Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Even after different manipulative efforts, the Parliamentary Assembly says a clear NO to surrogacy

On Tuesday the 11th of October, the last debates and votes on a controversial recommendation on surrogacy took place in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). This recommendation was based on a rejected resolution that asked for a legal framework for the so-called “not-for profit surrogacy”. Interestingly, the first report was rejected in its entirety by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development (SOC) of PACE last March, forcing the rapporteur to draft another report. However, the resolution of the new report was also rejected in a Committee meeting last September. Strangely enough, a recommendation that was based on the rejected resolution was adopted. This was a mistaken decision. This became evident by the fact that before the plenary debate, the SOC voted with a large majority two amendments (24 against 16 for the first amendment and 27 against 16 for the second) to this controversial recommendation that ask for a complete European ban on surrogacy. The rejections of both the first report as well as the resolution of the second report and the clear amendments on the controversial recommendation clearly showed what the majority of the SOC does NOT want: to create a legal framework on surrogacy! The SOC finally asked to have a European ban on surrogacy! This article tells about what has happened in order to show the manipulative tactics that have been used to try to get a very controversial report being passed. Fortunately, they have not succeeded
Knowing that a clear call for the legalization for “not for profit” surrogacy would not convince her colleagues, the rapporteur of the rejected reports and of the recommendation, Mrs Petra de Sutter attempted to victimize herself at the plenary debate. She mentioned that she did not know that becoming the rapporteur would lead to so many personal attacks. Of course, I feel sorry for any personal attacks (initiated by people outside the Council of Europe) she may have had to face. However, SOC members declared  in the same debate, that there has not been any personal attack on the rapporteur within the Committee.

There was however a discussion on a possible conflict of interest in the SOC, because of her work or Mrs De Sutter at the Clinic in Ghent, a Clinic that is involved in surrogacy activities and also because she is also collaborating with a Clinic in India (Seeds of Innocence) that promotes commercial surrogacy (on this Clinic's website it is written that you can “pick and choose” the women) and opens doors for maternity trafficking. All this takes place at the same time the rapporteur is claiming that she is against commercial surrogacy. Can these activities be still seen as "not for profit"? It is logical that a conflict of interest is investigated, because we are talking about the integrity of the SOC. Besides, most of the meetings of the SOC on De Sutter’s report were organized in-camera (i.e. they were closed to the public) which also shows how little transparency exists within SOC, even when it is dealing with so sensitive and controversial issues. Now this is used to unjustifically complain that the rapporteur was personally attacked.

Despite all this serious revelations and new evidences, the chair of the Committee MP Stella Kyriakides (EPP), refused to have  an open discussion and a secret vote on this issue within SOC. Instead, she organized an open vote on whether this issue should  be discussed or not within the Committee. Her final speech in the plenary was also a negative surprise. Moreover, because Mrs Kyriakides wrongly claimed that the rapporteur  was falsely accused of a conflict of interest and supported the view that the rapporteur had been subjected to personal attacks.

However, many MPs disagreed with these claims. For example, MP Eleonora Cimbro (S&D) expressed her big surprise about the allegations on personal attacks against the rapporteur and underlined that all Committee meetings were held in a respectful climate and that "there were never any personal attacks on the rapporteur". Other members however, used the “personal attacks” argument in an attempt to explain why they would vote for the draft recommendation and against the amendments. This was for example mentioned by the spokesperson on behalf of the Liberal Group.

There was also a problem with the Committee Mrs Kyriakides' position on the recommendation. As the Chair of the Committee, she had the obligation to communicate to the Plenary the opinion of majority of the SOC. Instead, Mrs Kyriakides noted that she wants to protect the rights of ALL children (meaning also the children born out of the process of surrogacy). In fact, she followed rationale of Mrs De Sutter: we need to protect the children and therefore, we need to regulate surrogacy. However, the Committee had just decided  by a big majority to adopt amendments that called for the abolition of surrogacy. She clearly did not communicate the opinion of the SOC but only her own personal opinion

In the vote that followed the debate, the position of the EPP and the ECR was to vote for the amendments and (if the amendments were rejected) against the recommendation. The Socialists were divided on the issue whereas the Liberals and the Greens voted against the amendments and for the recommendation. In the debate, more speakers spoke in favor of a ban on surrogacy and against the recommendation than their opponents. Finally, the amendments to have a European ban on surrogacy were rejected by a very small majority (2 votes for the 1st amendment, one vote for the 2nd), but the recommendation was rejected by the majority of the Plenary Assembly.

Undoubtedly, the result was a big defeat of the those who wish to find ways to legalize certain forms of surrogacy. The attempts of De Sutter to push a certain report, resulted in three big defeats in the SOC (1st report, 2nd resolution, big majority for the two amendments) and even almost resulted in exact the opposite of what they wanted: a complete European ban on surrogacy. These amendments were rejected with a small majority. Maybe the emotional arguments of the proponents of the recommendations on personal attacks against the rapporteur succeeded to convince a few undecided voters to vote against or to abstain.

It was very interesting to observe that after this negative result for the proponents of surrogacy, MPs congratulated De Sutter because she avoided the adoption by SOC of a European ban on surrogacy. It seems strange to congratulate someone, because he has just averted the opposite of what he was aiming for. However, the verdict of PACE was clear: the Council of Europe says no to surrogacySurely Europe should not try to regulate it. That has failed, all the reports attempted to do this have been defeated.

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