Europe 1 - Program Le Grand direct des médias – Wednesday 7th august, 2014
Journalist: Thomas Joubert
Guests: Israël Nisand, gynocologist, and Jean-Marie Le Méné, president of the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune
Journalist: Jean-Marie Le Méné, you are opposed on the principle of gestational surrogacy. Concerning what happened in Thailand: the child with Down Syndrome conceived by a surrogate mother and abandoned by his parents. Do you find it outrageous?
Jean-Marie Le Méné: You are right to insist on this this event which is not at all anecdotic but rather emblematic. It has created a revolution in the appreciation of how gestational surrogacy is going to be seen from now on. The stereotypes set up around gestational surrogacy are being turned around. The couple who asked for a child and presented as a victim has become the executioner of the women and children who were born. The couple suffering from infertility is now the one causing the suffering. This makes a change. The surrogate mother tied to a state of passivity is taking back her role of mother, she has become a mother again, the mother of this child.
This surrogate mother who had the status of a slave becomes a rebel whose act of rebellion is to keep the child with Down Syndrome whom she loves as her own child. And the most important stereotype that is being turned around, the “great forgotten one” of gestational surrogacy, is the child. Starting off as a secondary character, a thing, an object of trade, this time he ends up becoming the subject and the hero of the case as he is the one to whom is given an amount ten times higher than the amount his poor mother never received off the couple of buyers.
Journalist: Yes, but this is one particular case…
JMLM: It is not at all a particular case, nor is it anecdotal, it is an emblematic case for a very simple reason: there is, by nature, an unbalance in gestational surrogacy contracts between the couple who “wants” a child and the woman who “can”. Thus the couple proposes but it is the woman who disposes and, the couple is in fact living in a project, a desire, a dream, sometimes even a fantasy. The women is living in reality and, therefore, there is an irreducible gap between the idea of a child one could choose, like in the US, in a magazine and the reality of the child that the women will be able to produce.
In other words, the couple is fantasising over an obligation of result, it wants a child and preferably a girl that does not have Down Syndrome. The women will only be able to give what she has. The women is in an obligation of means; there is a gap between the result the couple is aiming at and the means that the poor women can provide: because no women is immune from a genetic or a chromosomal accident the same as occurred in this case.
Journalist: You consider the women to be poor? Without even a second thought?
JMLM: In this case, yes. It was repeated enough. The victim is a poor woman. Gestational surrogacy is modern slavery. In what conditions was the consent obtained so that this women got less than 10 000 dollars though the gestational surrogacy may have cost 100 000? Who is filling his pockets? The intermediaries. It is a system of mafia, money and trafficking.
Journalist: Is it not precisely because of excesses, like what happened in Thailand, that gestational surrogacy should be supervised and, therefore, the legislation in France changed?
IN: Do we base our reasoning concerning organ transplantation on the number of organ thefts that occur in this or that country? In our country, do we base our reasoning concerning adoption on the number of children which are stolen in certain countries to be sold in occident? For all these issues, may it be gestational surrogacy, organ transplantation or adoption, completely immoral and predatory attitudes do develop, and this, precisely when there is no law. And then you have the ethical attitude. What Jean-Marie Le méné was just talking about, I don’t see. I see surrogate mothers who are making an extraordinary gift to women who, quite often, are their friends or part of the family. Personally, I see no couples buying off a catalogue, I see no fantasy, no modern slavery. Therefore I think it is very important in this debate to not turn a catastrophic case into an emblem. When everything is constantly banned as though it was a moral sentence come from whatever transcendence, one encourages agents and encourages a non-ethical attitude because, when there is a ban, things always go off track and I am positive that the current position of France which bans everything without giving it a second though is an unreasonable attitude because it pushes French couples into doing things that really are predation and unhappiness.
Journalist: So, according to you, the state should legislate on gestational surrogacy in France?
