Italy experiences pushback as it moves to curb overseas surrogacy

Numerous countries are looking to put an end to commercial surrogacy, pointing out its exploitative nature and how it can negatively affect the child. Yet as Italy moves to ban surrogacy for its citizens, even abroad, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is sending mixed signals.

Earlier this summer, Italian politicians began debate on a bill that would make it a crime for Italian citizens to travel abroad for surrogacy. “We strenuously say no to the sale of children,” lawmaker Maurizo Lupi said. “Surrogate maternity is the most extreme form of commercialization of the body.”

However, LGBTQ couples claim the legislation is born of bigotry, as many gay couples rely on surrogates to have children and believe they have a right to a child. “With this law, we’re looking at a very heavy attack on ‘rainbow’ families and on the LGBT community,’’ lawmaker Alessandro Zan, who is gay, said.

Around the same time period, the ECHR ruled that Italy did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, by refusing to recognize children born abroad to surrogate mothers. Yet two months later, in August, the ECHR made a different ruling, saying that a child born to a surrogate in Ukraine had her human rights violated — specifically, that of her right to family and private life. According to ANSA:

The case was brought to the Strasbourg court in September 2021 by the child’s biological father and intended mother, both Italians, after they were repeatedly refused legal recognition of their bond with the child by Italian registry offices and courts.

“The refusal of the national authorities to recognise her biological father and intended mother as her parents, on the one hand, and the fact that she had no nationality, on the other, has placed her in a state of great legal uncertainty,” reads their appeal.

Another couple, profiled by the New York Times, traveled to the United States after hiring a woman to be their surrogate. This particular couple consists of two gay men, and their two-month-old son cannot get an Italian birth certificate. The solution would be for the biological father to come forward, but neither is willing to say which was the sperm donor. After the biological father is recognized, the other man could legally adopt their little boy. But for whatever reason, the couple cannot — or will not — do so.

Yet as WORLD’s Ericka Andersen pointed out, what no one seems to consider in the equation is the child.

“The couple in the Times story rented a uterus and then ripped the child away from the only home he’d ever known — the body of his physical mother,” she said. “This surrogate mother, the one whose heartbeat he synced, whose voice he knew, whose smell he found comfort in, was taken from him in an instant so this couple could make their dreams come true. All the while, the men presume that mothers don’t matter. Not biological mothers, not physical mothers, not adoptive mothers.”

Countries like Israel, Ukraine, Georgia, and Thailand have all either banned foreign or commercial surrogacy, or are working towards doing so. Increasingly, people are realizing that surrogacy is unethical. “It’s extremely difficult. I can’t do it again,” Natia Motsikulashvili, a surrogate in Georgia, previously said. “I carried a baby for nine months, and then they took him from me. It’s excruciatingly painful.”

“Is Italy overstepping her bounds by making overseas surrogacy a crime for Italian citizens?” she continued. “I guess it depends on whether you think human dignity ends at the border.”

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