Battle looms over parents' rights

31. 8. 2009 9:10
Minister for Justice Daniela Kovářová would like to create legislation guaranteeing biological mothers parental rights to children born to surrogates.
Těhotná žena
Těhotná žena | Foto: Reuters

Prague - The Justice Ministry is seeking changes to legislation which would affect the legal rights of surrogate and biological mothers.

Under current Czech law, biological mothers are not guaranteed parental rights to a child born to a surrogate. The surrogate mother could gain custody rights to the child she carries and delivers.

The Justice Ministry wants to change this part of the law. "I've been thinking about changing the law since May. In the course of my career, I've met a number of clients interested in the issue," Minister for Justice Daniela Kovářová told Aktuálně.cz.

The Czech legal system permits surrogate motherhood but has no law dealing specifically with the issue.

Under current legislation, a woman who gives birth to a child has custody of the child. If a biological mother uses a surrogate, she has no guarantee of gaining parental rights once the child is born.

"The Czech Republic has no clear legislation relating to this issue. For example, there is no law explaining what to do if the surrogate mother refuses to part with the child," Kovářová said.

No proposal has been put on paper yet, as Kovářová first wants to discuss the plan with experts.

Uterus to let

There is no record of surrogate mothers in the Czech Republic refusing to hand over children to their biological parents. Roughly 10 children are born to surrogate mothers each year in the Czech Republic.

Kovářová admits her plan is not without controversy. Among others, it would allow biological parents to pay anonymous surrogates to carry their babies.

"Among the key questions is whether it should be a paid service; whether it should be based on an agreement; and if so, if the agreement should be written or verbal; how to claim the rights embodied in the agreement; and what to do if the child is born with a disability," Kovářová said.

Expert opinion is varied on changing the current legislation and on allowing payment for the services of a surrogate.

"It is against nature," said psychiatrist Radkin Honzák, who strictly opposes surrogacy. "I don't like it in principal. A child is not a commodity. It doesn't mean that if I want a child, I can have one, no matter what. Adoptions are also a possibility," he said.

Milan Mrázek, chief physician of the Assisted Reproduction Centre at the ISCARE clinic in Prague, has a different opinion. "As far as this issue is concerned, I am liberal. I am not against the idea of surrogacy," he told Aktuálně.cz. He says the legal aspect is not the only issue concerned. "There are ethical questions regarding commercial surrogacy," he said.

Mrázek said the question of anonymity of biological and surrogate parents has yet to be solved.

"Both parties should have an opportunity to remain anonymous - meaning if the parents do not wish to know the name of the surrogate mother and vice versa," he said.

Kovářová admits she will not be able to finalise the debate. "I've failed in my original intention to submit a proposal to the government before the end of my term," she said.

Adapted by the Prague Daily Monitor.


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