Late last week, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira issued an order that requires the issuance of French birth certificates for children born to surrogates abroad. This decision has stirred significant controversy as it is seen as the first step towards legalizing surrogacy in France. Throw into the mix that France is considering legalizing gay marriage and you are left with a perfect storm that brings out all the usual social conservative suspects:
It seems that the most dystopian fears about gay marriage are coming true all around us. The struggle for gay marriage has indeed fueled a market demand for sperm, eggs, and surrogate wombs, which is becoming a global network of human trafficking. In France, which has strict laws against gestational surrogacy, already we see gay men crossing the border into Belgium and paying 5,000 euros to rent a young student’s womb and buy her baby. Technically this isn’t supposed to happen, and Francois Hollande has promised in the past that the one thing which was entirely off limits in the legislation for gay marriage equality was GPA or “gestation by another,” the acronym for surrogate mothers.
Christiane Taubira, the nation’s minister of justice, however, dropped a secret bomb as a Friday night news dump last week: She issued orders to halls of justice to confer French citizenship on children of French men and hired “baby carriers” as they are called. Below is a report from Figaro on the resulting outrage:
A memorandum from the attorney general aims to facilitate the conferral of French citizenship upon children born by a foreign surrogate mother.
La gestation pour autrui (GPA), or surrogacy, was the none thing we weren’t supposed to discuss. The government hammered us with the message: the legalization of surrogate baby carriers would not be part of the Taubira bill for gay marriage. François Hollande repeated it: he was firmly opposed to it. But at the very moment that the chief of State allowed his doubts about insemination rights to show, last Friday, in announcing the purview of the CCNE, or national consulting committee on ethics, the attorney general, Christiane Taubira, was sending a memo to all the halls of justice, asking them to issue “certificates of French nationality (CNF)” to children who are born of a French father and a foreign surrogate mother.
On January 25, “going into effect immediately,” the memo orders its readers, “while it seems with sufficient likelihood that recourse has already been extended to an agreement carrying out procreation or gestation by the involvement of third parties,” magistrates must “be mindful of whatever will be made a legal right” regarding such requests, “seeing as the tie of lineage and childrearing with a French man results from an act from a foreign civil state in accordance with article 47 of the civil Code.”
It is an understatement to say that Taubira chose a bad date to make this announcement. Since the debate over gay marriage commences Tuesday in the Assembly, this surprise decision may seem as the start of a horse trade between the government and the Greens. Very clear on the point of surrogacy, the environmentalists are counting on requesting the reduplication of birth certificates of such children in the civil State registry. For the UMP deputy from Pas-de-Calais Daniel Fasquelle, this is just another new proof of the “two-faced language of Mme. Taubira and the government.” “The government marches on, masking its intentions from the very start!” he exclaims. “While the government swears that there would be no way that they’d accept insemination or surrogacy, the facts say otherwise.”
Professor of law, Daniel Fasquelle, sees in the text “a form of legalization, sugarcoated, for surrogacy. Some couples are going to go abroad to find surrogacy contracts, and find safe harbor for arrangements that are illegal in France,” He explains. “We are opening the door to still other tricks. … These are not only children’s rights being violated, but also those of the human being. For surrogacy is a form of human trafficking.”
Does this memorandum spell the end of the ban on surrogacy in France? “It’s all a matter of very clear attention to the principle of banning surrogate mothers,” reiterates Clotilde Brunetti-Pons, the master of conferences at the university of Reims in Marne, specialist in family law. “The minister of justice is in the process of twisting around the Court’s jurisprudence set on April 6, 2011. In three bullet points, the court had refused to establish the lineage of children in France in regard to the people involved, and especially the biological father, because it was a violation of the principle of the public law prohibiting surrogacy. Normally the CNF enters the picture after the lineage of the child has been registered with the French civil state, therefore after the lineage has been recognized by French law.”
In this area, the practice of the Justice department is not blatantly obvious. In February 2012, the appeals court of Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine) had validated the registration of birth certificates for twins born in India in 2010, through a surrogate mother for a French couple. According to Christiane Taubira, we could name 38 cases of children born of a French father and a foreign surrogate mother over the last four years. During the debates in committee over the draft of the gay marriage law, several socialist deputies, especially the scribe of the text, Erwann Binet, pleaded for an adaptation to it, referring to the family law promised by the government.
At the ministry of Justice, they claim with some embarrassment that none of this is about “legalizing surrogacy.” It’s a declaration that won’t convince the right. “The masks must fall!” stresses Daniel Fasquelle, who compares the Taubira bill to a “bait and switch.” He says, “we must from now on come to know the true intentions of this government!”
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