Human rights, adoption and surrogacy

First published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer / 09:08 AM April 21, 2019

Riveting and comprehensive was the lecture on human rights, adoption and surrogacy of professor Elizabeth A. Pangalangan, one of the 15 holders of the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity, held recently at UP Diliman.

Her scholarly, eloquently delivered thesis focused on this: Adoption and surrogacy are, at the outset, parent-centric and are usually contracted by, and for the benefit of, the adopters and the commissioning parents to satisfy their craving for parenthood and family love. Eventually and doctrinally, however, courts lean in favor of the best interest and overarching human rights of the children.

Human rights and adoption have been dissected in many ways by scholars and jurisprudence. However, surrogacy is quite novel. Thus, in my limited space today, I will focus on surrogacy. (In a few days, Pangalangan’s extemporaneous and PowerPoint-assisted lecture will be posted in http://www.libpros.com after she finishes transcribing and editing it.)

Surrogacy is an arrangement whereby a woman (called surrogate) agrees to bear a child whom she intends to transfer for custody and care to another or others (the commissioning couple or commissioning husband/wife) upon the child’s birth.

There are two general types: (1) traditional—the surrogate is inseminated by the commissioning father’s sperms, either naturally or via in vitro fertilization (or IVF). Here the surrogate, as the egg donor, has a genetic link to the child; and (2) gestational — the surrogate carries the embryo created by the union of the egg and the sperm of the commissioning couple. Example: “The delectable twins of Mar and Korina” (Opinion, 3/10/19).

With surrogacy, a child can have two fathers: (1) the biological and (2) the commissioning. But he/she can have three mothers: (1) the genetic or biological mother (the source of the egg), (2) the commissioning mother and (3) the surrogate who bears and gives birth to the child.

According to Article 164 of the Family Code, “Children conceived as a result of artificial insemination of the wife with the sperms of the husband or that of a donor or both are…  legitimate children of the husband and his wife, provided, that both of them authorized or ratified such insemination in a written instrument executed and signed by them before the birth of the child.” No other Philippine law governs artificial insemination or surrogacy.

That surrogacy services are now offered in several local hospitals and that many Filipinos have gone abroad to avail of it should be enough to impel Congress to legislate on it, consistent with our Constitution and family values.

Professor Pangalangan offers four possible legislative options: (1) prohibit all forms of surrogacy; (2) prohibit commercial surrogacy but allow altruistic ones, that is, prohibit payment to the surrogate because trading in human flesh is abhorrent but allow surrogacy when no financial reward is made; (3) allow but regulate commercial surrogacy; and (4) allow all kinds of surrogacy arrangements.

Our Supreme Court has not issued any decision involving surrogacy. But Pangalangan discussed many foreign decisions, the most interesting being Yamada vs Union of India (Sept. 29, 2008). Here, Baby Boy Manji was born in India from the egg of an Indian surrogate and the sperm of a Japanese husband.

Unfortunately, prior to his birth, the commissioning Japanese couple separated. Saying she had no genetic link to the child, the ex-wife refused to take him. Neither did the surrogate want to keep the baby, insisting she bore him only because of the surrogacy contract.

Mercifully, the Japanese husband claimed the child, but could not bring him to Japan because that country does not recognize surrogacy. Thus, it refused to give him a passport. The husband’s petition to adopt the child was denied, because India bans single-parent adoption.

On humanitarian grounds, the Supreme Court of India eventually allowed the child to leave India with a certification (not passport), and Japan issued him a tourist visa. I think this case illustrates the complications that legislation must anticipate to solve similar problems that could involve Filipinos.