Earlier this year, Pope Francis called for a global ban on surrogacy, claiming that the practice, which helps couples to have children, exploits the women who carry them.

In his speech to diplomats, he said, “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 added by saying “Surrogacy is an object of trafficking, a child is a gift and should never be the basis of a commercial contract. Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally”

These statements have incited a lot of reactions from the global community including the queer community. This is because surrogacy, a third-party form of reproduction in which a woman carries and delivers a child for someone else, has grown dramatically in recent years, and the varied reasons why women become surrogates and couples choose to create families this way makes it almost impossible to reach a universal conclusion.

Most queer couples as well as pro-LGBTQ groups believe that Pope Francis’s remarks would be a major setback for most queer relationships since surrogacy is the commonest reproductive means used by queer partners who want to have children. One of the major drawbacks highlighted by queer people regarding Francis’s remarks will be the inability to maintain a biological link to their child. For gay couples, there is the option of one of the male partners in the relationship to provide his sperm for the IVF procedure while for the lesbian couples, one of the female partners can give her egg for the procedure. As a result, there is a possibility for one of the partners in the relationship to maintain a genetic link to their child. But in the case of a global ban on surrogacy, the genetic link will be automatically cut off.

Pope Francis

A worldwide ban on surrogacy is also anticipated to hinder queer couples from developing relationships with a surrogate. Because surrogates are women who have already undergone pregnancy and are often raising at least one child, they understand the joy of parenting. So, if both the queer couple and the surrogate are interested in maintaining a close relationship with each other, they can serve as valuable resources in the parenting process. With Francis’ stance on surrogacy, this will no longer be possible.

Furthermore, same-sex couples will no longer have the opportunity to decide on sperm or egg donors. One of the benefits of surrogacy for queer couples is the flexibility for the partners to decide on whether they want their sperm or egg donor to be someone they know, someone from a clinic, or a random person. Queer couples who are seeking desired traits in a sperm or egg donor also have the option to look for specific donors from sperm or egg bank respectively but this can be hindered if the pope’s recent stance is approved by international organizations.

Even though surrogacy is among the most ethically thorny reproductive issues, and some of the points highlighted by the pope may be true, his stance should not be accepted by international organizations and the global community, as it will greatly affect queer couples and queer relationships as a whole. It is a complex issue and would be best if religious institutions and leaders stay out of it and the reproductive rights of people.

By Victory Effiom