Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Surrogacy laws in France

Surrogacy Laws in France

The French Senate revealed Wednesday the contents of a closed-door hearing to propose guidelines pertaining to the legality of surrogate mothers, a practice that was banned in France in 1994. The talks are a precursor to a revision in bioethical law, slated for 2009.

Under the proposed reforms, the birth mother would retain “the right of repentance,” or the right to change her mind for up to three days after giving birth. On the other hand, the adoptive parents would not be permitted to “return” the baby on the grounds of its deformity or handicap.

Presiding over the Senate working committee charged with presenting the argument, Michèle André, a Socialist Party member and women’s rights activist, stressed the need to address the issue. This, she said, was necessary “to avoid merchandising women’s bodies,” and to avoid “procreative tourism” on the part of French would-be mothers who find surrogates in countries where the practice is legal, such as the USA, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Issues to be ironed out included the question of whether gay couples would be authorised to use surrogate mothers, and whether providing financial remuneration for the biological mother was legal.

The decision will come as good news to women such as Florence, a 24-year-old woman suffering from a type of haemophilia that prevents her from undergoing a pregnancy.

The activist for Maia, a pro-surrogacy group, has been on an adoption waiting list for 9 months, and sees the use of a surrogate as her best option.

In an interview with FRANCE 24, she said, “I have no shame in using a surrogate mother.” But, she added, she could not bear the idea of finding one abroad. Florence said she would rather wait until the practice was legalised in France because it is “safer" and "sounder".

The debate over surrogate motherhood resurfaced in October 2007, when a French court made a landmark decision allowing a French woman who used a surrogate in the US to register the children as her own in France. The case involved twin girls.

Under normal circumstances, French law would not recognise legal custody for a mother who had gone around the system and found a surrogate. The court stopped short of making a larger statement about the validity of surrogate motherhood, but the case nonetheless started a dialogue culminating in Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

Questioned about the Senate committee’s report, the adoptive mother in the Oct. 2007 case said she was heartened by the report. “I’m moved,” she told the AFP news service. “It’s a huge step forward.”

André concurred, saying the overall positive feedback would “open the gateway to debate.”

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