France's Surrogacy Assault Course
Article source: "Le parcours du combattant des couples français ayant recours à la GPA", Eve Roger, Europe 1, 25/01/2018
With the launch of the French national consultation on bioethics last week, the surrogacy debate has been rekindled in France; at stake is the question of whether or not heterosexual couples with fertility issues and homosexual couples should have the right to use surrogate mothers. This practice has been banned in France since the very first laws on bioethics were passed in 1994. And yet, in the last 24 years, a large number of French babies have been born abroad to surrogate mothers.
How many people do it?
There is no official figure for the number of children born via surrogacy living on French soil, but the number of parents requesting French citizenship for their children born abroad is a good starting point. The administrative body in charge of such requests, based in Nantes, has revealed that they have been handling around a hundred of these cases every year, mainly the most problematic ones. They cannot, however, see those that slip through the cracks, or those who don’t request French citizenship at all. Overall, it is believed that between 200 and 300 babies born to surrogate mothers make their way to France every year; that is, 2,000-3,000 in the last ten years.
Where can surrogate mothers be found?
The United States is the most popular country for couples to turn to when seeking surrogate mothers. It is a very secure channel but also the most expensive one, sometimes costing as much as 150,000 euros. Specialized agencies put would-be parents in touch with surrogate mothers. There are around a hundred of these agencies; the most prominent one, Circle Surrogacy, added 18 French couples to its books in 2017.
Not having an office in Paris, Circle Surrogacy's meetings are conducted in expensive hotel bars or via Skype. John Weltman, the agency’s founder, has trouble grasping why he is not allowed to set up a proper office in France: “I hope it’s going to change, because there are many, many people who want to have a baby,” he said in a radio interview on Europe 1. In particular, he wants to brush aside the accusation that his business commodifies the human body: “I have a lot of women working for me, and they love what they do, because they help change these people’s lives. They don’t do it for the money — they’re not prostitutes, they’re wonderful women,” he insisted.
Many requests are also made in Canada, which is slightly cheaper — around 120,000 euros. Cédric, another interviewee, chose this country for ethical reasons: over there, surrogate mothers do not get paid, only compensated for their expenses. “If she needs to buy clothes because of the weight she’s putting on, or if she needs a babysitter for her son because she’s feeling tired, then we pay for those things, but we don’t pay her directly,” he explained. “That made all the difference to me and my husband,” he added. He is now the young father of a little boy called Maxence.
And last but not least, there is also a burgeoning “European” option which relies on Russian and Ukrainian surrogate mothers. The recent success in this sector can be attributed to its cost being only half of what it is in the United States, because the surrogate mother’s healthcare costs are covered by the Russian state.
Money remains one of the main obstacles for couples who resort to surrogacy; many of them borrow from their friends and family, as French banks are not allowed to give out specific loans for surrogacy. Unspecified consumer purchase loans are the only viable alternative, but their interest rates are much higher. French banks are also required to block transfers into foreign accounts if they suspect a surrogacy arrangement. Getting the child’s birth and civil status registered in France is yet another downside, as it can take several years to process.
Translated by Juliette Combet and Thomas Bulant.
Editing by Sam Trainor.
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