In June, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered France to recognize children born to surrogate mothers abroad even though surrogacy is banned on French territory. Refusal to do so undermines children’s identity, which the court ruled in cases brought by two French families.
It is such a relief that this Court actually focuses on children’s rights and not the usual right-wing or left-wing agendas. President François Hollande had told Têtu magazine in 2012 that changing the current law could “open the way to surrogacy”. Now that the law has changed via the European Court’s ruling, there is a ray of hope for intended parents in France.
Unfortunately, this past weekend, thousands in France protested surrogacy as well as assisted reproduction for gay couples. One of the protest’s general statements stated, “Because the exploitation of women is intolerable; because the child is not an object; because all children need a father and a mother,” as it called for people to come out and support “traditional family values.”
First of all, did they not read or consider the European Court’s views on children’s rights? Are they not aware of the latest psychological research evidencing that children of gay parents are not in any way suffering or experiencing diminished lives as a result of having gay parents? Not to mention that President Francois Hollande signed the controversial marriage bill into law in May last year, making France the 14th country in the world to allow gay marriage. How does the ability to be legally married not change the context of family life for gays?
Going further, in September, the highest French appeals court ruled that lesbian couples in France may adopt children born via assisted reproductive technology (ART). Yet, speaking to Catholic daily La Croix on Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls assured anti-LGBT supporters that surrogacy "is and will remain banned in France.” Thus while homosexual couples in France are allowed to adopt, they are barred from using in vitro fertilization.
Importantly, the media in France is doing something to counter the agenda of the conservatives attempting to protest and hold up the ban on surrogacy. In late May 2014, the TV channel "France 5" aired a five-part series about "Surrogacy in the USA" as part of the daily program called "Les Maternelles" (the nursery). The creator of the program, the French journalist Claire Williot, explained that "since surrogacy is not allowed in France, we were interested to show what is possible to do in America, and how families live this experience." The program follows surrogates and intended parents during their surrogacy plans and journey. It also follows the team of Worldwide Surrogacy Specialists, LLC as they interview intended parents and gestational surrogates and assist them in having children through surrogacy.
All of the confusion currently happening in France has a dramatic impact on the human rights of all couples and individuals in France, straight and gay, who wish to become loving and dedicated parents through surrogacy. It is also a disservice and causes disrespect to the many wonderful women who become gestational surrogates and who will readily acknowledge that they are treated with respect, dignity, generosity, and gratitude.