In an unsurprising move, Pope Francis, who in recent months has urged attention to migrants and the poor and has reached out to the LGBTQ+ community, has again made clear—as he did in 2022—his condemnation of surrogacy, or as he called it, “womb renting.” In 2022 he denounced the activity as “threats to human dignity,” exploitation of impoverished women and compared it with pornography.
In remarks made to ambassadors to the Vatican on January 8 he went a step further, calling for a global ban on surrogacy, putting it on the same level as child trafficking.
The pontiff painted a picture of surrogacy as a distinctly Western affliction, one that represents a “culture of death” that “discards children, the elderly and the sick.”
“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,” he said in prepared remarks. “A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract. Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”
Many European nations currently either have outright bans or severe restrictions on the practice, leading childless parents to go to the U.S. or—before its war with Russia—to the Ukraine for surrogate births.
The United Nations has called for guard rails on the practice that would safeguard the rights of children born from surrogacy arrangements. While not calling for an outright ban on it as the Pope has, its position is that “While modern practices of surrogacy offer new reproductive opportunities, they also introduce new legal and ethical dilemmas. Furthermore, the international regulatory vacuum that exists in relation to international surrogacy arrangements leaves children born through this method vulnerable to breaches of their rights, and the practice may often amount to the sale of children. With a growing industry driven by demand, surrogacy is an area of concern for the rights and protection of the child.” In his remarks the Pope also reminded the assembled that 2024 will be a year of preparation for the Holy Year, or Jubilee, which begins next Christmas. “Today, perhaps more than ever, we need a Holy Year,” he said, adding that “the Jubilee is a season of grace that enables us to experience God’s mercy and the gift of his peace. It is also a season of righteousness, in which sins are forgiven, reconciliation prevails over injustice, and the earth can be at rest.”