(社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇

August 09, 2014
EDITORIAL: Down syndrome surrogacy case a cautionary tale for Japan
(社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇

In a shocking act of trampling on human rights and degrading the dignity of life, an Australian couple has abandoned a child born with Down syndrome to a Thai surrogate they hired. The boy is one of twins carried by the Thai woman, and the couple has returned home from Thailand with the other infant, a healthy girl.

The couple’s selfish act has provoked international criticism. We can find some solace in the fact that the Thai woman said she would raise the boy on her own and has been receiving donations from around the world.

This tale has brought to the fore some deep-rooted problems inherent in the practice of gestational surrogacy, in which a woman becomes pregnant with a fertilized egg from a couple and gives birth on behalf of the wife.

Pregnancy and childbirth inevitably entail risks. It sometimes happens that a surrogate mother begins to suffer serious complications after giving birth, or in worse cases even dies.

The fundamental question is whether people should be allowed to impose such burdens on others in order to have their own children.

Many cases of surrogacy involve a monetary payment to the surrogate mother.

The way people in wealthy nations hire surrogate mothers in poor countries smacks of exploitation based on economic disparities.

It is hard to see the whole picture of international surrogacy, and there may be other cases similar to the one in Thailand.

There are many ways in which surrogacy contracts end up in serious trouble, such as the surrogate mother refusing to part with the baby or cases in which it is later found that the child has no blood relationship with the couple who hired the surrogate mother.

Surrogacy is far from unknown in Japan. More than 20 years have passed since Japanese couples started hiring surrogate mothers in other countries to have children.

Initially, most of such Japanese couples sought surrogate mothers in the United States, but now Asian nations like Thailand and India are more popular because of lower costs.

In 2008, a case came to light in which a child born to an Indian surrogate hired by a Japanese man had not been allowed to leave India.

Further complicating the surrogacy situation in this nation is the fact that Japan trails other countries in regulations on surrogate childbirths.

The government has been trying to ban surrogacy since the 2000s, but has so far failed to submit proposed legislation to the Diet.

The government’s expert panel as well as an academic society have called for a ban. Debate on the issue should not be delayed any further.

It is adults who adopt surrogacy as a means to have their children. But it is always children who suffer when such arrangements go awry. The rules concerning the issue should be designed to protect the well-being of children born under surrogacy arrangements.

Even if legislation banning surrogacy is established, however, it will still be difficult to prevent all surrogacy deals arranged overseas.

Japan should try to work with other governments to investigate the issue more deeply and develop measures to ensure that surrogate mothers and children born to them will not find themselves in predicaments that spell hardship.

Some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are campaigning for the submission of a comprehensive bill concerning reproductive medicine to the autumn extraordinary Diet session.

The draft bill would allow surrogacy for only certain cases, such as women who do not have a uterus.
But there is no public consensus on key surrogacy-related issues. Debate on the matter should be based on both accurate scientific knowledge and values shared widely among Japanese citizens.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 9

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