Spanish police arrest three over illegal womb-for-rent arrangement

Gay couple accused of paying woman from Cadiz €10,000 to have a baby for them

Jesús A. Cañas

Spanish police have arrested two men and a woman over the alleged sale of a baby for €10,000. The Civil Guard says it was alerted after the woman, who has not been named, told social workers in the small community of Villamartín, in Cadiz province, that her daughter had died during birth and that the body had been donated to science.

A Civil Guard officer with the rescued baby.
A Civil Guard officer with the rescued baby.GUARDIA CIVIL

Police then launched Operation Princesita, or Operation Little Princess. When officers checked at the clinic where the woman – whom they described as “of limited means” – had given birth they discovered from the records that the child had been born alive, but that the mother had not registered the birth.

When questioned, the woman admitted she had been contacted by a same-sex couple, who have not been named, from the neighboring province of Almería. That couple had offered to pay her €10,000 to undergo artificial insemination in a private clinic in Malaga and then hand over her child to them. Police said it had taken two attempts for the woman to become pregnant, and that the clinic had become suspicious, given her “precarious economic situation.”

Spain’s same-sex marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt 

The couple had arranged with the woman to take her and the new-born infant to the registry office in Almería where the birth would be recorded. The mother was then due to sign a document before a notary public ceding the couple guardianship of the infant.

Police said the couple had contacted a number of other young women throughout Andalusia, all of them from deprived backgrounds, in a bid to find a surrogate mother.

The arrests came three days after the birth of the baby, reportedly in good health, which was with the couple at their home.

The two men and the woman have now been released on bail and are awaiting trial. The child is now in the care of social services.

Spain passed legislation in 2005 making same-sex marriage legal – laws which also enshrined the right for gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. However, same-sex couples have faced obstacles trying to adopt, particularly outside Europe.

The mother told social workers her daughter had died during birth and the body had been donated to science

Surrogate pregnancy is not legal in Spain, as the biological mother’s renouncement contract is not legally valid. The 2006 Assisted Reproduction Law declared void any contract signed with a woman who agrees to see a pregnancy to term on behalf of another party, regardless of whether she is paid to do so or not. Even so, demand has grown in recent years as couples circumvent the law by traveling to countries where surrogacy is legal.

Around 800 Spanish couples resort to surrogate mothers in the US every year, according to advocacy group Son Nuestros Hijos (They are our kids).

However, in recent years Spanish couples have faced difficulties in registering the birth of children born outside the country to surrogate mothers.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of two French couples that had taken the French state to court after authorities in France refused to register their children, born to Indian mothers.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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