What would normal citizens like ourselves think if in the European Parliament the person tasked with the drafting of a report on the health risks associated with smoking happened to be, in his professional life, a manager of Philip Morris plc? And what if the author of a legislative draft on genetically modified food were to be found on the payroll of Monsanto? Would such apparent conflicts of interests not disqualify a parliamentarian from being given such tasks?
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has appointed Petra De Sutter, a Belgian politician, to be the rapporteur on a report entitled ‘Human Rights and ethical issues related to surrogacy’.
Do not be misled by the forename: Mr. De Sutter actually is a transgender man, i.e. a man believing to be a woman. He had his name changed from Pieter into Petra in 2004 and since then maintains the legal fiction of being female. It is not known to us whether or not he has also undergone surgery to have his genitalia mutilated in order to make them look female. It is, however, well-known that such surgery may change outward appearances, but it does not actually transform a man into a woman.
Besides being a member of the Belgian Senate and of PACE, Mr. De Sutter also is a medical doctor. Not just a medical doctor like many others, but the Head of the Department for Reproductive Medicine at Ghent University Hospital. He also is the prolific author of a long list of publications on “LGBT Rights” and “Reproductive Medicine”. From these publications it becomes apparent that he is an unfettered supporter and promoter of surrogacy motherhood as a means of assisted procreation. While surrogacy remains illegal in a strong majority of European countries, it is legal in Belgium, albeit only on a “non-commercial” basis – and Mr. De Sutter’s Department for Reproductive Medicine is one of the places where it is provided.
Even today, at a time of widespread moral indifferentism, the practice of surrogacy is abhorred by most Europeans, as it (1) commercializes the female body and (2) deprives the child of a part of its identity. There are not many citizens who can have an interest in it – but there are two very distinct pressure groups that push for its legalization: one is the “LGBT lobby”, given that for gay couples and many transgender persons this would be the only way of becoming “parents”, and the other consists of “reproductive doctors” who make a living of it. Mr. De Sutter is one of the very few persons in Europe, and probably the only person in PACE, who happens to belong to both groups at the same time.