On 21 June, Dr. Petra De Sutter, a Belgian transgender senator and gynaecologist specialising in surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), will try again to get the Committee on Social Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to support the legalization of surrogacy, despite the rejection of his/her previous report in March and his/her clear conflict of interest.
The move flouts the values of the Council of Europe, both through the content of the motion and the pocedure through which it is promoted.
On 28 January 2015, the Assembly of the Council of Europe appointed Mr? De Sutter to draft a report and resolution on “Human Rights and Ethical Issues Related to Surrogacy”.
Although the majority of the members of the Committee responsible for the report voted, on the 15 March in Paris, against the first draft reportthat sought to provide an appearance of legitimacy to the abominable practice of surrogacy, the rapporteur will try again on the 21 June to get their seal of approval. He/she is obviously not going to propose the same text, but the objective is the same: to make the Committee accept the trade in human flesh.
If the draft report will, in all likelihood, pretend to condemn “commercial” surrogacy, this is only to better advance the idea of “altruistic surrogacy”. Predictably, Mr? De Sutter will argue that surrogacy mothers and egg cell donors should not be allowed to offer their services for money, but only for free, as a specific form of “help” to those who otherwise could not have children. Ultimately, however, this so-called “altruism” will not prevent the surrogates to claim some kind of “compensation” in consideration of the loss of time and income, physical inconvenience, risk, etc., which are by necessity associated with every pregnancy – so that in the end they may get paid as much as in the case of “commercial” surrogacy, albeit under a different pretext. And of course Mr? De Sutter will not suggest that “reproductive doctors” like himself, who offer surrogacy as part of their business model, should be working for free… no, it’s only the surrogates, but certainly not the “Gods in White”, who should be prevented from making a living out of this novel form of child trafficking.
Predictably, Mr? De Sutter will once gain exhibit the bad taste and hypocrisy of invoking the protection of the rights of children, when in actual fact his purpose is to transform children into a tradeable good that can be ordered and purchased by whoever can afford it.
Senator De Sutter, who is a man dressing up as a woman, is an obstetrician who specialises in surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in a Hospital in Ghent and who works with a commercial surrogacy company in India (Seeds of Innocence). As a matter of consequence he/she has every interest in getting surrogacy approved. Regarding the accusation of conflict of interest levelled against him/her, the PACE Committee on Social Affairs could have resolved the problem by secret vote as prescribed by the Rules of Procedure. However, on 27 January 2016, the Members of the Assembly were invited to vote not on the conflict of interest itself, but rather to decide on whether this conflict of interest should be subject to a vote! Thanks to this procedural trick, the Members of the Assembly were made to vote by show of hands and it was decided, by a narrow majority, that the issue of the conflict of interest should not be examined. Consequently, the problem remains open and unresolved!
After the vote of 15 March, which rejected the De Sutter report, several members of the assembly requested that the process should be abandoned or entrusted to another Rapporteur. Thus, the credibility of the Council of Europe is now at stake. There is a considerable amount of pressure from left and Green Parties, who view surrogacy as a lever to undermine the natural concepts of family and parenthood, to adopt a text in favour of surrogacy.
This can be seen in the way the activities of the parliament, whose confidentiality had been strengthened, are conducted. The draft project and resolution are confidential, discussions are held behind closed doors, people against surrogacy are not deposed, and reports of sessions are laconic. For instance, on 21 April, the Secretary General of the Assembly addressed the Committee on Social Affairs concerning “a point on a procedure” and held “an exchange of views” apparently about De Sutter’s report – something very rare. This is all the official minutes reported. Don’t try to get more information, it is strictly confidential…
Positive Point: The accumulation of problems surrounding this report seemed to have convinced the President of the Assembly to bring the matter before the Committee on Rules of Procedure, responsible for implementing the ethics and ensuring that the Rules of Procedure are complied with. But even relating to this, don’t ask any questions, it is strictly confidential…
The European Parliament, by contrast, has taken a clear stance by strongly condemning any form of surrogacy, stating that it goes against the rights of the women and human dignity. By a vote on 17 December 2015, the European Parliament “condemns the practice of surrogacy, which undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity; considers that the practice of gestational surrogacy which involves reproductive exploitation and use of the human body for financial or other gain, in particular in the case of vulnerable women in developing countries, shall be prohibited and treated as a matter of urgency in human rights instruments”.