Patricia* is a nurse and mother of two children. She was a surrogate mother three times.
“The first time I did it for a couple from Spain who had come to the fertility clinic where I worked. Being a nurse, I knew all the steps. I went to Madrid with them. We went through the pregnancy together. I was taking my measurements and necessary hormones throughout. After three pregnancies, of course my body is tired. Now, I help families and surrogate mothers as a consultant. »
For her first surrogacy, Patricia did not notify any family members. “I told them I was going to work in Spain. When I got home, I told the truth. Of course, there were critics and disgruntled people. But the important thing is that my mother always supported me. She took care of my children while I was away. »
Like Patricia — who agreed to share her experience under an assumed name (“I’m under a non-disclosure agreement. I’m not supposed to talk about the process”) — hundreds of women offer their services in Colombia. We talk about “alquiler de venus” (belly rental). Social networks are filled with announcements and messages from future surrogates or people looking for one of them. There are all types of offers.
A researcher with a master’s degree in bioethics from Javeriana University, Angelica Bernal, explains that during her investigation, she spoke with “surrogate mothers who were paid 10 million pesos, or about $2,000, for the whole process. One of them has not been paid and there are other women who have gone through the process up to six times. It is essential to put in place regulations. It is impossible to end the market, it has existed for too long in Colombia”.
There are two ways to become a surrogate mother: in one, the pregnant woman has no genetic connection with the embryo, i.e. the fertilized egg belongs to another woman and she does not just host it. In the other modality, the woman donates her own egg and carries it. “These are women with low incomes. Many become surrogates to pay off debts, go to school, or support their children. It’s a real year’s work. They are paid monthly. They are 20 to 30 years old and are already mothers. They have at least one child. They are vulnerable women. »
The other question, which is controversial on this theme, is bioethics. For Angelica Bernal, “we talk about the capitalization of the woman’s body and the objectification of her body”.
Maria Cristina Hurtado is one of the voices in favor of the prohibition of the practice of surrogacy. This lawyer, political scientist from the National University and defender of the rights of women, children and adolescents denounces “the exploitation of women for reproductive purposes and the buying and selling of babies. It is prohibited in France, Italy and Spain. Canada prohibits paying a surrogate mother; Quebec is currently studying Bill 12 which will regulate surrogacy. Colombia, Mexico and other Latin American countries have become the perfect market for this practice. Desire prevails over human rights.”
The lawyer was also one of the drafters of Law 1257 against violence against women. She justifies her words with the laws in force in the Colombian Penal Code. “I consider that there are several violations of the law, since the Colombian Penal Code protects the principle of personal autonomy in articles 188A and 188C. These are trafficking in human beings, children and adolescents. The behaviors practiced by clinics, law firms, and people wishing to have a child can usually be adapted and configured to these offenses. »
A bill has been introduced in Congress. The debates continue. According to Alejandro Ocampo, Representative of the Chamber and author of the project, the goal is to ensure that surrogacy is carried out within a controlled legal framework: “We want people who have access to it to be able to do it safely. , that it does not become a business. Colombia will not become a baby factory for the world. We don’t want women giving birth so that people buy babies. »
According to researcher Angelica Bernal, many Venezuelan refugees in Colombia fleeing their country of origin also offer their services as surrogate mothers. This is another factor influencing the practice in Colombia. “We must regulate the entry of foreigners who come to find a surrogate mother. »