It is a very intimate problem that thousands in Germany suffer from: Men and women who want nothing more than to have a child of their own - but cannot fulfill their heart's desire. There are 15,000 women in Germany alone who cannot become pregnant because they are infertile. Many men are also unable to conceive. According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, around a quarter of women and men between the ages of 20 and 50 have no offspring.
FDP member of parliament Katrin Helling-Plahr wants to help these people and "make surrogacy out of charity possible in Germany as well," according to a paper published by the FDP parliamentary group. "If those affected cannot have a child in any other way, if they can be helped by surrogacy and the surrogate mother wants to help in a self-determined way purely out of charity, the state has no right to prevent this happiness."
Accordingly, women should be allowed to carry a child to term for their own sister or a homosexual couple they are friends with. Those who do so for purely commercial reasons should continue to be punished under the FDP concept. However, it should be possible to reimburse the surrogate mother for loss of income or medical expenses.
Against the exploitation of women abroad
Until now, all forms of surrogacy have been prohibited in Germany. According to the Embryo Protection Act, "anyone who undertakes to carry out artificial insemination on a woman who is willing to leave her child permanently to a third party after birth (surrogate mother) or to transfer a human embryo to her" is liable to prosecution. Doctors who implant a fertilized egg cell in a surrogate mother, for example, face up to three years in prison. An absurdity, as Helling-Plahr finds: "Why can't I also carry a child to term for altruistic motives for someone to whom I am allowed to donate an organ during my lifetime?"
With this initiative, Helling-Plahr also wants to prevent couples who want to have children from being forced to go abroad in search of a surrogate mother. On the Internet, companies advertise the placement of surrogate mothers in countries such as Ukraine, Thailand or Georgia - and charge up to 55,000 euros for them. Helling-Plahr wants to push back such offers and at the same time fulfill prospective parents' desires to have children: "I find it dishonest to want to protect women in Germany from exploitation through surrogacy and at the same time close the eyes to the fact that surrogacy has long been claimed abroad under completely different, sometimes very bad conditions."
CDU, SPD and Greens skeptical
In addition: According to German law, the woman who gave birth to a child is the legal mother - even if, as a surrogate mother, she is not genetically related to the baby. For "intended parents" who have their child carried to term abroad, this often means a long struggle with the authorities to have their own parenthood recognized and to obtain German citizenship for the child. Helling-Plahr therefore wants to create a "clearly defined legal framework": Surrogacy should be subject to strict conditions, such as approval by a family court. In addition, there should be a counseling service for all parties involved.
The CDU/CSU, SPD and Greens have so far been skeptical or even opposed to legalizing surrogacy. This is not the FDP's first initiative in this matter. In the summer of 2019, the Liberals had already proposed a reform of the law. At the time, the Greens' legal expert Katja Keul stated: "Even non-commercial surrogacy harbors risks of abuse and can be contrary to the well-being of mother and child." Helling-Plahr nevertheless believes the reform is necessary: "The question is not whether we need a legal regulation for altruistic surrogacy in Germany, but how it can look."