Surrogate mothers | Quebec must say no to the regulation of the commodification of women and children

The Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, tabled on October 21 a proposal for reform of filiation which governs the use of surrogate mothers. According to the minister, Quebec should catch up with the other provinces to adjust to new family realities.

Clémence Trilling, Ghislaine Gendron, Johanne Saint-Amour and Michèle Sirois
Members of For Women’s Rights in Quebec (PDF Quebec)

In the media, we are presented with surrogacy, commonly known as surrogacy, as desirable and practically inevitable. Despite the few caveats about the dangers for the surrogate mother, the media participate in what Noam Chomsky calls the “fabrication of consent”: beautiful photos and touching stories obscure the commodification of children and women.

In the context of maternity for others, a surrogate mother undertakes to bear a child in order to deliver it after birth to the sponsoring parents. According to article 541 of the Civil Code of Quebec, “any agreement by which a woman undertakes to procreate or bear a child on behalf of another is absolutely null”.

Article 541, which the current reform wishes to abolish, was passed in 1994 on the recommendation of the Council on the Status of Women and the Committee of the Quebec Bar on new reproductive technologies, because parliamentarians feared the commodification of the reproductive functions of women. women and the harmful consequences for children who become the object of a contract. These fears are more relevant than ever.

Despite the dissuasive effect of article 541, Quebec sponsor parents have resorted to this practice, on our soil or in other countries or provinces. This strategy of “fait accompli” forces social and legal acceptance by avoiding the holding of a real substantive debate on this subject.

The altruism associated with the use of surrogates in Canada is a delusion.

Certain eligible expenses to compensate surrogate mothers have no maximum1 and could take the form of a disguised payment. Also, when funds are transferred abroad, nothing prevents Canadian surrogates from receiving remuneration from foreign sponsoring parents.

Read “How Canada became an international surrogacy destination” (The Globe and Mail, in English)

The supervision of surrogacy will not be able to counter the fact that Canada has become the number 1 destination for reproductive tourism, the hub of an “industry of bellies for hire” which is expanding internationally. Indeed, there is a hole in the federal law and the fact that the baby born to surrogacy leaves with a Canadian passport constitutes an additional asset for which the framework will be quickly bypassed: agencies and lawyers already trade in it.

Just click on a hyperlink to “add to cart2 »The physical characteristics of an« à la carte child », like an ordinary online business. The Désir d’enfant trade fair, which was held last September in Paris, already boasts of the “options” offered at low prices in Canada.

Disproportionate risks for surrogate mothers

The desire for a child is legitimate, but framing an unethical practice in its very essence should not take place. Can a healthy woman give informed consent to the cumulative medical risks of surrogacy: twin pregnancy, cesarean section, hemorrhage, obstetric complications?

Read “Surrogacy: invisible violence that undermines women’s rights” (Review of two worlds)

No supervision will protect women and children against these major risks which have nothing to do with those of an ordinary pregnancy and which will be absorbed by an already exhausted health network.

Lydia Cox, an American surrogate mother who died giving birth in the summer of 2021 leaves four orphans with her husband, for whom we must make a crowdfunding campaign. She will never be able to talk about her experience in an idyllic report on surrogacy. Those who would like to report damage to their physical and psychological health are prohibited from expressing themselves, in accordance with confidentiality clauses written in most contracts.3. They will never testify in a parliamentary committee.

It is a very curious conception of the balance of rights and human dignity to validate contracts which present such an unequal distribution of risks.

Have we ever seen a surrogate mother from Westmount put her health at stake to bear a child of a poor neighborhood couple?

Bills must be based on factual data. However, this information is not available4 with regard to the number of surrogate mothers in Quebec and Canada, the consequences on their long-term health, the real cost for all taxpayers and the number of foreign clients who already use the services of Canadian surrogates or from Quebec.

Read “Hidden from View: Canadian Surrogacy” (Impact Ethics, in English)

The Minister of Justice has a duty to apply the precautionary principle.

Feminists are not resigning and are organizing around the world to denounce this practice contrary to the human dignity of women and children and to ask not for its supervision, but for its abolition, as we did for slavery.

1. Louise Langevin. Women’s right to reproductive autonomy: between freedom and constraint, p. 211, note 390 and p. 257, paragraph 334.


Visit the CAN-AM CRYOSERVICES website

3. Louise Langevin, op. cit., p. 239 paragraph 302.

4. Ibid, p. 198 note 326

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