On Sunday 18 Sept OBJECT and Stop Surrogacy Now UK protested loudly against surrogacy at the ‘Modern Family Show‘ which marketed a toxic combo of surrogacy and eugenics to LGBTQ people. We had ‘moles’ at the show to investigate it from the inside – their report follows below.
Outside we sang how the surrogacy bus goes round and round, enriching agencies, charities, clinics, doctors and therapists, while the women birthing the babies are left with the physical and psychological harm.We explained some of the reasons why surrogacy is disastrous for women and children, although most accounts focus solely on the wishes of the wealthy commissioning parents.
Paedophilia, multiple commissions, treatment literally worse than dogs are skipped swiftly over, and the problems of abandonment, forced abortion, rejection etc are brushed aside. And if your country is a bit strict on using surrogates who are over 40 or under 20 – no worries, there’s no age limit here in UK!
The links with transgenderism were very clear: hormones taken to change your ‘gender’ cause infertility. and thus create a market for surrogacy – if you can afford to pay. Mermaids, the trans charity, were the Modern Family Show’s ‘Charity Partners’! Thanks to Anna from Nordic Model Now for popping by – it’s a shame you didn’t have a moment to come and say hallo!
We OBJECT to surrogacy and transgenderism. Like tobacco and alcohols they look great in the short term but wow! they destroy lives.
Undercover at the Modern Parenting Show – the truth about surrogacy
@RadFem_KatH and partner check out options for a Modern Family
On 18th September 2021, London was host to the ‘Modern Family Show’- the largest LGBT+ parenting and fertility showcase in Europe, a ‘one-day boutique event’ featuring ‘influencers’. It aimed to inform us about the range of ‘family building options’ available, including sperm donation, fostering, co-parenting and, obviously, surrogacy.
On behalf of OBJECT, my partner and I attended to investigate. This event was designed to sell us surrogacy and so nothing below was told to us in confidence. Indeed it was often said with a cheerful smile and the expectation we would be overjoyed.
We walked away horrified. Here are our top 10 concerns:
- Accessing surrogacy is just like choosing a phone plan!
That’s right. Surrogacy companies now offer memberships.
The first organisation we spoke to at this event was My Surrogacy Journey, started by a couple who used surrogacy to have two children. It aims to ‘change the landscape’ of surrogacy by offering ‘exclusive memberships’ to prospective parents, including ‘50 membership benefits’, for £4000. Of course, this is without added ‘bolt-ons’ (yes, the exact word used) such as pairing you with an egg donor or potential surrogate. Membership benefits include 10 hours of counselling, legal consultations, and birth preparation planning for the ‘intended parents’. They offer memberships for egg donors and prospective surrogates too, of course, but these get far less counselling (only 5 hours for prospective surrogates) but come with LoveHoney gift cards, weight management programmes and theme park passes.
- Surrogacy programmes in the UK rely a lot on NHS resources.
One of the benefits offered by My Surrogacy Journey was a great deal of NHS support such as birthing support, and post-natal support within their packages. These are hardly ‘membership benefits’ as all UK citizens have access to the NHS. Should our health service really be used to advertise private surrogacy packages? Should it be freely available to surrogacy purchasers?
Can surrogacy providers really sell on NHS services?
- The ‘fertility free market’?
We were surprised to see so many UK surrogacy organisations offering surrogacy packages in countries outside Europe – the US, Canada and Mexico. My Surrogacy Journey offers help accessing both egg donors and surrogates from America and Canada. It felt like a ‘fertility free market’- the chance for prospective parents to simply ‘buy overseas’ if they couldn’t find the ‘perfect’ surrogate in the UK. We were told by a woman at My Surrogacy Journey that this is because the ‘supply’ is better in America. Charming.
- Surrogacy in the US robs women of bodily autonomy.
There is another reason prospective parents go to America to access surrogacy, and this was the most shocking. An incredibly cheery employee of an American fertility clinic told us that many prospective parents prefer the US system because it gives them parental rights over their surrogate child from conception. Yes, from conception. So in America commissioning parents can force the surrogate mother to abort against her own wishes, or face huge legal implications. Or not to, if she chooses abortion. Contracts can dictate the activities the surrogate mother can do whilst pregnant, the foods she can and cannot eat, and even whether or not she can have sex. Hearing this supposed positive at an apparently progressive ‘modern’ event, so soon after the abortion ban in Texas, was horrifying.
