Scottish clergy are objecting to proposed changes in British surrogacy laws, changes they say would lead to the commercialization of pregnancy and exploitation of women and babies.
According to the UK Sunday Times, the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission of England and Wales have just concluded a four-month consultation period with the goal of substantially altering existing laws pertaining to surrogacy, which were written in the 1980s and are considered outdated.
The new proposal removes a surrogate mother’s legal guardianship of her child immediately after birth, "creating a new 'pathway' to legal parenthood for intended parents. It also calls for the establishment of a national register to allow those born through surrogacy arrangements to uncover information about their origins and how they were conceived," the outlet reported.
The Bishops Conference of Scotland, which represents eight dioceses, maintains that courts ought not have authority to scrap the consent of the mother in any circumstances.
At present, the surrogate and her spouse are the legal parents until a post-birth process is completed by the adoptive parents. The proposed changes would make the intended parents the legal parents at birth.
Although the Roman Catholic Church is officially opposed to the practice of any form of surrogacy in its doctrine, the Scottish bishops say in their submission that this right to consent to transfer of parenthood “is a fundamental safeguard which protects the rights of the surrogate as the biological and legal mother of the child.”
The proposed removal of this key part constitutes "a subtle step toward the commercialization of conception and human life" the bishops warn, which fails to consider the “possible views and emotional and psychological harm of children brought into the world through surrogacy.”
“This is, ultimately, the detachment of a child from his or her mother,” the bishops assert.
“The potential for emotional and psychological distress and harm, particularly for the mother and later, the child, is significant and should not be underestimated. Surrogacy commodifies women and children, reducing them to objects, whose primary use (in surrogacy) is to satisfy the desires of other human beings.”
Jennifer Lahl, a documentary filmmaker and founder of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, shares such concerns.
"In adoption the birth mother always surrenders her maternal rights after the child is born but with the movement of the industry to protect the buyers, surrogate mothers are asked to surrender their rights, often before they are even pregnant with the embryo,” she said in an email to The Christian Post on Thursday.
Surrogacy has been legal in the U.K. since 1985. The commercial variety, however, where a surrogate mother is paid for undergoing a pregnancy for another couple, is not. Advertising the practice is also illegal.