Although surrogacy is illegal in France, the trade show “Désir d’enfant” (Desire for a Child) reopened yet again this year in Paris on September 4th. Last year several associations filed legal suit against these international procreation businesses for openly pushing surrogacy.
To accompany prospective clients this year, on their “journey to parenthood”, as advertised by the San Diego Fertility Center, there are at least 40 exhibitors. Specialized clinics, gamete banks, fertility coaches and even specialists for frozen gamete transfers are all available to provide expertise, techniques, and feedbacks.
To access this trade show which opened in Paris on Saturday September 4th, visitors first had to cross a red line, as a symbol of the ethical red lines being thwarted by the organizers. The red line reminder was set up by the association “Manif pour tous” (The March for All), but other associations such as “Osez le féminisme” (“Dare to be feminine”) were also present protesting the commodification of women’s bodies.
Once inside, visitors have the choice of 20 different topics scheduled in 3 conference rooms while they navigate their way through the numerous vending booths.
Aurelian, Crystal and Clelia from the Utah Fertility Center give advice on how to “create” a family in the USA. As the father of two surrogate children, Aurelian presents the different stages of the parenthood journey in the United States for the “intended” parents. Trying to reassure his audience on what he describes as “a human adventure”, he insists on the importance of a trustful relationship, with the clinic for the medical details, and with the agency for the contract and the relation with the surrogate mother. He continually insists on the importance of the bond created with the surrogate mother despite geographical distances. He describes the growing strength of a relationship throughout the 9-month pregnancy to the extent that he now considers this person to be a full-fledged member of his family. He also emphasizes the legal aspect, which is essential according to Aurelian who repeated several times his need to be reassured about establishing legal filiation once the child is born. When the child was born, his companion and himself felt they were really regarded as parents by the medical team.
Next, Crystal, who is the surrogate mother of Aurelian’s two children, focuses on the different stages of surrogacy while essentially promoting the services of the Utah Fertility Center, for which she is the main coordinator.
Clelia then addresses the legal aspect, by recalling that under French law, exchanging a child for any remuneration whatsoever, is tantamount to buying and selling a child and an infringement on parental laws. Nevertheless, she immediately reassures the candidates for surrogacy explaining that surrogacy abroad and within a legal frame is not criminal and cannot lead to an indictment in France.
Their standpoint is to encourage the “intended” parents to consult a lawyer, at the very beginning of the process, to establish the specifications of the contract and the child’s civil status under French law.
The conference ends with the photo album of Aurelian’s extraordinary adventure with Crystal, the surrogate mother of his two children. His emotions as well as his desire to convince his audience are conspicuous.
Even so, a multitude of questions remain:
What about the relationship established between the surrogate mother and the baby during pregnancy? What about the lasting trauma generated by this pre-planned separation? What about eliminating the mother’s name from the birth certificate, while categorizing two men as parents? What about the commercialization of women’s bodies? What about the great French bioethical principle of the inalienability of the human body? What about contracts with thousands of lines, not to mention the right to request an abortion? What about the confusing and fragmented filiation, composed of a genetic mother on the one side (the egg donor), a surrogate mother on the other, to end up spending his life without a mother?
The“Désir d’enfant” trade fare organizer Anne-Laure Guichard repeatedly insists that their only objective is to provide information to potential parents, thus there are no price tags in site.
But privately, one can learn that a fertility center in Oregon expects to be paid 150,000 € for its’ surrogacy services.