Out in the World: Pope Francis issues call to ban surrogacy

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday January 10, 2024
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Pope Francis has called for a global ban on surrogacy. Photo: Bill Wilson
Pope Francis has called for a global ban on surrogacy. Photo: Bill Wilson

During a January 8 speech, Pope Francis called for a global ban on surrogacy, claiming the practice, which helps couples have children, exploits the women who carry the babies.

The comments come less than a month after the pope issued a directive that stated priests can offer blessings to same-sex couples. Many LGBTQ couples use surrogacy to have their families.

But Francis called the practice "deplorable" during his State of the World speech, a 45-minute address to Vatican-accredited diplomats.

"I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother's material needs," the pope said, reported CNN.

"A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract," he added.

The 87-year-old pontiff added that "human life must be preserved and defended."

The revelation isn't new. The Catholic Church has opposed reproductive technology, including surrogacy and IVF, and abortion for a long time.

Surrogacy is illegal in some countries and in the U.S. states of Michigan, Nebraska, and Louisiana, reported Reuters. Critics of the practice argue ethical concerns, including the potential for a "poverty bias" against women attracted to surrogacy for financial reasons.

Elsewhere in the U.S. the practice is legal, but it's not regulated by the federal government. As a result, it's up to states to pass their own laws governing surrogacy, according to NPR.

NPR reported that gestational surrogacy, the most common form of modern surrogacy, occurs when a person carries another couple's embryo and gives birth to a child on their behalf.

Only some U.S. states expressly allow surrogacy, and not all of them allow surrogates to be compensated, a practice commonly known as commercial surrogacy. When a person is unpaid, it's typically referred to as altruistic surrogacy, NPR added.

LGBTQ Catholic organization New Ways Ministry declined to comment.

Representatives for Dignity/USA, another LGBTQ Catholic organization, did not respond to a request for comment.

A search on the websites for Dignity/USA and New Ways Ministry did not find press statements on the pope's comments.

Tran Thi Thu, right, and Nguyen Thi Thuong celebrated during their wedding in Ho Chi Minh City on January 6. Photo: Courtesy Nguyen Thi Thuong via Facebook  

Wedding bells ring in the new year
Wedding bells were ringing during the first week of 2024.

Vietnam's national star soccer player Tran Thi Thu, 33, married her girlfriend, Nguyen Thi Thuong in Ho Chi Minh City January 6.

The wedding marks the first time a woman Vietnamese football player publicly married a same-sex partner, reported VnExpress.net.

The couple have been together since 2022.

Thu was first called up to the Vietnam Women's National Football Team in 2017. She competed in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup and won gold at South East Asian Games 31 and 32. She secured eight national titles as a center-back with the Ho Chi Minh City Women's Football Club.

Thu's contract ended in 2023. It is unclear if a new contract is being negotiated, according to VnExpress.net.

Defender Hoang Thi Loan, defender Chuong Thi Kieu, and goalkeeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh were among some of her teammates who attended the wedding.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Vietnam, according to Equaldex. Nepal and Taiwan are the only two countries in Asia to legalize marriage equality.

Elsewhere, Australia's foreign minister, Penny Wong, and her longtime partner, Sophie Allouache, are set to wed, reported the Star Observer. The couple have been together since 2006 and have two children.

Meanwhile, queer Brazilians are saying, "I do," in record numbers, according to the National Human Rights Observatory. The organization reviewed data from the civil registry statistics from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. It found marriage and civil unions registrations were up by 148.7% in the nine years since marriage equality was legalized in South America's largest country.

Merco Press reported that between 2013 and 2021, Brazilian same-sex couples registered 59,620 same-sex marriages and 59,620 civil unions, according to the survey. In 2013, there were only 3,700 same-sex marriage registrations. In 2021, there were only 9,202 same-sex marriage registrations. The bulk of same-sex marriage registrations happened between 2017 and 2018. Most same-sex marriages (57.1%) were between women.

Finally, on January 1, registries opened for Estonia's first same-sex couples to apply to marry. The first applications will be processed and certified by February 2, reported The Guardian.

Estonia became the first former Soviet republic to legalize marriage equality with lawmakers in Parliament voting 55-34 in favor of same-sex marriage last June.

According to the Estonian Human Rights Center, 53% of Estonians supported same-sex marriage this year. Up from 34% a decade ago.

Estonia has recognized civil partnerships and cohabitating partners since 2013. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1991 after the country became independent after the fall of communism and its split from Russia.

All eyes are now on the Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, and Ukraine.

According to The Guardian, Latvia's first openly gay president, Edgars Rinkēvičs, paused the country's passage of same-sex civil partnerships in November in response to opposition protests. Opponents now must gather the minimum of 154,241 signatures to trigger a referendum in the secular country. If the petition fails, civil unions will become law by July 2024.

Same-sex couples have no access to legally recognize their relationships in Lithuania.

In June, the Czech Parliament sent the country's same-sex marriage bill to committees to debate and potentially be revised before it will be returned to the Senate for a final vote, reported Reuters.

Greece is considering a same-sex marriage bill, despite opposition from the Orthodox Church of Greece. A bill could be brought to the Mediterranean country's Parliament by 2027, reported Pink News.

LGBTQ Ukrainians are pushing to have their relationships legally recognized. A civil unions bill was introduced to Parliament in 2023, reported The Guardian.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

Updated, 1/10/24: This article has been updated regarding LGBTQ Catholic organizations reacting to the pope's call for a ban on surrogacy.

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