Giorgia Meloni, president of the Italian Council of Ministers since October 2022, has approved in parliament the Varchi law, which considers surrogacy a “universal crime.” She has also announced prison sentences of between three months and two years, and fines of up to one million euros for anyone who “buys” children, even in foreign countries where this practice is legalized.
Meloni has stated: “I do not believe that trading with the female body and transforming motherhood into a business can be considered an achievement of civilization. The rental of the womb is the slavery of the third millennium.” Likewise, the minister has defended that “motherhood is unique, irreplaceable and non-subrogable”.
The law passed with 166 votes in favour, 109 against and four abstentions. The law was approved with 166 votes in favor, 109 against and four abstentions. All left-wing opposition parties voted against the law. However, two centrist political parties, including that of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, have given their parliamentarians freedom to vote, and four of them have decided to support the law.
Surrogacy was already illegal in Italy since 2004, but the novelty is that through the amendment of article 12 of law n.40 of February 19, 2004, whoever goes abroad to obtain a child gestated by another woman, whether it is an altruistic practice or for payment, will also be punished.
Although the majority of people who access this method to have children in Italy are heterosexual couples, the new rule will require city councils to stop registering the children of homosexual couples, modifying their birth certificate.
The Lithuanian case
The Italian case is reminiscent of what happened in Lithuania in 2020, when Parliament adopted, by an overwhelming majority of votes (54 to 4, with 3 abstentions), a Resolution condemning all forms of surrogacy.
Drafted by Christian-Democratic deputies, this text received the support of members of the rest of the parties, especially the Greens and the Social Democrats. The resolution stated that this practice is contrary to numerous international treaties. Among them, those that prohibit the sale of children, trafficking and slavery; those that guarantee the rights of women, especially against the exploitation of their reproductive organs; those that protect the rights of children or regulate parentage, adoption or biomedicine.
Where is surrogacy legal?
Today, surrogacy is legal in several countries around the world. In some, such as the United States, the place with the greatest flexibility when carrying out surrogacy, it is legal in all states, while in others, such as Canada, the legality varies from one province to another.
These are some of the places where surrogacy is legal: United States, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, India, Thailand, Mexico or Brazil.
As we have previously published, the practice of surrogacy presents numerous bioethical difficulties, which justify the current measure adopted by the Italian parliament and other restrictions or prohibitions promoted in many other countries.
Surrogacy practices represent an attack on the moral and physical integrity, and this is important, both of the child conceived and gestated and of the woman who carries the child.
Some of the bioethical issues that make the surrogacy process unacceptable, which, surprisingly, are ignored or undervalued by many states that accept to legalize them are: The origin of the gametes used, the procedures related to the selection, manipulation and control of the gestational women, the quality of the information provided to them about the process and their medical care during and after pregnancy.
Multiple pregnancies, disability in children and their consequences also pose problems, such as abortion imposed by contract, or the rejection of these children by the commissioning parents who commission and pay for the process.