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This is the 21st century, right?

January 19, 2008

While surrogacy is not illegal in Japan, the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology has banned its members from assisting in surrogate births.

Back in October last year, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare called on the Science Council of Japan to debate “the propriety of surrogacy”, and the council submitted a report last week.

The Ministry of Health’s position, as of 2003 was that “surrogate births should be completely banned with penalties“, while the Science Council’s draft report “suggests that only those who are involved in such practice for profit-making should be punished.”

Penalties should be applied to these cases, it says, “on grounds that surrogate births cannot necessarily be seen as crimes that cause harm to people.” It goes on to say –

Surrogate mothers face physical and psychological burdens and surrogate births impose serious mental effects on children, and that it is “questionable” that surrogate mothers accept the role through self-determination even if they are aware of the risks of surrogate births.

This claim to be looking out for the mental wellbeing of children and mothers angers me. It smacks of deeply chauvinist patronising of ‘the little woman’ who hasn’t the capacity to know what’s best for her. There’s no mention of fathers that I noticed.

A Nagano doctor, Yahiro Netsu, who has famously flouted the ban since 2001, commented on the report –

Netsu said he felt “indignant” that the Science Council is trying to deny the spirit of self-sacrifice of surrogate mothers who help others in difficulties despite their own physical risk.

While Netsu said he supports punishing doctors who assist surrogate births for profit, the doctor charged that the council has failed to listen to people who have difficulty conceiving. The report “gives the impression that the council is trying to impose the opinions of scholars on patients,” he said.

One would have imagined that any boost to Japan’s declining birth rate would be welcomed. But the view from certain ivory towers appears to be completely different.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 7, 2008 3:57 am

    Becoming a surrogate mother can be a life changing experience that brings joy and satisfaction to the surrogate mother.

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