What is Michael O’Flaherty’s stance on surrogacy?

It is very strange that the European Commission, when pre-selecting its three (out of 45) preferred candidates for the post of Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), apparently did not make any effort to check out the stances taken by those preferred candidates on some crucial issues. Or, if it did, the conclusion must be that the Commission is in fact supporting and endorsing them.

Which, for example, is the position the FRA’s new Director will take with regard to surrogacy?

There recently have been some highly controversial decisions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) with regard to this issue, especially Paradiso and Campanella v. Italy in which a couple literally bought a child from a reproduction clinic in Moscow, using donated sperm and ovular cells as well as the services of a surrogate mother (who was not identical with the woman who had “donated” the egg-cells). The Court deliberately abstained from discussing the ethical aspects of this, but instead preferred to examine the case from a very peculiar angle, namely the (perceived) “interests of the child” – and came to the surprising conclusion that it was in the child’s interests to be brought up by the two intended “parents”, even if it was in no way related to them, and despite the fact that this decision might in fact come as an encouragement to other wannabe “parents” who want to buy children in Moscow or elsewhere.

The issue is likely to remain a topic for heated discussions, not least because a petition to the Council of Europe (CoE) to set an end to this modern form of slave trade has received wide public support, and the CoE Parliamentary Assembly is currently discussing a report on the issue.

So what is the known position of Michael O’Flaherty? He is the Irish ex-priest and human rights “expert” who finally got the post after the Commission shortlisted him.

Michael O’Flaherty is the author and spiritus rector of the Yogyakarta Principles, a controversial document that re-interprets human rights in order to provide the appearance of respectability to claims that the world should legally recognize “homosexual families”.

Of particular interest is “Yogyakarta Principle 24”, on the “right to found a family”:

Everyone has the right to found a family, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Families exist in diverse forms. No family may be subjected to discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity of any of its members.

States shall:

a) Take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure the right to found a family, including through access to adoption or assisted procreation (including donor insemination), without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity;

b) Ensure that laws and policies recognise the diversity of family forms, including those not defined by descent or marriage, and take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that no family may be subjected to discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity of any of its members, including with regard to family-related social welfare and other public benefits, employment, and immigration;


According to these affirmations, “families exist in diverse forms”. It is not clear what a family is, or how it should be defined. One thing, however, comes out clearly: it should not be defined “by descent or marriage”, the criteria that defined family from the very beginning of civilization until today…

One also reads with astonishment that there is a “right to found a family” that includes “access to adoption or assisted procreation (including donor insemination)”. In other words, access to adoption and assisted procreation (including the use of “donated” gametes) is a human right according to O’Flaherty. This revolutionary new “human right” is not even discussed – it is simply asserted as if it were universally recognized. Which of course it isn’t.

But O’Flaherty apparently wants not only that all legal obstacles for surrogacy be removed. What he wants is that access to it must be “ensured” – for everyone. That may include same-sex couples or individual “gay” persons, who are the pressour-group whose interests alone his pamphlet is seeking to promote. (One is tempted to wonder, in this regard, which are the “other” measures, besides the legislative and administrative ones, that should be deployed to achieve this noble goal…)

While the ECtHR has somewhat awkwardly chosen to consider the issue of surrogacy exclusively from the perspective of the child (without, however taking any account of the child’s right to know the identity of, and be cared for, its real parents…), O’Flaherty does not even pretend that the child’s rights are of any importance. His angle is the “rights” claims of same-sex couples, which in his view enjoy primacy over everything else. By implication, the child is reduced to something to which someone has a “right”, i.e. to a tradable commodity.

And of course, nobody should “discriminate against” a family so constituted, e.g. by saying that in reality it isn’t one…

In shortlisting Mr. O’Flaherty for the job of FRA Director, was the Commission aware of this position? Does it share it?