Idyllic images and 'VIP packages': advertising for surrogacy that wants to ban abortion reform

Guarantee of "restart" if the baby dies, individual apartments during the stay in the country, a 3% discount on all programs for 'Black Friday' or the possibility of choosing the sex of the baby for more money. They are advertising strategies used by some of the intermediary companies that offer surrogacy services and that try to attract clients in Spain. The practice is not allowed in our country, but there are agencies that offer the possibility of doing it abroad and that usually take care of the entire process. In this way, more than 2,500 babies have been registered as Spanish citizens through the consulates thanks to a 2010 instruction that makes it possible.

The techniques they use as a claim have been evaluated by the Women's Image Observatory (OMI), dependent on the Women's Institute, which has published an analysis of these practices based on the 77 complaints received between 2018 and 2021 and the review of websites and social networks. However, only three complaints refer to agencies of this type, while the majority are directed against surrogacy family associations or the media. But the bulk of the study is based on the analysis of how some of these companies are made known and the commercial logic behind it.

The body of the Ministry of Equality censures that there are no legal mechanisms in Spain "available" to prevent these promotions. And, in fact, he has made the analysis public shortly after that the reform of the abortion law took its first step in the Council of Ministers, a rule that qualifies surrogacy as a "serious form of reproductive violence" and declares illegal advertising that has the commercial promotion of this practice as its purpose. While waiting for the impact of the ban to materialize, the text still has a long way to go and, for now, the analysis is a first approach: of the 23 companies that have been reviewed, 15 are located in Spain.

Its activity consists of acting as intermediaries between people or couples who want to access surrogacy and clinics and centers in countries where it is legal, including Canada, the United States, Georgia or Ukraine, which, at least until the invasion Russia last February, had become one of the most popular destinations. The agencies are in charge of practically all the procedures and services: from the link with the clinics in the countries of origin to the contracting of insurance, trips, stays, translators or advice for the registration of the baby on the return to Spain.

Not all use the same techniques. In fact, several have softened in recent years the language with which they refer to this practice and some no longer make explicit in a visible place on their web pages the high prices of the packages, which can cost from 50,000 euros in Georgia to the 120,000 in the United States, for example. But for the Women's Institute what is "serious" is that they "promote" a practice that is not allowed in our country and denounces that they do so "without any type of restriction" and "recourse to commercial strategies aimed both at expanding demand and to launder their activity".

The strategies are diverse: among them, the offer of "a menu of options" more or less expensive depending on the services, as well as "the characteristics of the pregnant women and the future child". In one of the complaints received by the OMI, the Feskov company, based in Ukraine, Belgium and the United Kingdom, offers a "VIP surrogacy package" with the possibility of choosing the sex. Prices can be seen on the website: this package costs 59,000 euros in the Ukraine and up to 80,000 for the "deluxe" package in the Czech Republic.

Other examples go through content in which you try to find potential clients alluding to the advantage of "staying fit" or even "not losing your work rhythm" by resorting to surrogacy and avoiding pregnancy and childbirth, details this same company . Another of the announcements is the one made by the Ukrainian company BioTexCom last November, which offered a 3% discount on "all our programs" for 'Black Friday'. This company, which has a subsidiary in Spain, is the subject of an investigation opened in the summer of 2019 by the National High Court Prosecutor's Office.

But the analysis also stops at the language, images and logic that some of these agencies usually follow to "mask", says the agency, the "real process": "The gestation, through contractual conditions, of a creature to the that the surrogate mother must resign". Advertising usually resorts to "idyllic images" of "plump, white and light-eyed" babies, although sometimes "a quota of diversity is also included" which are accompanied by the promises of "fulfilling a dream" or "a wish" .

The guarantee of "security" in the process is also common. But not "understood as a gestation without complications", but "in carrying out and fulfilling the contractual relationship", laments the Women's Institute. "Restart guarantee in case of death of the baby", promises one of the companies: "Unfortunately from the seventh month of pregnancy, all agencies consider that, if the baby is born prematurely and dies, the program has been fulfilled and you you are left without a child and without money," he says.

The study detects the use of images of pregnant women following "the usual advertising beauty canons" and identifies some other formulas to attract clients such as "forms to choose surrogate mothers" or "our own base of mothers and egg donors of the European, Asian phenotype and African that allows you to choose your ideal donor". Part of the offer is also based on "complements" for the stay abroad, which "encourages people to take the packages with the highest price" and which include mobile phones, strollers, layettes, individual accommodation or flights in class preferential. "Different companies compete in these types of services to increase their market share," she adds.

In addition to the complaints referred to companies, the report details some other complaints received by the OMI. In fact, 50 go to the Son Nuestro Hijos Association, including one for the campaign it launched in 2018 in Madrid that makes use of the traditional feminist motto "We give birth, we decide" with the hashtag #YoGestaría. The body recognizes that "it cannot be considered illicit advertising", but rejects it because "it promotes a practice that is." Other complaints refer to reports in the media and one against the Bilbao Metro for a campaign that showed two parents through surrogacy as one of the images to commemorate its 25th anniversary.

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