Issues

Pope Francis: ‘Surrogacy exploits women, treats children as commodities’

Pope Francis

On June 10, Pope Francis spoke out against several issues that he considers to be threats to humanity, including pornography and surrogacy.

At the Vatican on June 10, Pope Francis said that pornography has “now spread everywhere via the web” and that it “should be denounced as a permanent attack on the dignity of men and women.”

He added, “It is not only a matter of protecting children — an urgent task of the authorities and all of us — but also of declaring pornography a threat to public health.” He said that if porn is so “rampant among adults” on the internet, then how could society — and adults — “effectively” protect children from pornography.

He then spoke about the exploitation of women and children through surrogacy. “The dignity of men and women is also threatened by the inhumane and increasingly widespread practice of ‘womb renting,’ in which women, almost always poor, are exploited, and children are treated as commodities,” he said.

Many couples and single adults are turning to surrogacy to help them create children, however, the woman who agrees to be a surrogate is often (but not always) financially disadvantaged. Surrogates can be exploited by a wealthier woman, couple, or man who wants to create a child but is unable to (or chooses not to) for whatever reason. Some have even admitted to using a surrogate so that they can avoid the effects of pregnancy on their own bodies while paying no mind to the effects of pregnancy on the surrogate, who is erased from the story and the child’s life immediately upon the child’s birth. The risks associated with pregnancy are much higher for surrogates than for standard pregnancies. This is because the surrogate’s body is more likely to recognize the baby as ‘foreign,’ leading to higher rates of complications like pre-eclampsia.

Babies carried by surrogates also have a higher risk of low birth weight and preterm birth. But that’s not where the risks end. These children are also at risk of the psychological impact of being created using reproductive technologies. A study out of Harvard Medical School revealed that this isn’t an extreme statement. Sixty-two percent (62%) of children conceived through donor technologies, including surrogacy, believe it to be unethical and immoral. They feel like business transactions.

READ: Buying a baby: The harmful objectification inherent in surrogacy and IVF

“When you are commissioning and swiping your credit card for a product, even one that you want badly, you are participating in commodification, regardless of whether the intended parents are the biological parents of the surrogate-born children. In this case, the products are human beings,” said Katie Breckenridge of the children’s rights advocacy organization Them Before Us.

In response to this growing crisis, Pope Francis sees the need for the rebirth of the traditional family and believes that “with God’s grace, we are called to work with hope and confidence, in effective communication with the Church.”

“The family founded on marriage is, therefore, at the center. It is the first cell of our communities and must be recognized as such, in its generative, unique and indispensable function,” he said.

He continued, “While many families have rediscovered themselves as domestic churches, it is also true that too many families have experienced loneliness, and their relationship with the Sacraments has often become merely virtual.”

In addition, he noted that creating fewer children is not the answer to the environmental concerns society is facing, including the idea of global warming. He explained that “the concept of an ‘ecological footprint’ cannot be applied to children, as they are an indispensable resource for the future. Instead, consumerism and individualism must be addressed, by looking to families as the best example of resource optimization.”

Pope Francis also spoke of the demographic winter that so many European countries are heading for due to very low birth rates, saying, “It is serious. Be attentive! It is very serious. There is a very close link between this ‘generative poverty’ and the sense of the beauty of the family.”

In addition to his encouragement for a return to traditional, intact families, Pope Francis urged nations that are struggling with a low birth rate to create policies that are family-friendly and that encourage couples to have more children.

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