Trudeau says it's time for Canada to debate decriminalizing fees for surrogate moms

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s time for Canadian society to wrestle with the controversial issue of paying women to carry other people’s babies.

Calling paid surrogacy an “extremely important issue” that affects many prospective parents, including same-sex and infertile couples, Trudeau said today he expects the debate will draw extreme opinions and emotions.

The government, he said, wants to listen and show respect for all views to “move forward appropriately.”

“I think this is something we need to be thinking about as a society, and when we see the bill I know we will be having a discussion about rights and responsibilities that we share as a society,” he said. “And we will try to see how we can move forward in a reasonable manner.”

Trudeau was referencing a planned private member’s bill being put forward by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather. The bill, which Housefather plans to table in May, would decriminalize payments for surrogate moms and sperm or egg donors.

Housefather, who chairs of the House of Commons justice committee, said Canada’s current law is out of step with modern families — including same-sex couples, single mothers and women choosing to have children later in life.

He said the ban on fees creates a grey zone which leaves potential surrogates anxious about breaking the law.

Law prohibits payments

Housefather’s bill has the unanimous backing of the Liberal women’s caucus. He said he hopes the government will endorse it, but he’s received no commitment to date.

The Canadian law, which came into force in 2004, prohibits paying a surrogate mother for her services — but does allow reimbursement for certain medical and maternity costs when the surrogate mother is performing the service for altruistic reasons.

Costs that may be covered include maternity clothes, travel for medical appointments, medications and, in some cases, lost work wages.

The issue has been contentious in the past, even within feminist circles. Opponents of paid surrogacy say it amounts to commercializing a woman’s body. Proponents say the ban denies women the right to do what they want with their bodies.

Trudeau acknowledged it won’t be an easy debate.

“This is a very complex situation, but it’s something we will need to study,” he said.

The number of reported surrogates in Canada has increased in recent years, from 285 in 2010 to about 700 last year.

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CBC | Health News