Following is the speech by the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Dr E K Yeoh, in response to the committee stage amendments moved by the Hon Chan Yuen-han to the Human Reproductive Technology Bill in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
Surrogacy is a very complicated and sensitive issue. We understand that some people may not accept this matter because of various reasons including religious or ethical considerations. However, we must admit that in some circumstances surrogacy is the only hope for a couple to have their own biological child e.g. the woman's womb is removed because of disease. In view of the availability of the enabling reproductive technology, we should consider giving these couples a fair chance to have their offspring.
Having said that, I must speak with assertion that we are not encouraging surrogacy. In fact, our policy is to actively discourage surrogacy, as evidenced in the stringent control of surrogacy arrangement in the Human Reproductive Technology Bill. As there is currently no legislative control over surrogacy, we intend to impose strict regulation through legislation, but yet allow a leeway for those who have but to resort to this option. In particular, we want to ensure that surrogacy on commercial basis is strictly prohibited.
I cannot agree with the Honourable CHAN Yuen-han that provisions in the Human Reproductive Technology Bill regarding surrogacy should be taken out because of inadequate discussion or lack of consensus in the community. The whole subject of reproductive technology, including surrogacy, has been brought to the community for consultation on a number of occasions since 1989. For instance, we issued consultation papers on reprodutive technology, including surrogacy in 1989 and in 1993 to invite public views. This year there have been a good number of feature stories on reproductive technology in newspapers, and radio phone-in program on the subject. Last month, the Health and Welfare Bureau, in collaboration with the Bills Committee, held a public forum to stimulate discussion among interested parties from different walks of life. Nonetheless, the response from the community has been lukewarm, to say the least. One of the plausible reasons of this lacklustre response is that this subject matters only to a very small group of people in our society. In Hong Kong, surrogacy remains a rather un-conventional option that even many infertile couples will rarely consider. For those who resort to this method to have their offspring, very few are willing to discuss it openly, mainly on grounds of privacy or the taboo nature of the subject. In short, there is simply a limit as to what the Administration, and dare I say other social service organisations, can do to generate public discussion on this subject.
More importantly, I highly doubt on a topic as controversial, as personal, and as sensitive as surrogacy, there could ever be a complete agreement as to how it should be regulated. I know of no country that claims this, and I do not believe Hong Kong is an exception. This, however, does not preclude the need to institute a legislative framework to regulate the practice of surrogacy. We firmly believe the Human Reproductive Technology Bill is an appropriate and timely opportunity to address this issue. I do concede that surrogacy involves considerable moral and ethical considerations which could sometime be controversial. In recognition of this, there will be a Ethics Committee set up under the future Council on Reproductive Technology to, among other things, monitor and assess the public's ethical and moral attitudes towards surrogacy arrangements. Where appropriate, the Ethic Committee will recommend amendments to the surrogacy provisions in the legislation to reflect the prevailing views and values of the community.
If the amendments proposed by the Hon. CHAN Yuen-han were passed, we would be in practice allowing surrogacy without any control, including commercial dealings. This is unacceptable from the Administration's viewpoint. Taking out all the surrogacy provisions in the Bill will not address the eithical and moral complication of the issue. We will simply be ignoring them by doing nothing. Even worse, we will be sending a wrong message to the community about our stance on surrogacy, which might bring about many undesirable consequences. I therefore earnestly urge Members to support retaining all original provisions in the Bill in respect of surrogacy arrangement.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
End/Thursday, June 22, 2000