University of Manitoba law Prof. Karen Busby led a discussion Sept. 9, 2013, on the vulnerabilities that surrogate mothers face. She raised two questions in regards to surrogacy. The first: What mechanisms should be in place to transfer parentage from surrogate mother to intended parents? Should this be easy, or difficult? The second question: To what extent should the Canadian government attempt to regulate surrogacy at the international level?

These are important questions to consider as more and more Canadians use surrogacy, in particular international surrogate mothers, as an option for building their families. Prof. Busby stresses the importance of citizenship for the child. How should the Canadian government regulate the citizenship of children born abroad to surrogate mothers for intended Canadian parents? The Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies recommended that surrogacy not be allowed in Canada due to fears of exploitation and commodification of women and children. The report authors also argued that it was impossible for a woman to consent to being a surrogate mother. As a result, only altruistic surrogacy – not for payment beyond expenses – is allowed in Canada.

However, Prof. Busby explained that over and over again, research has shown that surrogate mothers do not regret their decisions to become surrogates. They remain confident in their decisions even seven years later, according to one qualitative study. The women often expressed that they enjoyed being pregnant and wanted other couples to be able to experience the joys of having children. Others, such as military spouses, felt that surrogacy was a good way to earn some extra money while staying home and raising their own families.

In Canada, it is relatively easy to pass parentage from a surrogate mother to the intended parents. In most provinces, you go to court and prove that there was an agreement, the surrogate mother signs a consent form and a judge issues an order to release a new birth certificate in the intended parents’ names. In B.C., no court visits are necessary. Intended parents simply file the birth registration along with the agreement and consent form to get a new birth certificate. While Quebec does not legally recognize surrogacy agreements, birth certificates naming intended parents have been registered there nonetheless.

Prof. Busby concludes that Canadian law is already good in regards to surrogacy and parentage. British Columbia’s system is probably the most logical way to go, since research shows there are almost never any problems or disagreements between surrogate mothers and intended parents.

Questions asked this week:

What is the motivation for those opposed to surrogacy?

There are two main reasons why individuals, or nations, might be opposed to surrogacy. They may be opposed morally or they may oppose it because of the perceived risk of exploitation.

What percent of those seeking surrogacy are same-sex couples?

The statistics on this are very hard to find, but some same-sex couples do use this as an option to have children. Some countries that allow surrogacy, such as India, prohibit same-sex couples utilizing that option.

Are there currently treaties between countries?

There has been some talk about the need to develop agreements, but it is difficult because of different social and religious contexts. Prospective parents really need to find out the laws regarding surrogacy before they enter into these arrangements. They need to make sure they can get their children back into their home country.  For instance, people from France have come up against this issue because children born abroad with the help of surrogate mothers are not allowed citizenship under French law.

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