ROME — Reproductive issues often leave Catholics and secular feminists at odds, but a recent anti-surrogacy conference in Rome has created an unusual camaraderie between the two.
“Se Non Ora Quando,” a feminist group known for its left-wing views, called surrogacy “incompatible with human rights and with the dignity of women,” according to The Atlantic.
The conference met last Thursday at a lower House of Parliament in Rome. Women intellectuals, doctors, and scholars from all over the world, pleaded with the United Nations to ban European citizens from traveling abroad to procure surrogate mothers.
Surrogacy is when a woman carries a baby to term for a third party, often involving payment. The pregnancy is achieved by in-vitro fertilization, in which an egg is fertilized in a lab then placed into the woman’s womb.
While the practice is legal in Canada and most of the United States, regulations vary depending on the state. Surrogacy is banned, however, in almost all of Western Europe, including France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, and Italy. Some countries, such as England, do not enforce surrogate contracts and women are not required by law to give up the baby they bore for a third party.
The Catholic Church opposed surrogacy in Donum Vitae, a document on biomedical issues written in 1987.
“Surrogate motherhood represents an objective failure to meet the obligations of maternal love,” the document reads. It further called the practice a “detriment” to the family and the dignity of the person by divorcing “physical, psychological and moral elements which constitute those families.”
In recent years, left-wing feminists have actively opposed surrogacy in countries like Spain and France, claiming it as an attack against women’s dignity, especially as an injustice to the poor. They have compared surrogacy to prostitution, and expressed their concern for its promotion of human trafficking.
“The state of necessity of women who turn to renting their womb, for a price, is not unlike sexual exploitation,” said the Spain-based Feminist Party, who protested a local surrogacy fair in 2016.
The United Nations’ parliament condemned surrogacy in 2015, labeling it as a practice which “undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity.” World leaders have also identified a high number of surrogate mothers are poor women in third world countries.
Sheela Saravanan gave her testimony to the “Se Non Ora Quando” conference last week, detailing the struggle women are faced with in India.
“Our surrogate mothers are stressed physically and mentally even if they receive money,” and they experience “poverty, illiteracy, submissiveness,” Saravanan said, according to the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire.
She also explained that these “mothers who do not claim rights” are subject to abortions if the baby is disabled.
Many feminists have expressed concern that surrogacy not only coerces impoverished women, but has unhealthy side effects. The psychologist Fabio Castriota, told the conference that birth and motherhood are inseparable, and that a “separation trauma” leaves an impression on both the baby and the woman.
“Se Non Ora Quando,” means “If not now, when?” The group emerged in response to what they view as the sexist treatment of women in the media. They are especially known for organizing the 2011 rally against then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who faced accusations of sleeping with an underage woman.