In international business, Canada is best-known for oil, maple syrup and hockey players. Now, according to a report in the Toronto Star, it is also becoming “a key player in global surrogacy”. The Star is running a series featuring three couples – a straight couple from Australia, a gay couple from Spain, and a gay couple from the United States – who have engaged surrogates in Canada. The Star explains:
No one keeps statistics, but this baby-boom business is so brisk that one agency, Surrogacy in Canada Online, had to stop accepting applications temporarily from intended parents in April due to overwhelming demand.
A confluence of factors have led to this demand, including Canada’s advanced fertility technology; a sophisticated publicly funded health-care system; and an increasing number of countries banning foreign surrogacy while Canadian law allows for it. In addition, Canadian surrogacy is relatively inexpensive, as Canada bans surrogates from being paid.
In fact, the legal situation under Canada’s 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act is murky. Commercial surrogacy is banned, but the mothers can be paid for expenses and agencies for services like “organizing medical and legal appointments, managing money and receipts and making referrals”.
Canadians seem to like the challenge of working in ethical and legal uncertainty. There is no law governing abortion either. But some of the provisions of the Act became clearer after a woman named Leia Swanberg was charged and convicted under the Act. Her company, Canadian Fertility Consulting (CFC), paid a hefty fine, but kept on operating. In fact, she says that since her conviction, her business has quadrupled. She is currently working with about a hundred pregnant surrogates.
According to a feature earlier this year in the Globe and Mail, “The key to Swanberg’s success may lie in her ability to recruit and retain surrogates and egg donors.”
How does she do it? A video recently released by her company gives a rather unsettling insight into how she motivates her women.
Motivation for a commercial surrogacy may seem relatively straightforward: needy woman does difficult and risky job; wealthy client hands over a bundle of cash. But motivating women who are only going to be reimbursed for their expenses and who are not closely related to a client couple is far more challenging.
Ms Swanberg seems to have hit upon a way: she calls it Sacred Surrogacy. The video has to be seen to be believed: in the 21st Century, when we are closer than ever to colonising Mars and discovering the secrets of physics, a successful businesswoman is reviving Neolithic paganism.
Her “secret” appears to consist of shamanistic and fertility rites which would have been familiar to the builders of Stonhenge. A four-week on-line course guides women through their “surrogate journey in a sacred and beautiful way”. There is sacred crystal essence, “crystal water to raise your surrogacy pregnancy vibration”, ayurvedic recipes, almond milk & honey ceremonial bath,” understanding your sacred milk” and fear release.
“Sacred surrogacy” is an anachronistic way of looking at gestation. Rather than a commercial transaction, it is a participation in a sisterhood of fecund women, a tradition which extends back beyond the dawn of history. The website explains:
A Surrogate is a woman who shares of herself by giving the ultimate gift of parenthood to another. It is a process in which you will carry a baby for a single, couple, gay, or straight family. You will be blessed as you join a sisterhood of women who will share in this beautiful journey with you.
Donors also share in the journey:
“Make no mistake about it, you are a heroine about to change a family’s life forever and that act is a reverent one, and should be noted as such. We have created a very special heartwarming mini program for you as you begin this journey, and we are honored to be able to offer you this acknowledgement for your gift of service.”
To paraphrase Chesterton: when people stop believing in marriage, they start believing in anything. And if surrogate mothers are forbidden to worship in the shrine of the Almighty Dollar because commercial surrogacy is banned, they start worshipping fertility goddesses.
What a great advance for Canadian business! What a great advance for Canadian feminism! Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, describes himself as a proud feminist who will never stop fighting the good fight for gender equality. Here’s a fight for him: stop surrogacy now, commercial or altruistic. It is turning women into milch cows. There’s nothing equal about that.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.