At what price? The urgency of moving towards the abolition of surrogacy

A meeting at the UN in Geneva to reflect on the exploitation and commodification of women and children


Gabriella Gambino, Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, moderated a meeting in Geneva – ‘At what price? Towards the abolition of surrogacy: Preventing the expolitation and commodification of women and children’ – organised by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva and the Caritas in Veritate Foundation.


‘Procreative tourism’ causes transnational exploitation of women and children


“The purpose of today,” Gambino said in her introduction, “is to reflect on the urgency of an international response to the phenomenon of surrogacy. We are all aware of the fact that ‘procreative tourism’ generated by the divergence of states’ regulations on surrogacy is still the cause of the transnational exploitation of women and children through this practice”.

Citing the recent Declaration Dignitas infinita, Gambino stressed that it is necessary to promote personal commitment to ensure that every child has “the right … to receive the gift of life that manifests both the dignity of the giver and that of the receiver”.


Surrogacy: A form of commercialisation and contractualisation of fundamental human relations


The universal protection of the dignity and fundamental human rights of those involved is a priority. “Not all ways of procreating are lawful,” the Under-Secretary continued, and “there is no ‘right to a child’ in strictly legal terms that can justify any procreative practice. In fact, surrogacy brings several serious problems to the attention of the international community: in addition to contributing to the objectification and proceduralisation of birth, it constitutes a form of commercialisation and exploitation of women on the one hand, and of the reification of a child on the other hand; it is also a form of contractualisation of fundamental human relations which is destined to forever affect the identity and life of the subjects involved.”


The fragmentation of motherhood and protection of the dignity of the human being


Added to these problems is the fact that, during pregnancy, the awareness of a presence that grows within a woman “pervades her whole being [making her] not only a woman but also a mother”. Pope Francis reminded us of this during the Yes to Life! meeting organised by the Dicastery in 2019. “To think that this bond can be annulled and that a woman can be estranged from her gestational experience by means of a contract is a seriously invasive and violent operation – it involves control over the woman and the loss of a profound anthropological dimension, such as the development of her maternal identity.”


Other topics: Children’s rights, women’s rights and international law


Speakers at the meeting included Eugenia Roccella, Minister for Family, Birth Rate and Equal Opportunities of Italy, and Olivia Maurel, spokeswoman for the Casablanca Declaration and leader of the campaign for the universal abolition of surrogacy, who was conceived by a surrogate mother in Kentucky, USA, and explored the issue of surrogacy from the perspective of children’s rights. The third speaker was journalist and author Eva Maria Bachinger, who co-founded the ‘Stop Surrogacy’ initiative in Vienna in 2015 and has authored three books on the issue, and explored the issue of surrogacy from the perspective of women’s rights. And finally, Bettina Roska, Legal Officer with ADF International in Geneva, who explored the legal dimensions of the issue while outlining the international legal landscape and highlighting gaps and challenges.


The call: More awareness and concrete steps at the UN level


All speakers emphasised the need for a universal ban to protect the dignity of all people from exploitation and commodification. The meeting called for greater awareness of the issue and concrete steps at the UN level to abolish all forms of surrogacy.

“It would be significant,” concluded Under-Secretary Gambino, “if an increasing number of States and public organisations became aware of the serious issues involved, and that this would give rise to concrete steps at the UN level to protect the dignity of women and children and to abolish surrogacy once and for all”.



The event was held at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva, and was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Italy and the Sovereign Order of Malta.




19 June 2024