HEALTH

Protesters march in Madrid against a surrogacy trade fair

“Don’t buy a baby!” urge marchers as couples walk into event to learn which countries allow the practice

Close to 100 people marched on Saturday outside the Hotel Weare in Madrid to protest a trade fair focusing on surrogacy, a practice that is illegal in Spain. A group called Red Estatal Contra el Alquiler de Vientres (or, State Network Against Wombs for Hire) said that Surrofair 2017 was using women and minors like objects that can be bought and sold, and that it was advertising an unlawful activity.

Anti-surrogacy protest in front of a Madrid hotel.
Anti-surrogacy protest in front of a Madrid hotel.SANTI BURGOS

Demonstrators, some of whom were topless, chanted: “My body is not for rent, my body is not for sale!”

Alicia Miyares, the group’s spokeswoman, accused the trade fair of pursuing nothing more than financial benefits. “They are the ones calling it a ‘fair,’ not us, and that says a lot about the way they view women and children,” she said.

If it had been a kidney fair instead of a womb fair, they would have acted more diligently

Alicia Miyares, activist

The marchers, most of whom belong to feminist associations, had asked prosecutors to put the trade fair on hold on the grounds that it violated Spanish legislation. But the claim was dismissed, causing irritation among the protesters.

“If it had been a kidney fair instead of a womb fair, they would have acted more diligently,” noted Miyares.

The event itself, held on the second floor of the hotel, went smoothly save for some harassment of couples at the door, where protesters booed and urged them “not to buy a baby.”

Police officers stood outside the door to prevent unauthorized individuals from walking into the fair. Still, a few protesters managed to slip inside and hand out copies of the complaint that was filed with the prosecutor’s office.

B. A., 37, and her husband came here from the southern region of Andalusia to attend a fair where agencies, international clinics and specialized advisers told them about the conditions in the various countries where surrogacy is allowed. Hundreds of Spaniards go abroad every year to work with surrogate mothers, and the practice seems to be increasingly popular, given that the international adoption process can take up to eight years.

Spaniards pay anywhere between €45,000 and €60,000 in Ukraine or Russia, and up to €120,000 in California – one of 14 American states where the practice is legal.

B. A. said that she suffers from a disease that prevents her from having children herself, and lamented the attitude of the protesters downstairs.

“Nothing is getting bought or sold here. There are different talks and clinics that explain the entire process to you, but they are not selling you a baby,” she said. “I have tried on countless occasions and in different ways to be a biological mother, but I haven’t managed it. If Spain does not allow it, this is the only way left for us. They should try to walk in the shoes of families who cannot have children.”

This woman insisted that people have the wrong impression of surrogacy, and hoped that Spain will pass legislation soon. “A lot of the people who complain say it is done for money, but that’s not true. In Canada, women do it because they want to, and in Ukraine and the US, 90% of the money goes into the treatment. The option we liked best is around €50,000, including the plane flights.”

I have tried on countless occasions to be a biological mother. If Spain does not allow it, this is the only way left for us

B. A., fair attendee

C. C., who works with the US-based The Fertility Center, came to the fair to tell her story after surviving a cancer that prevented her from ever giving birth. She has already started the process to have a child thanks to a surrogate mother in Canada.

“We don’t buy people and we don’t buy children,” she said. “This is exactly the same thing that used to happen with IVF many years ago, but now it’s viewed as normal. I am not a millionaire, like many accuse us of being. I am fighting to be a mom, and I don’t care whether it’s a right or not. It is my dream.”

In Spain, handing over a child to someone else for money, bypassing legal adoption and foster family procedures, entails prison sentences of one to five years. Similar sanctions are set out for the recipients and the intermediaries, even if the exchange takes place in a foreign country.

English version by Susana Urra.

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