Wars have unexpected consequences. Therefore, John Paul II used to say that war is "a road with no return" and a "spiral of violence and grieving". It is well known that in humanitarian crises the most vulnerable are the ones most affected, and children most of all. On the occasion of International Children's Day Vatican News said that "the balance after 98 days of war in Ukraine is truly dramatic. 700 children have either died or been injured". Something similar could be said about Ukrainian "mothers to hire" who have given birth in France to children of French couples. This situation has received wide press coverage. The technique of "wombs for hire" is prohibited by French law but some lawyers speak of a tendency for some judges to legalise the practice. One voice that is respected in matters of children's rights is that of law professor Aude Mirkovic, founder and spokesperson of the NGO Jurists for children. She explains this delicate situation that has been occurring in France for some weeks and which her NGO has alerted the authorities about.
How did your vocation to be a voice for the rights of children come about?
I think that the vocation of every lawyer is to seek justice and the common good. This is so in all fields of law. In my case, I chose the speciality of family law and the protection of children in particular. I see how important these are in my own country and the world in general. Sometimes we may think that most of the unjust situations of child injustice have already been resolved: exploitation, ill-treatment, abuse, etc. Yet, sadly these situations still affect the lives of children not only in developing countries. Also in Europe, where there is sexual and reproductive exploitation of mothers' wombs for hire; there is an increase in genetic manipulation and the selection of embryos; freezing of embryos for many years, etc.
Our NGO, which has observer status at the United Nations, brings together legal experts who are constantly analyzing present trends. We keep especially abreast of how the convention of the rights of children is being applied. We also try to take part in the public debate on topics related to childhood, which is something that is always relevant. It was with good reason that President Macron, re-elected a few weeks ago, announced that this will be a priority of his new government. Hence, we have to be alert that the political discourse does not lose touch with what is really happening in every aspect of the lives of our children. It so often happens that broad areas of respect for the dignity of children are not only ignored but attacked.
Why is the present situation of Ukrainian surrogate mothers a cause for concern in France?
We have pointed out to the authorities that because of the war in Ukraine, French couples have brought
to our country Ukrainian women contracted to bear children under a contract of "surrogate motherhood. Quite to our surprise, our action received widespread media coverage both at home and internationally. It is a very delicate situation because French law forbids this practice since our laws are very clear on this, yet they are being ignored.
These women come from a war zone and this regrettable situation must not allow us to close our eyes to this technique which is so opposed both to our law and to the dignity of mother and child. Contracts like these are contrary to the dignity of the person since, on one hand, they take unfair advantage of the mothers bearing the children and, on the other, the legitimate wish of these couples to have children.
The agents and middle men who organize this market ought to be tracked down by the authorities much more seriously. We look on with concern as these agents act so freely in our country. In fact, every year an exhibition is organized in Paris called 'Desir d'enfant'. ("Wanting a child") in which organizations take part advertising and promoting contracts of surrogate motherhood (we have notified the authorities without getting a proper response). Lawyers' offices too explain on their web sites legal assistance in drawing up these contracts, and so on. We can only watch sadly, helplessly as the laws of our country are not being respected because of the pressure of this market in which millions of euros are involved.
It would appear to be a problem without a solution. Is there any way out?
The problem is not bringing women to France to bear children for others and then reclaiming them. It is the very fact of asking for a child and having one delivered to one's home, and using another woman to make it possible. The fact that the birth and delivery of the child take place on French territory, while the surrogate mother has sometimes left her own children in Ukraine just makes the whole business more shameful. But the war only changes the external circumstances; this business will go on war or no war.
We should foresee this problem to prevent contracts being made in the first place. This would mean greater commitment on the part of states to draft and sign an international treaty prohibiting the whole technique of surrogate mothers. This is the recommendation of the National Ethics Committee on France. We are working on this with an international group of legal experts with whom we shall meet in Casablanca in 2023.