The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has today (8 October) written to the Law Commission expressing their serious concerns about the ongoing surrogacy consultation which closes on Friday 11 October, and the potential implications of the proposed reforms on women and girls.
The consultation gives no meaningful consideration of equalities, and makes little attempt to examine surrogacy in a gendered and intersectional way. The letter urges engagement with the Violence Against Women & Girls sector and questions how a consultation at 502 pages, and with 100 questions could be seen as reasonable and accessible.
Beccy Shortt, Policy Manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition says:
“The lack of consideration of inequalities and harms in this consultation, coupled with the Law Commission’s failure to meaningfully engage with women’s organisations and the Violence Against Women & Girls’ sector is alarming.
We have very real concerns that the proposals as outlined, if followed through, could lead to human rights violations and serious risks to women’s bodily autonomy and agency. ”
The letter states:
“We are troubled by the proposals for reform broadly because of our great concern, based on our experience in gender based violence, of any buying or selling of the use of a woman’s body. We recognise the regulation put forward attempts to regulate surrogacy in a manor similar to how reproductive technologies in general, and egg and sperm donation specifically, are regulated. But, we feel that surrogacy can and must be distinguished from these, as in reality we are talking about the agreed ‘use’ of a living woman’s body to grow and develop a foetus.
“We are concerned that regulation of the type outlined creates a more commercial and contractual way of viewing surrogacy which can only be to the detriment of individual women and of women in general.
“In particular, the issue of payment for and creation of an, albeit at this stage not for profit, industry around surrogacy does, we believe, potentially create a foundation for a more commercialised process. This is problematic for a number of reasons, and may even become a driver for different forms of violence against women.”
The letter urges the Law Commission to consider the potential risks to women vulnerable to being targeted and who face multiple disadvantage. In relation to young women surrogates it states:
In respect of young women, we find the suggestion that a woman of 18, who has never been pregnant before is, under the proposed reforms, considered a suitable possible surrogate appalling. Such a woman is potentially very vulnerable to exploitation in an increasingly commercialised setting and is highly unlikely to be able to understand the material, bodily and practical experiences and consequences ahead. The reality is that inequality will and does underpin arrangements where women’s bodies are being purchased, and as such cannot be said to be based on abstract ‘free choice’.
The letter calls on the Law Commission to fundamentally reconsider the proposals, and go back to a more preliminary stage and framework and then to take input from a wider range of ‘stakeholders’. In its current form EVAW believes the proposed reforms would leave multiple public authorities open to legal challenges on human rights and equality grounds.
You can read the full letter to the Law Commission here:
If any women’s organisations would like a word copy to help them prepare their own response please contact email@example.com