Catholic organisations in Austria oppose European surrogacy proposal

10-02-2023

Central Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Photo iStock

In an open letter, various Catholic Austrian organisations asked ministers to vote against a controversial EU proposal to recognise surrogate motherhood.

“Surrogacy is trafficking in children and violates the human dignity of women. No human being should be a tradable object”, an open letter to Austrian ministers Raab (Minister for Women, Family and Youth) and Zadic (Minister of Justice) reads.

The letter was written by various Catholic organisations from the Alpine country, including the Austrian Catholic Family Association, the Catholic Lay Council and the non-denominational association “Aktion Leben” (Action Life). According to these organisations, the European Commission wants to legalise child trafficking with its proposal “for the regulation and recognition of cross-border parenthood”. In this proposal, member states must recognise parenthood through surrogate motherhood.

Rainbow

The proposal of the EU Commission aims to ensure children’s rights across the borders of member states within the EU but is expected to create controversy due to the inclusion of rainbow families. According to Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, all children should have the same rights irrespective of how they were conceived or born and their type of family. This could cause problems for more conservative member states.

An example is the so-called Baby Sara case, where the daughter of a same-sex couple born in Spain was refused a birth certificate by Bulgarian authorities because Bulgaria does not recognise same-sex marriage and parenthood rights for same-sex couples. However, in 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that if one EU country recognises the child’s parental relationship, then all EU countries should do the same to guarantee the child its freedom of movement across the region.

Exploitation

The Catholic organisations ask their Austrian ministers not to go this way. “Behind surrogacy is the concept of exploiting global injustices to make a profit at the expense of women’s physical and psychological integrity.” At the moment, surrogacy is banned in Austria.

Furthermore, the organisations behind the open letter appeal to article 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This explicitly prohibits the trafficking of children: “States Parties shall take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of or traffic in children for any purpose or in any form.”

The organisations say that securing the rights of children born of surrogacy should be done in a different way than the EU Commission is proposing. National bans should not be undermined. In addition to bringing Austria’s “no” to the commission, they are also asking for “a consistent change of perspective” on surrogacy in favour of children and not making laws according to the wishes of adults. Because, according to the organisations, “there is no right to a child”.

Italy wants stricter punishments for surrogacy

Other countries are struggling with surrogacy as well. This week, the Italian party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) of PM Georgia Meloni presented a bill against surrogacy, even when it’s performed abroad.

At the moment, surrogacy is already banned in Italy. However, it is difficult to prosecute people who retrieve a baby from abroad. Although, in April, a law was adopted that names surrogacy as a universal crime, even if committed abroad, the punishments are not severe enough for the Brothers of Italy. They, therefore, want to raise the penalty for those who violate the law: three months imprisonment must be raised to two years and a fine from 600,000 up to one million euros.

The bill is yet to be voted about.

Chain

Newsletter

Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.