The Swiss Newspaper Tages Anzeiger Interviews Franco Zenna About International Surrogacy

The european society is interesting about the topic of International Surrogacy. The Swiss Newspaper Tages Anzeiger asks Franco Zenna (Intraius) as a international lawyer´s expert for an interview. The original source, in german, can be consulted here.

Interview to Franco Zenna About International Surrogacy in Tages Anzeiger

TAGESANZEIGER:What countries do the couples looking for legal advice on surrogacy come from?

Franco Antonio Zenna : The majority are from Spain, given that our firm is based there, although we also have clients from Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland. We’ve also had occasional clients from Norway, Mexico and Morocco.

TAGESANZEIGER:Surrogacy is forbidden in almost all countries in the EU… as it is here in Switzerland. Which is the most liberal country worldwide regarding this subject?

Franco Antonio Zenna : It’s not a country, rather it’s a state; California in the US. There, surrogacy is allowed without any age or gender restriction for the hopeful parents. In addition, neither parent has to contribute any genetic material. In essence, a couple can use an anonymous sperm donation from a man and an anonymous ovules donation from a woman and allowing the expectant mother to carry the embryo and register the child as their own. Canada also has some liberal provinces.

TAGESANZEIGER:What about Europe?

Franco Antonio Zenna : In Europe surrogacy is allowed (for example in Greece and Portugal), but with restrictions. In Greece, only heterosexual couples are allowed to, although mothers cannot be over 50 years of age and have to prove that they cannot have children for health reasons. In the Netherlands and Great Britain, surrogacy is only permitted if the woman carrying the child has no financial interest. Russia is also relatively liberal, although there the pregnant woman can decide to keep the child after giving birth.

TAGESANZEIGER:Ukraine is often mentioned. Why is this?

Franco Antonio Zenna : It is, although there it’s only consented to married heterosexual couples and at least one of the parents has to contribute genetic material. On top of that, the mother to be must  prove that she can’t get pregnant due to a medical condition or because pregnancy would pose a serious risk to her health.

TAGESANZEIGER:In Spain and the rest of the countries in the EU, surrogacy is prohibited; therefore, you’re helping your clients do something that, according to the laws in their country, is illegal.

Franco Antonio Zenna : In Spain, where I work as an attorney, the ban on surrogacy should be understood as not having any legal standing, that is to say contracts lack any legal validity rather than being illegal. Providing legal counsel to a couple that wants to make their dreams come true by having a child through surrogate parenthood is totally legal – even in countries in which simply putting couples in contact with potential surrogate mothers is punishable. An attorney advises and represents criminals without being criminals themselves. Therefore, it’s not a problem for me to act as a consultant and represent someone who hasn’t committed any crime in Spain and who’s gone to a country in which it isn’t punishable or is completely legal.

TAGESANZEIGER:However, the fact that surrogate parenthood is prohibited in the majority of countries has ethical, moral and social motives. Does this not worry you?

Franco Antonio Zenna : No. We are talking about a method of reproduction in which all three parties are in agreement and doing so on a voluntary basis, ergo the intended parents and the gestational surrogate. The procedure is regulated and overseen legally and results in the creation of a new life. The parents could be married, for example, fifteen years and have tried to have children using every medical procedure possible. In some cases, the idea of having a child becomes an obsession and ends up causing a strain on the relationship. Surrogate motherhood is therefore a great help for all people involved.

TAGESANZEIGER:How do you explain society’s ethical concerns and objections on surrogacy and the legal ban of it as a direct result?

Franco Antonio Zenna : Society’s ethical attitude towards such issues changes constantly. Up until recently, homosexual marriage was unthinkable and nowadays in most places it’s the most normal thing in the world. Ovule donation is still banned in Switzerland but in Spain it’s been allowed for a while now. What’s missing for surrogate motherhood is the legal recognition that a mother can be just that, even if another woman has given birth to her child. It’s only a matter of time that the legislation adapts itself around the ever changing medical and social circumstances.

TAGESANZEIGER:It’s questionable when a woman offers herself as a surrogate because she has financial troubles and in a country such as Ukraine, this isn’t an exception, it’s the norm. This is called exploitation.

Franco Antonio Zenna : No, it’s not exploitation because the woman is doing a job for which she is being paid and that isn’t detrimental to her in any way. Bodily exploitation is when someone sells an organ because they need money, someone who signs up to medical trials or when a woman is forced into prostitution. From my point of view, using a woman’s body to carry a child seems like something natural, if and when she is fully aware of what she’s doing and she does it of her own accord. Besides, there are many unpleasant jobs that people only do for the money. Being a surrogate mother is not unpleasant.

TAGESANZEIGER:To many people, it seems questionable to commercialise pregnancy and childbirth in this way.

Franco Antonio Zenna : In both developed and underdeveloped societies worldwide there are rich and poor people. The rich pay the poor for jobs they either can’t or don’t want to do. If this is the reason people want to ban surrogate motherhood then they should also ban many other jobs. From my perspective, all these so-called moral and ethical qualms regarding the surrogate mother seem highly hypocritical.

TAGESANZEIGER:What happens if the surrogate changes her mind after giving birth and decides to keep the child?

Franco Antonio Zenna : In the majority of countries this isn’t possible. Before or during the pregnancy, a contract is signed that irrevocably states who the parents of the child are. One of the few countries where this only happens after childbirth is Russia. There, the surrogate can change her mind. So far there haven’t been any cases like this, which isn’t unusual.


Franco Antonio Zenna : In countries where this business is highly regulated and is taken seriously, there’s a clear criterion when the time comes to pick the surrogate mother.  She must already have children of her own; she must be a stable person, be both physically and mentally healthy and must come from a good social background. Obviously, the surrogate does it for financial reasons. If she then decides she wants to keep the baby, her finances will be shattered and she will take the risk to face legal consequences.

TAGESANZEIGER:What happens if the surrogate dies during labour?

Franco Antonio Zenna : It would be a tragedy, but it can also happen during normal childbirths. As a general rule, in the contract between the future parents and the surrogate mother, a compensation to her family is agreed. Luckily, I’ve never experienced a situation like this.

TAGESANZEIGER:How much does surrogacy cost for a couple looking to do it?

Franco Antonio Zenna : It depends in what country the surrogacy takes place and which country the child is born in. In the United States it costs between 120 000 and 150 000 euro. In Canada it’s between 70.000 and 100.000 euro, in Russia and Greece perhaps slightly less. In Ukraine it’s cheaper, it costs around 50,000 Euro. Then there are countries such as India or Georgia where surrogacy is even cheaper, although it is less regulated and the conditions of the clinics are quite unsustainable.


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