The paper offers a new definition of “comprehensive family planning”

The paper offers a new definition of “comprehensive family planning” Photo: C-Fam

UN Population Fund report proposes a right to surrogacy

Surrogacy is a controversial topic internationally, raising concerns about the exploitation of women, particularly poor women in developing countries who are hired as surrogates by individuals and couples from wealthy countries.

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Rebecca Oas

(ZENIT News – Center for Family and Human Rights / Washington, 06.19.2024).- A new policy paper from the United Nations Population Fund suggests that gestational surrogacy—including commercial surrogacy—should be considered a part of “comprehensive family planning”—and potentially as a human right.

The paper offers a new definition of “comprehensive family planning” as “a holistic approach to family planning and formation. It encompasses family planning services, a variety of contraceptive methods, fertility treatments, adoption, fostering and surrogacy.”

Surrogacy is a controversial topic internationally, raising concerns about the exploitation of women, particularly poor women in developing countries who are hired as surrogates by individuals and couples from wealthy countries.  Pope Francis has issued a call for a global ban on surrogacy, and the Holy See hosted events at the UN explaining how it exploits and threatens the health and lives of women and commodifies children.

Other assisted reproductive technologies raise related concerns regarding the ethics of egg and sperm donation and the ways its use can undermine the rights of children.  Specifically, the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a child has, “as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.”

UNFPA has used the phrase “comprehensive family planning” in previous publications, including a 2023 framework on family planning in the context of human rights, but the agency’s focus was on the provision of services to limit or space births, without mentioning assisted reproductive technologies.

In this framework, UNFPA ties the right to family planning to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which refers to the “right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and the right to have the information, education, and means to do so.”  ICPD also states that abortion must never be promoted as a method of family planning.

The new UNFPA report, which focuses on the role of the private sector in advancing “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” insists that it “does not consider or promote abortion as a method of family planning,” further that it “does not fund or perform abortions,” and “respects the sovereign right of countries to decide the extent to which abortion is legal.” Even so, UNFPA has been one of the most aggressive UN agencies in promoting abortion around the world.

It contains no such disclaimers regarding surrogacy, the legal status of which varies widely between countries, and does not mention any ethical concerns.  However, the report does point toward surrogacy, along with adoption and fostering, as a way that services might be “tailored for different sexes, genders, … sexual orientations and expression” among other categories.  It also says that “[f]inancial support for fertility treatments, surrogacy, adoption and egg freezing can expand women’s choices and help them thrive in the workplace.”

Also included in the glossary is “reproductive justice,” the three core values of which include “the right to have a child, the right to not have a child, and the right to parent a child or children in safe and healthy environments.”  The “right to have a child” component emerged from the context of coercive contraceptive and sterilization campaigns against poor and black women in the U.S.  Placed alongside UNFPA’s novel definition of “comprehensive family planning,” it points toward a putative right to have a child by any means necessary—with children and poor women suffering the collateral damage.

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