08/26/2016, 12.28
INDIA
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Indian bishop: The new surrogacy bill is not acceptable

by mons. Savio Fernandes*

Mgr Savio Fernandes talks about the proposed law the Union Cabinet unveiled yesterday. “The life of every human person is to be respected and treated with dignity from the moment of conception.” Indian  authorities want to contain the womb-for-rent industry, that each year brings in  billon of dollars and expose women's body to exploitation. “A better option to surrogacy would be to adopt a child," the prelate said. "In India, there are so many children whose parents have abandoned them.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church “holds that the life of every human person is to be respected and treated with dignity from the moment of conception,” hence “the procreation of a new person, whereby the man and the woman collaborate with the power of the Creator, must be the fruit and the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses, of their love and of their fidelity," said Mgr Savio Fernandes, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai and chairperson of the Family Commission of the Western Region of the Bishops Conference, as he spoke to to AsiaNews about the Indian government's decision to end the practice of commercial surrogacy. The law was unveiled yesterday. Regardless how altruistic this bill may appear, for Mgr Fernandes it is entirely “not acceptable to the Catholic Church as it does not uphold the respect and dignity of the human embryo.”

The bishop goes on to say that “the Catholic Church is fully aware of the pain and sufferings of couples who discover that they are sterile”. Nevertheless he declares that the better option is not surrogacy, but to adopt thousands of India's abandoned children. “These children could be given the love, dignity and respect that is denied to them.” The bishop’s comment follows.

The Catholic Church holds that the life of every human person is to be respected and treated with dignity from the moment of conception (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 24). Human procreation has specific characteristics by virtue of the personal dignity of the parents and of the children: the procreation of a new person, whereby the man and the woman collaborate with the power of the Creator, must be the fruit and the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses, of their love and of their fidelity (cf. Gaudium et spes 50). “The fidelity of the spouses in the unity of marriage involves reciprocal respect of their right to become a father and a mother only through each other. The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development. The parents find in their child a confirmation and completion of their reciprocal self-giving: the child is the living image of their love, the permanent sign of their conjugal union” (Instruction on Respect for Human Life, Donum Vitae, II, A, 1).

The Catholic Church is fully aware of the pain and sufferings of couples who discover that they are sterile.  Hence, it encourages research aimed at reducing human sterility on condition that it is placed "at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God." (cf. N. 2375 of Catechism od the Catholic Church).

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill cleared by the Union Cabinet, as reported in today’s Times of India, is definitely aimed at helping childless couples who have been married for five years and one of whom is infertile. Besides, the surrogate mother would have to be a close relative of the married couple.  The bill also aims at reducing exploitation of surrogacy for commercial purposes. 

However, no matter how altruistic this proposed surrogacy (regulation) bill may appear, it would not be acceptable to the Catholic Church as it does not uphold the respect and dignity of the human embryo.  The Instruction on Respect for Human Life, Donum Vitae, I, 6, states “These procedures are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and at the same time they are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage.

A better option to surrogacy would be to adopt a child.  In India, there are so many children whose parents have abandoned them, often due to poverty or because it is a girl-child.  These children could be given the love, dignity and respect that is denied to them due to no fault of their own, through adoption.  This would be a far more altruistic solution to the problem of sterility or infertility faced by married couples.

In his article dated July 12, 2012, entitled “Does the Catholic Church support the use of a surrogate mother to have a child?,” Charles C. Camosy states: “The Church not only succinctly defines the gestational link – created in the conception-gestation-birthing of a baby – but clarifies the important truth that respect for this bio-psychic bond is so essential to upholding the dignity of the human being, to promoting his continued welfare and normal human development, that experience of it constitutes a child’s natural human right and, by implication, the lack of experiencing the gestational link results in the failure to satisfy one of the child’s basic human needs.  The new field of prenatal psychology helps to reinforce the Church’s moral assessment of surrogacy. Its research findings underscore just how serious the harm can be when an infant’s right to his gestational link is denied.”

* auxiliary bishop of Mumbai and chairperson of the Family Commission of the Western Region of the Bishops' Conference

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)

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