IN: We legislated by banning everything. Don’t worry, I am not in favour of the Californian “do as you like” policy where one can dispose of one’s body and buy or sell anything. I believe that certain gestational surrogacy requests are understandable and it so happens that I know of some and I am therefore in the obligation of testifying. I see sisters carrying a child for their sister who has lost her uterus. I see women carrying a child for their friend, who do it living a life of shame, who are stigmatized through terms such as the ones which have just been used ”catalogue, child bag or stomach for rent”, who have fingers pointed at them when all they are doing is an act of infinite generosity thus enabling another couple to have this family project. I think one needs to distinguish which gestational surrogacy request are acceptable in our country, and I can show you cases you would agree to yourself, and others which ones are not.
Journalist: So, Jean-Marie Le Méné do you understand these arguments?!
JMLM: I understand these arguments but I find the argument given by the professor at the beginning, i.e., the comparison with an organ transplantation intellectually dishonest. Why? Organ transplantation is not an immoral activity. On the other hand…
Journalist: Why? Is having a child an immoral activity?
JMLM: No ! Organ transplantation is not an immoral activity but getting a slave mother to carry a child, give her some money for the child she is going to give up, that is immoral. Programming the abandonment and the sale of a child is immoral. You don’t supervise slavery, you ban it. And I consider that the expression “supervising the excesses” which is what Professor Nisand has rallied to is wrong because there are no excesses in gestational surrogacy; gestational surrogacy is an excess. In the same way as you don’t supervise slavery, you ban it.
Journalist: Yes, only it does exist. It is a reality in France…
JMLM: But the trafficking of human beings also exists and that is banned and I think it would be to France’s credit to take the lead in an international effort to ban gestational surrogacy as is banned the trade of human beings and whatever other child trafficking,…
[Call from an auditor who is asking for gestational surrogacy to be supervised]
Journalist: Controlling gestational surrogacy. JMLM, a reaction?
JMLM: It always comes back to supervising the excesses. I believe it to be a totally immoral activity and I am not the only one to say so. Luckily there is a great political consensus in France. Actually, it might even be the only one between both socialists and capitalists concerning the refusal of gestational surrogacy. For now, the government is against legalising gestational surrogacy. It has said so. But the point which I would like to go over is what the auditor said: that there is a temptation to say there is “ethical gestational surrogacy” and “non-ethical gestational surrogacy”. In other words, there is the “goodie” and the “baddie”. This reasoning is wrong. Gestational surrogacy is an act which is intrinsically wrong.
Journalist: The «baddie » gestational surrogacy is the one carried out for homosexuals?
JMLM: No, the « baddie » is the savage one, like what we saw in Thailand and the « goodie” is the one which is supervised, clad in ribbon, done with white gloves in a nice clean hospital, well hidden so that one doesn’t actually see the dreary character of gestational surrogacy. What Pr. Nisand and this woman are actually saying is that a signature will be given, the same as in a hospital, where no one will see or hear anything and it will be best for everyone. And that is not true, gestational surrogacy is an illegal, criminal activity which must be condemned in that sense by the international community which, I think, will do it quite willingly.
Journalist: Israël Nisand, what JMLM is saying seems a bit excessive?!
IN: Yes, luckily JMLM doesn’t have the monopoly of moral because over half of French people think that when a women has lost her uterus or her child in the same obstetrical catastrophe, one needs to be allowed to help and that solidarity among women does exist. I have seen it, I haven’t seen an illegal organization, what I saw were women helping each other out for an extraordinary project which consists in building a family. Thus, I think that the gap is getting bigger between a ban being strengthened as there are very large fines(now we are even cheating ourselves into suing people who have committed the sin of building a family in another country) and the public opinion. It will never hold because it is very authoritarian and paternalist. We cannot agree that some people dictate moral to others. In my opinion, when three consenting people who are neither fragile nor vulnerable, decide to carry out a project of gestational surrogacy, the case should be studied very strictly in order to determine whether one of the women is dependent on the other or not, if one of the women isn’t doing it for money, to check whether she is obliged to do it in one way or another without even realising it. If there are no constraints whatsoever, gestational surrogacy should be authorised in our country so that it is no longer only accessible to the rich, which has been the case for 20 years. People in France are really asking for gestational surrogacy. There are many French women who carry babies for others and these people are completely left to themselves. Those who have more money go to London, the others to Ukraine in awful conditions and the poorest go to India. So, in the end, one must admit that all this prohibition and refusal to see the suffering of these couples and surrogate mothers (because if we push people towards illegal systems, they take advantage of it), all this morality speech handed out to everyone in which one person’s moral is imposed on the rest of the population, leads to dramatic excesses in our country.
