Commercial surrogacy and the law

Commoditising the fertility of young, mostly low-income girls and women is deeply exploitative

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – I read with interest Annaig Birdy’s letter (May 29th).

I also find it baffling and disturbing that our Government is attempting to facilitate commercial international surrogacy, particularly given our long, sad, and sordid history of commoditising the fertility of young, mostly low-income girls and women.

If the Irish Government thinks that it is a good idea to rent the bodies of young, overwhelmingly low-income women from countries that are, in the main, much poorer than modern Ireland, it begs the question of why this is not also a good idea here. If commercial surrogacy is a positive thing, can we expect to see our universities promote it to young women as a way of funding their higher education? A healthy pregnancy or two for a wealthy couple might see someone all the way through to a master’s degree. Or what about an assertive poster campaign in and around our most deprived council estates, in secondary schools serving low-income communities, or in social welfare offices? Perhaps young women who have been unemployed for a long time might be receptive to the idea of renting themselves out for pregnancy if it is suggested that their social welfare benefits will otherwise be halted.

If all of that sounds exploitative, that’s because it is. I believe that there would be uproar if our State institutions were to do anything of the sort, because it is clearly wrong to use vast economic disparity to persuade someone to gestate someone else’s child in their own body, with all the mental and physical health risks that entails.


And yet the Irish Government seems intent on making it easier for wealthy Irish people to rent the bodies of women in countries whose circumstances are not unlike Ireland in the past, when babies born to vulnerable Irish girls and women were sold to overseas couples. Ireland may receive assurances that systems are in place to protect surrogate mothers, but without jurisdiction over the relevant laws in other countries, our Government cannot guarantee anything.

When it comes to voting, for me a politician’s views on commercial surrogacy are a line in the sand.

If they cannot or will not see the massive ethical problems with it, then I cannot trust them on any other issue.

Worryingly, several of the candidates who have come to my door canvassing for the upcoming local and European elections have told me that they are unaware of their party’s stance on this issue and of the Bill currently going through the Dáil. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.