As Taiwan plans to amend a law to legalize surrogate pregnancy, a Catholic official said surrogacy can cause several ethical and social issues, including the possibility of violating the rights of surrogate mothers.
Legislator Wu Ping-jui of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party on May 1 presented a draft to amend the Artificial Reproduction Act. The amendment aims to legalize surrogacy, bringing it directly under the law that regulates assisted reproductive technology.
Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference, said legalizing surrogacy could give rise to a host of issues involving science, ethics, law, social morality and politics.
The public should analyze the issue of surrogacy rationally and from a medical point of view to understand the various problems involved, he told UCA News.
The draft amendment says a couple can legally resort to surrogacy only in the case of an absence of a uterus in a wife, infertility of a wife or if pregnancy or childbirth threatens the life of a wife.
The draft bill also prohibits using a surrogate's egg with her husband's sperm in case the client couple need to use outside sperm.
The draft law also seeks to protect the surrogate mother's rights, such as her health and privacy. It also says the surrogate mother has a right to have access to the surrogate child after childbirth by prior agreement of both parties.
It gives her the right to terminate the pregnancy and refuse renewal of the contract if the pregnancy fails.
Since the Artificial Reproduction Act was introduced in 2007, there has been talk about legalizing surrogate motherhood as part of it.
Surrogacy is often discussed in Taiwan as an act of assistance to a couple in need without any remuneration. But the bill makes it clear that the client may remunerate the surrogate mother with an amount set by authorities.
The clients are also to provide nutrition and related expenses to surrogate mothers, making it a commercially viable proposal.
Father Chen expressed happiness that the amendment was only a draft and under discussion. "The Church still has time and space to communicate with the community at large," he said.
The priest said a study in 2017 showed that children born by artificial surrogacy suffer from several problems such as higher rates of heart disease and depression when they grow up.
"The current discussion in society is about renting a womb by paying money. Will the couple commissioning surrogacy accept a child born with a deformity or serious disease? What could be the fate of that child?" he asked.
In an assisted reproductive process, often, several embryos are created to implant the best in the womb. "Who is there to uphold the right to life of a fetus, a potential human being?" Father Chen he asked.
The law protects a surrogate mother's privacy, but "what about the right of the grown-up surrogate child to meet his or her biological parents?" the priest asked.
"And, what about the dignity of the surrogate mother? Ever thought why she rented out her womb? When people are talking about human rights, where are the human rights of the woman?" he asked.
He recalled a 2017 surrogacy controversy in which a Thai woman, hired as a surrogate mother for an Australian couple, sought to raise funds for a critically ill surrogate son. The Australian couple left the country without taking the child after they learned about his illness.
"Was that a case of a client refusing to accept goods that were not in good condition?" the priest asked.
He said it is better for infertile couples to adopt a child than going for surrogacy. Adoption helps an orphan child to have parents, he said.
He said the Church's effort was to bring out the problems of surrogacy to help people "ethically find happiness in life."