Journalist: I repeat that this practice already is already carried out a great deal.
[Call from auditors in favour of gestational surrogacy]
JMLM: And how do you foresee the risk of Down Syndrome?
Journalist: It had been detected and she refused to abort!
JMLM: How does one solve this problem? With a contract?
[The auditor, still online, says that in the case of Down Syndrome, the child can be kept by the mother!]
You are wrong and that is where, I think, gestational surrogacy will fail. It will never be possible, and this is much to the credit of women, to oblige a women, may it be through a contract or by convention, to abort or not. That is why I think that gestational surrogacy will fail thanks to feminists who will turn round and say: “we are free to abort or not”.
[Call from an auditor who is a doctor and opposed to gestational surrogacy]
IN: I think he is wrong because the idea is not to legalise gestational surrogacy as a general rule but to set up a number of rules concerning this question.
[IN gives the example of existing rules concerning abortion or medical research on human beings looked over by the various committees for the protection of human beings thus preventing non ethical researches to be carried out.]
One mustn’t be defeatist. Our country is talented when it comes to ethics especially when the higher authority gives it, in a transcendent manner, a moral and ethics. You know ethics can change; I don’t find it ethical that our country should say it is banned, that everything is just banned which implies that there is no more discussion to be done. It is foolish.
[Call from an auditor in favour of gestational surrogacy, She expresses her feelings concerning her daughter who cannot procreate].
Journalist: JMLM, we are now speaking of concrete situations. They exist, along with a desire to have children. Do you understand?
JMLM: I understand everything, I am ready to understand everything. But what I understand more than anything else is that we are living in a form of compassionate terrorism of which M. Nissand is the great artisan. Because a women has had her uterus removed, it is ok to carry out a scheduled abandonment and a sale? Gestational surrogacy is indeed the scheduling of the abandonment and the sale of a child. The suffering of a women in her body does not justify the slavery of another woman. It is a false reasoning. It is a compassionate way of putting things, invented by a eugenics’ artisan in France. I think M. Nisand is the one giving out lessons of moral by saying there are no excesses in France when it is the opposite that is going on: 96% of children with Down Syndrome are aborted and this figure does not come as a marker of freedom. And he assumes his eugenic position. So I think he is in the wrong position to be giving out lessons of moral concerning this subject.
IN: When two people start insulting each other, there it is no longer a debate and France is well behind in terms of democratic debates. We need to inform the people and not insult each other by accusing each other of supporting eugenics. I only treat women by trying to relieve them from their sufferings and I have never witnessed an abandonment in a case of gestational surrogacy nor a women asking if everything is alright while the other women is crying her eyes out during the ultrasound. Where do you see an abandonment? The child is already adopted by his foster mother. Where do you see a sale? When a mother is carrying the child of her sister who has lost her uterus. Why do you want to darken the picture and refuse to consider the fact that solidarity between two women can exist. That kind of generosity does exist. I know there can be excesses. I don’t have a eugenic position, I spend my life trying to make sure children in good health can be born in my country but I don’t like it when the debate is reduced to invective and insults.
Journalist: There is clearly no way of getting you to agree. I am sorry excessive words are spoken every time this kind of debate is initiated. It is quite calm this morning, but you have heard it yourself, the discussion is lively and the opinions very divergent at the switchboard of Europe 1. JMLM, a quick word to conclude?
JMLM: Yes, just to say on the radio that, unlike what can be implied in this program and by Israël Nissand, the majority of the people who called shared my point of view.
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