WOMEN CANNOT BE RENTED OR BOUGHT IN WHOLE OR IN PART
The signatories to this Manifesto register their concern at the various pronouncements in favour of the regulation of surrogate maternity, or the practice of payment for use of a woman’s womb by a third party. We call on political parties and national and regional governments to remain alert, and not to allow themselves to be deceived by overtly one-sided media campaigns, recalling that the desire for fatherhood/motherhood can never replace or violate the rights enjoyed by women and children. The desire to be a father or mother and the right of free choice do not entail any right to have children. We therefore register our absolute rejection of the use of “women’s wombs for gestation on behalf of others”, on the basis of the following reasons:
• Because we defend the right of women to decide as to sexual and reproductive rights. Surrogate maternity prevents the pregnant women from enjoying the right to decide during the process of gestation and thereafter as regards decisions concerning the upbringing, care and education of the child.
• Because choice entails a preference among a series of options in life. Choice is in turn accompanied by the capacity to alter, modify or vary the object of our preferences. Surrogate maternity not only prevents the women from exercising choice, but furthermore allows for punitive measures if they alter the conditions of the contract.
• Because so-called “surrogate maternity” corresponds to a type of practice that entails sexual control over women: while in traditional societies arranged marriages and dowries are the typical forms employed to exercise sexual control over women, in modern societies the prohibition of abortion, the regulation of prostitution and surrogate maternity are the clearest of such expressions.
• Because the renting of a woman’s womb cannot be classified as an “assisted human reproduction technique”. Women are not reproductive machines manufacturing children in the interests of breeding programmes. This is, instead, a clear example of extreme “obstetric violence”.
• Because the “altruism and generosity” of the few does not prevent the commercialization, trafficking and farming of women for the purchase of a la carte pregnancies. The “altruism and generosity” of the pregnant woman often cited in order to validate the regularization of surrogacy, reinforces the deeply rooted definition of women inherent in religious beliefs as “beings existing for others”, whose lot in life is to offer themselves in “service” to others. The fact is that this claimed “generosity”, “altruism” and “consent” of a few serves simply as a smokescreen argument concealing the trade in wombs and the purchase of standardized babies according to a price list.
• Because when “altruistic” surrogate maternity is legalized, the commercial practice also increases. No type of regulation can guarantee that there will be no money or bribery involved in the process. No legalization can control the pressure exerted on pregnant women and the differing power relationship between the purchasers and the women for rent.
• Because we do not accept the neoliberal logic that aims to bring “wombs for rent” into the marketplace, as this feeds on the structural inequality of women to turn the practice into a business niche exposing women to reproductive trafficking.
• Because women cannot be rented or bought in whole or in part. Nor can so-called “surrogate maternity” be included, as some argue, within the context of “collaborative consumption and economy”: the claimed “collaborative relationship” simply conceals “patriarchal consumption”, by means of which women can be rented or bought in whole or in part.
• Because we are radically opposed to the use of euphemisms to prettify or idealize the business of buying and selling babies by means of temporarily renting a woman’s womb, whether she lives in sun-kissed California or an impoverished backstreet in India. We therefore insist on calling things by their true name. One cannot and must not describe as “surrogate pregnancy” a social act that objectifies a woman’s body and commercializes the desire to be a mother or father.
• Because the perspective of Human Rights requires the rejection of the idea that women can be used as vessels, and that their reproductive capacity can be bought. The right to the integrity of one’s body cannot be made subject to any type of contract.
We therefore declare our opposition to any type of regulation regarding the use of women as “wombs for rent”.