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Media materials

Surrogate Motherhood: Legal and Ethical Aspects

Participant: K.N. Svitnev
Date: 23.05.2007
"Радио России"

Guest of the Interactive talk show with Igor Gmyiza - Konstantin Svitnev, expert of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. The topic of the conversation is surrogate motherhood and the demographic problem in Russia.

It is common knowledgу that the demographic situation in Russia is far from being ideal. Each year there are 700 to 800 thousand less of the Russians. and these losses are only partially compensated for by migration, which is contradictive in itself.

Some time ago the president offered some measures to solve this situation. In particular, the so-called "mother's capital" was introduced, which will be paid to mothers after the birth of their second child. K. Svitnev thinks that this is a long-felt and necessary measure, as the state should encourage the births. As to the "mother's capital", according to the guest, instead of giving financial impetus for having children to those who can physically have children, but would rather not do it, the state would better take care of the people who want to have children, but, for one reason or the other, can not do it.

In other words, the state should encourage better medical and social aspects for giving birth to children. In particular, this is connected with the surrogate maternity problem. The social problematic here ranks among the first. At least, it is none the less important than the medical aspect. TO use the surrogate mothers services, there should be rather strict medical requirements, which are set forth by Order 67 of the RF Ministry of Health and Social Development. And if the woman does not have comply with these requirements, she may not use the surrogate mother services.

Everybody knows that apart from the medical problems, there are other problems, when the physiologically healthy woman can not have here own children or may not bear the child due to certain social reasons.

One of the most widely spread reasons is the common fear of pregnancy. The other reason is that a great number of women are seriously involved in business and may not afford leaving it for a significant period of time. During this time they are trying to build their home and to ensure the future of their children whom they plan to have in the future. But when this home is made, women are often 35-40 years old, and they have medical problems. They were healthy some 5-10 years ago, but now, unfortunately, they can not have their own children and have to use the surrogate mother services with the newly appeared medical grounds, when the chances to have a healthy child are reduced. Unfortunately, this mainly refers to women.

What is surrogate motherhood? According to K. Svitnev, there are two types of surrogate motherhood. There are the so-called traditional surrogate programmes which were referred to in the Bible, the Old Testament. In particular, the first childless couple in the history were Sarah and Abraham. They were childless for a considerable period of time and they dreamt of children, and Sarah hired her servant Hagar, so that she would bear the child of Abraham. As result of this first traditional surrogate programme, in 910 B.C. the first surrogate child was borne who was baptized Ismail. By the way, Ismail's descendants were Arabs, who are sometimes called the Ismaelites or Hagarians. So, if not for the traditional surrogate programme, there would be no Arabs.

The traditional surrogate motherhood presupposes the biological relation between the woman bearing the child for the other family and the child. This creates certain social problems. This practice is rather widely spread throughout the entire human history. This method was used nearly always when it was necessary to continue the family and obtain the long-awaited heir. This principle was legalized in the Hammurabi Code (1781 B.C.), which stated that if a wife can not give birth to a child for her husband, she shall give him her servant or slave for continuation of the family. At that, certain guarantees were provided for the first surrogate mothers. Among other things, they could not be sold for the silver.

Other kind of surrogate motherhood appeared only with the development of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and infertility treatment methods. This is the so-called gestational surrogate motherhood, when he surrogate mother is not biologically related to the child she bears. She bears the embryo of the parents who hired her, and biological relationship is not necessary here and it is not prescribed by the law. So if the parents have medical grounds for the use of donor gametes (gametal cells), donor sperm or donor oocytes, or any of the above, they in any case will be deemed the parents of the child which the surrogate mother bears.

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