Bioethics News

Canada moves toward legal surrogacy

The Quebec Minister of Justice, Stéphanie Vallée, is planning to legalise surrogacy in her province. “I think it’s time we had a frank discussion on that issue,” Vallée told La Presse. “Society has changed. Surrogacy seems to be desired by some couples. This  is more common than it was in the early 80s or 90s. And so we need to address the issue head on. “

In the absence of clear guidelines, Quebec couples are turning to surrogate mothers in Asian countries where impoverished women will offer their womb under conditions that, in the words of the minister, “send chills up her spine.”

The government is yet to define the “broad guidelines” to “allow our family law on this aspect, to evolve and modernize.”

“Bills of this nature then command a lot of work and reflection because there is a link to international law, to Canadian law, and to medicine. We’re on it,” she says.

Quebec’s initiative responds to the fact that Canadian surrogacy is booming, partly because India, Thailand and Mexico have shut their doors entirely or partially and partly because of the country’s universal health care system. Across the border in the United States, clients are charged health insurance for the surrogate mother, adding substantially to the cost.

However, Canadian surrogates still operate in a grey zone. Strictly speaking, commercial surrogacy is banned, although payment for reasonable expenses is permitted. And the birth mother is deemed the legal mother unless she surrenders her rights. If she changes her mind, her clients might walk away without a baby. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.