On February 23, the CAQ government tabled Bill 12 (PL12) governing pregnancy for others (GPA), aimed at protecting the interests of children and surrogate mothers. Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette recalls that “children are what we have most precious” and that “it is their interest that must take precedence and guide all our decisions”.
Does this bill accomplish these goals? Is it built on genuine social acceptance, knowledge of the practice, or is it based on myths? Let’s look at a few.
Surrogacy is seen as a gesture of solidarity from a woman towards an infertile sister or friend.
Although Minister Jolin-Barrette uses several examples of family mutual assistance in parliamentary committee to justify relaxations of the law, the fact remains that in the majority of cases (78%, according to an Ontario sample), the parties do business with intermediary agencies to establish commercial contracts that will be executed by fertility clinics and egg banks. The parties also sometimes use lawyers, lending institutions and insurance companies. All of these players make up an industry whose goal is to generate profits that will reach $27 billion globally by 20251. The workings of this industry are based on the altruism of women.
Objectively, any separation from its biological mother creates harm to the newborn. This early separation is also prohibited for farmed domestic animals2. How could she be in the best interests of a human baby?
“Access to knowledge of one’s origins is a fundamental and intrinsic need for children,” said Minister Jolin-Barrette. Surrogacy is often preferred to adoption in order to establish a genetic link between the adult and the child.
The Minister rightly closed the door to multi-parenting based on the fact that no study shows that this configuration is favorable to the interests of the child. What about the fact that the PL12 allows single people to form a single parent family by surrogacy whose vulnerability is nevertheless recognized?
In vitro fertilization (IVF), a medical technique involving many more medical risks than a spontaneous pregnancy3, aims to alleviate infertility. Intended parents wishing to select the child’s genetic background from a catalogue4 often impose this intervention on the surrogate mother, who is already fertile and does not need it to become pregnant.
Requests from men, often fertile, who are alone or in a relationship with another man, constitute 40% of surrogacy. “Infertility” is extrapolated to their situation by introducing the neologism “social infertility”.
To overcome this “social infertility”, surrogacy by IVF leads to unnecessary risks that can lead to infertility for surrogate mothers, even though the diversity of family models (co-parenting or adoption) is already recognized by Quebec law.
GPAs are not always without remuneration, contrary to the provisions of Canadian law5. Me Kirouac, before the Committee on Institutions in December 2021, testified that he had noted several ex-post payments of $35,000 for a GPA and $10,000 for an oocyte6.
The payments encourage candidates to become surrogate mothers, in constant shortage in Canada. Surrogate mothers in Quebec mentioned economic motivations, including financing a return to school or collecting benefits from the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan to stay at home with their children7.
Despite the local framework, the law of the market will encourage Quebecers to solicit women from poor countries such as Ukraine or Mexico to become surrogate mothers out of economic precariousness. The local offer will remain either insufficient, too expensive or considered to cause too much delay.
Bill 12 opens up a new legal possibility for Quebec society allowing the disposal of certain children: those who are the subject of a contract before their conception. However, this collective consequence is rarely addressed and affects the entire population. It is presented as a donation – allegedly more ethical than a “sale”. “Any attempt to donate a particular human being, in this case a child, presupposes that any human being can be disposed of, since the principle of equality applies to all”.
PL12 is a break that fundamentally calls into question the legal, anthropological and social status of motherhood, raising serious ethical concerns.
There would still be time for the legislator to hear the groups that express them.