Wpolitce.pl – a popular Polish right-wing news portal and TVP Info, a state news channel, report on alleged human trafficking taking place at Men Having Babies conference in Brussels.
Misconception caused by terminology used in an article
Due to the conservative predilection of the reporter – Grzegorz Górny – an article gains a tabloid tint. It is supposed to play on readers’ emotions and remain shocking. Thus the author calls an event Children’s Fair implying illegal child trafficking. It must be remembered that an event should be discussed according to surrogacy laws. It raises a question how the surrogacy law differs between Belgium and Poland where the article was published.
Despite that article of Grzegorz Górny is strongly biased on his opinion we decided that as fact-checkers we cannot deal with personal believes and we should focus on hard data instead. In order to acquire as much information about MHB as possible, we wrote and sent a letter to this institution. We found the email address on their website (menhavingbabies.org). Specifically we wanted to obtain some information about the so called “catalog prices”, as Wpolitice.pl is quite precise about the prices MHB “sells kids” for. Prices are also mentioned in the article of “The Brussels Times”, which refers to American company International Surrogacy Center, which provides guidance and support for both surrogates and intended parents.
To our disappointment we didn’t receive any response from MHB, which is remarkable because MHB’s website provides many options to get in touch with them, depending on whether you’re a prospective client, member of the press or an independent researcher.
The author of the article was right about legal situation of surrogacy in Belgium. Numerous sources confirm that Belgian law do not regulate matter of surrogacy so it’s not prohibited or legalised.” Current Belgian legislation does not address the issue of surrogacy or of children born via surrogacy, In light of this legislative vacuum, the Belgian federal government has no choice other than to ignore any legal consequences of foreign documents created in this context (e.g. birth certificates or judgements). This position is adopted even if the local legal procedure has been followed meticulously abroad and the documents have been properly legalised or apostilled for use in Belgium. What results in legal implications abroad is not automatically recognised by the Belgian internal Rule of Law”.
Case of surrogacy is the grey area of law. What happens in this grey area is beyond our ability as factcheckers.“Contrary to neighbouring countries, Belgium’s surrogacy laws have not been updated, meaning commercial surrogacy sits in a legal grey zone. Even though all political parties in Belgium are against it, it also mentioned that protestors were demanding a legal ban on all commercial promotion of surrogacy in Belgium.”
“Currently, Belgium does not have specific legislation in matters of surrogacy. The nullity of surrogacy conventions results from the illegality of its object and its ’cause’, its opposition to the principles of non-availability of the human body and the civil status as well as the inalienable and non-available right of the mother who bears and gives birth to a child to determine parentage. However, some hospitals take advantage of the legislative gap to attend to requests of surrogacy. Doing so outside any legal framework, these hospitals have established strict rules to condition the practice of surrogacy”.
Commercial character of the conference
Due to the lacking statistics from MHB we can’t say how relations between participants and surrogacy agencies looked like. According to International Surrogacy Center (cited by “Brussel Times”) surrogate mother can expect about $55,000.00-$65,000.00 of compensation. At the same time in the article of “The Brussels Times”, the range of prices that candidates need to pay for a child: 90.000-150.000 euros.
At the International Surogacy Center website, there is an Agency Fee item where the Agency’s expenses are listed, but the Agency fee is not specified, in order to find it out, you need to contact the Agency:
According to point number nine of “Ethical framework” published by MHB: “Compensation guidelines for donors and surrogates may be legislated or encouraged in order to avoid unreasonably large sums that may lead to overwhelming financial incentives.
While we do not think it is ethically necessary, we believe that it is reasonable for legislators or professionals to decide to enact or promote caps or guidelines for the compensation of surrogates and donors. It is reasonable to assume that such caps may reduce the likelihood that candidates will choose egg donation and surrogacy in the absence of sufficient altruistic motivation, and in circumstances that may lead to adverse long term medical or psychological outcomes. Therefore at the very least compensation guidelines should not be outlawed”.
