A heated debate took place yesterday at a forum presided over by a legislator who is aiming to revise the Artificial Reproduction Act (人工生殖法) to “bring hope to married couples who cannot conceive” by stipulating regulations on surrogacy.
The Department of Health commissioned National Taiwan University’s Department of Sociology to organize a “civil conference” to solicit opinions from the public after holding an informed discussion on the topic in 2004 and this year.
The department announced plans to draft a surrogacy reproduction act (代孕生殖法) in 2005, but the idea has failed to resonate beyond the department due to fierce controversy over the practice.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Hui-chen (江惠貞) said that in view of the difficulties that would be involved in passing the draft act, revising the Artificial Reproduction Act might be a better way to further the surrogacy cause.
Bureau of Health Promotion Deputy Director Kung Hsien-lan (孔憲蘭) said the health authority’s stance is conditionally legitimizing of surrogacy, and as “surrogacy is part of artificial reproduction,” amending the act would be enough to address the issue.
However, much of the debate yesterday was focused on whether surrogacy should be permitted at all, said Lin Shiou-yi (林秀怡), director of the development division at the Awakening Foundation.
“The discussion cannot be held under the premise that the practice will be sanctioned,” Lin said.
Koo Foundation Sun Yat-sen Cancer Center chief pharmacist Chen Gau-tzu (陳昭姿), a long-time advocate of surrogacy, said that many developed Western countries have legalized the practice of surrogate motherhood for years.
“Those who oppose surrogacy should not thwart the discussion with ‘ideologies’ and cliched slogans such as the objectification of women,” Chen said.
Carol Lin (林志潔), an assistant professor at National Chiao Tung University’s Graduate Institute of Technology Law, said that opponents of surrogacy need to provide substantive alternatives instead of blindly resisting the development of technology.
“We need to focus on practical matters such as the applicability of the provisions — permitted to all or to married couples only, how the baby is to be legally recognized as the intended parents’ child, the qualification of surrogacy agencies and whether surrogate mothers are to be paid,” Lin said.
Rei Wenmay (雷文玫), an associate professor at National Yang-Ming University specializing in law and reproductive medicine policy, said that surrogacy should not be viewed as the solution to the nation’s low fertility rate, as Chiang and her team have implied, because “coping with low fertility requires better childcare facilities and family-friendly policies.”
Rei added that while the aim of the discussion was to debate ways to help married couples who cannot conceive to have a child and to safeguard their rights to reproduction, “surrogacy involves another party, the surrogate mother, and her rights need to be guaranteed as well.”
“Surrogate mothers’ rights should be enshrined in written laws, not by a contract made with the parents” as the existing act stipulates, Rei said, adding that consultation and intermediary institutions are also crucial for the practice.
Taiwan Women’s Link chairwoman Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), a staunch opponent to legitimizing the practice, slammed the proposal as “slighting others’ risks and rights just to fulfill the needs of some.”
“The department’s version of the draft act even calls the surrogate mother, who cares for the baby during pregnancy, ‘a carrier,’ making the surrogate mother merely a tool,” Huang said, adding that this is discrimination against the mothers.