- Utah is a leading state in US surrogacy.
The cheery fertility clinic that informed us so happily of the robbing of a woman’s right to choose? The Utah Fertility Centre. Yes, Utah, the Mormon state. Utah seems to be a leading surrogacy provider in the USA. This was something we were both unaware of, and something particularly unnerving, given the rights of LGBT people in Utah until the recent past: homophobic hate crime was only recognised in Utah in 2019. However, perhaps Utah is less surprising, given the control surrogacy has over women’s bodies, as less than half of the population of Utah support abortion rights and it is hardly known for its positive stance on women’s equality.
- Want US Surrogacy but cheaper? Try Mexico.
Surrogacy in the US, we were told, can cost between $100,000 to $150,000, of which a maximum of $30,000 is given to the surrogate mother. But, as one stall told us, we could look at Mexico for a cheaper surrogacy offer. Here, whilst we were told the laws were the same in terms of rights for prospective parents, the costs were roughly half and only $15,000 is given to the surrogate mother. That is, $15,000 maximum, regardless of health problems encountered during pregnancy or birth.
- NHS professionals support American surrogacy.
My Surrogacy Journey promote the US full-control surrogacy system, and have UK NHS doctors and healthcare professionals on their boards. These people clearly endorse the US system and may well have a financial interest in these companies, yet they are some of the professionals consulted here in the UK by the Law Commission. Should such people be asked to declare any such interest when operating in their UK roles? We have seen that the right to abortion, is a right that can be removed in the US. Mothers’ rights are perhaps similarly under threat here.
- UK paperwork. Don’t worry, the lawyers will help you ‘fudge’ it.
UK law on surrogacy is very different from US law. Here, the surrogate mother is the legal mother (and her partner, if any, the other legal parent) until a parental order is granted to make the intended surrogate parents the legal parents instead. In the UK, an application must be made within 6 months to do this. However, a UK law firm told us not to worry about this. Many surrogate parents, they said, miss this deadline or get the paperwork wrong. The law firm is apparently very good at ‘fudging’ these legal documents to ensure the baby born is taken from the surrogate mother, no matter what.
Intending ‘parents’ can pay for a bolt-on check on surrogate mothers or egg donors’ identity and criminal records. Yet there are no checks done on the intended parents’ backgrounds.
- When is a social contract both legal and not? When it benefits surrogate parents.
The UK law firm explained that here they advise contracts be written up prior to surrogacy so both the surrogate mother and the prospective parents know what they have agreed to in terms of rights over the child after birth. These contracts are not legally binding in the UK – a reason that some opt for the legal certainty of the US or Canada. However, in the UK should the surrogate mother change her mind post-birth and wish to keep her child, judges can, and often will, still use the (non-legally binding) contract to remove the child from its mother and give the surrogate parents guardianship. If it’s the other way round though, and the surrogate parents no longer want the child, s/he is left with the surrogate mother regardless. The surrogate mother has her wants ignored either way.
- UK lawyers don’t want commercial surrogacy.
The UK lawyers, whilst fully supporting clearer laws for surrogacy in the UK, surprised us by being vocally against commercial surrogacy. Without prompting, the law firm representatives spoke of their discomfort with the American system – its commercial nature, surrogate mothers’ loss of bodily autonomy. This was our most (only) pleasant surprise of the day. The British system is flawed, surrogacy is an abuse of women’s bodies, but it was a small victory to know that British surrogacy experts would advocate against any extension of commercial surrogacy in the UK.
The Modern Family Show left us with far greater concerns over surrogacy than we started with. The blatant support for US commercial surrogacy by UK organisations suggests that far more work is needed to highlight the dangers and abuses of this practice. Organisations willing to share space with clinics like the Utah Fertility Centre, would most likely not share a space with organisations like OBJECT or anti-surrogacy feminists. This illustrates the current lack of honest discourse around surrogacy.
We OBJECT to the commodification of women’s bodies.
We OBJECT to the robbery of women’s bodily autonomy.
We OBJECT to surrogacy.