to make them accept surrogacy to defend children’s rights, whereas this practice is totally opposed to the child’s best interest. Surrogacy is contrary to women and children’s rights. Whether performed for profit or not, surrogacy abuses children and causes them irreparable damage, and exploits women’s bodies making them enslaved. We are determined to continue our commitment with No Maternity Traffic for the universal prohibition of surrogacy, which is an unacceptable step backwards for Human Rights.”

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Voting results: http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/Votes/DB-VotesResults-FR.asp?VoteID=36189&DocID=16001&MemberID=