However, this ethical framework seems to be more of a suggestion from organizers than strict rule. In a situation when even legality of such event is not confirmed it’s not clear how this rule should be executed. Due to the lack of demographic data we cannot exclude the possibility that such event is a financial opportunity for women from regions of EU where general income is much lower than in Belgium or USA.
Language of the article
Despite that general claims author of article – Grzegorz Górny were not so far from the truth we should stated that his rhetoric could be described as creating false impression that LGBT community stands behind international human traffic. Using criteria of some scholars as Jana Laura Egelhofer and Sophie Lecheler usage of strong words like “slavery of woman and trafficking of children” should be considered a manipulation, because of direct calling MHB a crime organization. Allegedly in this project there were involved women from poor countries (which wasn’t proven or denied in case of Brussel conference).
“No woman would voluntarily agree to be treated as a breeding mare and to hire her uterus and give birth to a gay couple if she was not forced to do so by the dramatic financial situation. It is no coincidence that surrogates are recruited from very poor countries.”
The author of article also creates a false link between the fact that minister of foreign affairs is transgender and that such an event took place. This insinuate that Petra de Sutter was some somehow involved in preparation of such conference but didn’t give any further information for his argument. “In this light, the fact that recently, for the first time in the history of Europe, a transsexual woman became Deputy Prime Minister in Brussels is of new importance. This is the case of Petra de Sutter, an LGBT activist, who strongly demands the legalization of surrogacy in Europe” Everything seems to indicate that we are facing another battle in the cultural war, this time for the legal sanctioning of the austerity.” Finally Grzegorz Górny places MHB conference in bigger context of endangered conservative values. “A few more years of such brainwashing and the attitude of the public will change. After all, we have already seen that what was treated as a deviation twenty years ago is now considered to be a cultural, social and legal norm. What was killing the helpless became a right for women. It is therefore possible that the surrogacy, i.e. slavery of women and trafficking in children, will also be considered a human right, and crowds will take to the streets to defend this right.”
Despite that Grzegorz Górny didn’t give / use any false statistics, quotes or numbers his article should be labeled as a personal opinion due to the lack of specific information about subject of conference. Due to the opinion-forming nature of the article and its highly controversial subject we thought it is appropriate to highlight that this article is based on a conservative opinion (which we don’t criticise).
References in the Russian media
Many European media reacted to the topic, and the Russian media did not leave it aside. Russian conservative mass media didn’t leave the news about “children’s fair” unattended, although it didn’t become a great sensation. Perhaps the highest point this piece of news reached in russian media is the report by a state-run TV-company NTV. Reporter Anton Chechulinsky asked the participants of the MHB event for some comments including a surrogate mother. This report might seem to be unbiased, since every side of this conflict had their voices heard, but when it comes to the personal opinion of the reporter, which is brightly expressed in this material, it becomes clear, what kind of point the author is trying to make: “In contrast to those, who raise the children of the “third gender”, gays, Fabian and Mario, seem to raise their children in a more conservative way. Lily, their daughter, wears skirts and reads books about princesses. Jack, their son, doesn’t play with girlie toys and wears a baby shirt of a truly masculine colour – blue. One might think that these parents are the best at keeping their children away from stereotypes, but maybe they just want their children to become different to their parents in the future.”
Russian Internet-media “Komsomolskaya Pravda” also put out an article about MHB conference in Brussels. Basically, this article is a recital of another article authored by Leone Grotti, a “Tempi” newspaper journalist. The author of this article, Tatyana Ogneva-Salvoni, doesn’t express her attitude to surrogacy and gays having babies directly, using her own words, but mixing the real facts about MHB conference with a pretty adamant opinion of another person doesn’t seem to be quite fair in terms of jornalism.
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Cross-national fact check by Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan, Poland and South Ural State University, Chelyabinsk RU