Plan for surrogate births

A project team of the Liberal Democratic Party has recently compiled a bill on assisted reproductive technologies. It would not only allow donations of sperm and ova from third parties for the purpose of having babies but also conditionally allow surrogate births.

The team hopes to submit the bill to the Diet in the current session, but its prospect is unclear because the LDP is considering other legislation that bans surrogate births in light of the lingering opposition within the party to such births.

Assisted reproductive technologies involve sensitive ethical and legal issues. The LDP team’s draft legislation, put together by lawmakers behind closed doors, failed to address some of those issues, leaving them up for future discussion. Informed public discussions on the issue are indispensable.

Japan currently has no law that regulates surrogate births. The relevant panel of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as well as the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology have opposed surrogate births on the grounds that “people should not be used as a means of reproduction.” However, a maternity doctor in Nagano Prefecture is known to have handled more than a dozen surrogate births, while a much larger number of Japanese couples are believed to have had children through surrogate birth arrangements overseas.

The LDP team’s bill would allow an arrangement in which a third-party surrogate carries a fetus to term for the intended parents if the woman cannot become pregnant because of surgical operations or the congenital absence of the uterus.

Surrogate birth imposes a great burden on the surrogate mother. The bill does not specify who would be qualified to become surrogate mothers and what protections to afford them. Surrogacy could involve other problems. A surrogate mother might develop a strong affection for the baby and refuse to give it up to the intended parents. Or intended parents might refuse to accept a child born to a surrogate mother if it has a serious disease or birth defect.

From the viewpoint of people who wish to resort to surrogacy to have children, the bill leaves key questions unanswered. It states that the woman who gives birth in a surrogacy arrangement should be recognized as the mother. The LDP team says it will consider — in the future — a scheme to establish a legal parent-child relationship between a child born to a surrogate mother and the intended parents. The absence of such a scheme would discourage many couples who want but cannot have babies from seeking surrogacy.

The bill would also allow donation of sperm or ova either for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. Sperm or ova must be donated by unidentified third parties. But the LDP team has postponed discussion on whether children born this way have the right to know their biological father or mother. There have been cases in which such children have developed a strong desire to find their biological parents and suffer emotionally. Donors of sperm or ova can also suffer psychologically if they are contacted by their biological children.

Japan needs a legal framework on assisted reproductive technologies. But hasty legislation with holes will cause confusion as various problems are inherent to the technologies. The government and lawmakers need to study potential problems and listen to opinions from wide sectors of society.

Couples who want but cannot have children also should remember that adoption could also be an option.

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    Unfortunately, ” Sperm or ova must be donated by unidentified third parties.” Why is this? Why can’t donors be chosen?

    “…the LDP team has postponed discussion on whether children born this way have the right to know their biological father or mother. There have been cases in which such children have developed a strong desire to find their biological parents and suffer emotionally. Donors of sperm or ova can also suffer psychologically if they are contacted by their biological children.”

    This is NOT the reason why donors are intended to be anonymous. Over time, these kinds of births would become gradually more normalized, like homosexuality or transgenderism. Problems of “Who is my REAL dad?” only exist to the point that the child is raised to view their own existence as abnormal. The parent or parents have control over this, based on how they raise the children. And as more an more children are born in this way, the risk lowers. Allow the surrogate and the “parent(s)” to decide their own relationship, anonymous, or not. It is not for the state to decide.

    These rules on anonymity, are not proposed due to concern for the child or donors. That is simply a front for the real reason: to incentivize the family unit out of fear of social change.

    Beyond the benefit to couples who are having problems conceiving, there are benefits for individual men and women who would like to raise children but do not want to be in a relationship:

    For many women, surrogacy allows them to secure the desired traits in a donor that they wish, without the hassle of dealing with the slow process of sorting through men for acceptable genetic material. For men, this allows them to have children and raise them as they wish, without fear of losing custody due to divorce. These kinds of single parents, (not the “oops” kind) are the future of the world — attempting to stand in the way of this by anonomyzing donors is totally fear-driven and backwards. It treats people’s rights as privileges that the state is free to manipulate as it wishes.

    The word “couples” is used three times in this article, but this issue of addressing surrogate births should not be made on the basis of emotion: of sympathy to couples who cannot conceive or are having problems: it should be made on the basis of the rights of individuals, that all of the surrounding actions are voluntary and consensual, so the state has no right to forbid it, nor to specify which processes are acceptable, and which are not.