Panel to discuss surrogacy

Kyodo News

The government has asked the Science Council of Japan to discuss assisted reproduction technologies, including surrogate births, which could result in bills to legalize or regulate some procedures, the chief Cabinet secretary said Thursday.

“There have been a number of cases that have started us thinking about surrogate births,” Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. “There is also the issue about the declining number of births.

“The discussion will also be meaningful in the sense that it will look into what kinds of scientific approaches should be available to those who find it difficult to conceive children,” the top government spokesman told reporters.

He said the justice and health ministries asked the academic council to study the issue because it believes the panel, with members from a range of fields that include the arts and humanities, social science and natural science, will make unbiased recommendations.

There has been heated public debate recently over surrogate births, highlighted by a high-profile legal case involving TV celebrity Aki Mukai, who had twins in November 2003 through an American surrogate. The surrogate received Mukai’s fertilized eggs via in vitro fertilization.

In late October, a nonpartisan group of lawmakers decided to draft a bill next year to set up guidelines on assisted reproduction technologies after it was learned that a woman in her 50s gave birth last year to her own grandchild for her daughter, who had a hysterectomy after developing cancer.

The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology prohibits its members from participating in surrogate births, but there are no laws regarding the procedure.

To complicate the matter, under family law, the woman who gives birth to a child is considered the mother.