Surrogacy is a controversial issue having pros and cons. However, the attacks addressed to Nichi Vendola for using it in order to give birth to Tobia Antonio represent Italy’s homophobic backwardness
On February 27th, the leader of SEL Nichi Vendola and his partner Eddy Testa had a baby. Tobia Antonio Testa was born in the late afternoon within a Canadian hospital. The child was born thanks to surrogacy and he will have three passports. Indeed, Nichi Vendola is Italian, Eddy Testa is Canadian, and the Indonesian woman who carried on the pregnancy is an American citizen. Tobia Antonio is Eddy’s biological son, and he takes the name from Nichi’s mother, Antonia Lategola, and Eddy’s father, Antonio Testa.
Tobia’s birth was in the middle of a political clash. Matteo Salvini, leader of Lega Nord, defined Tobia’s birth as an act of disgusting egotism (“disgustoso egoismo”). Mario Adinolfi, one of the organizers of the Family Day, added that Tobia is just a motherless child. Many politicians strongly insulted the former president of Apulia, Nichi. At the center of the controversy is the fact that he resorted to surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy. Many politicians, expecially those coming from Lega Nord and Forza Italia, affirmed that surrogacy is a form of slavery, as it exploits two women in economic needs: the woman who donates the ovum and the woman who makes her womb available are reduced to a condition of slaves. Furthermore, a child cost around 120.000 euros. As a consequence, children like Tobia represent a selfish luxury for rich people only.
Nichi Vendola is not affected by these insults. Being a father is something he has always wanted. He claimed that there is no vulgarity that can upset his great happiness. Accused of renting a womb, Vendola said that no one can define the relationship established with the woman who carried Tobia in her uterus. It’s a relationship that will last forever and won’t stop with the birth. Tobia is, first of all, the son of a beautiful love story. The woman who carried him for nine months and her family are part of Nichi and Eddy’s life. Vendola added that those politicians insulting him on social networks remind him of a proverb saying “ognuno dal proprio cuor l’altro misura” (everyone weighs the other from his ‘heart’). Eddy and Nichi live together in Terlizzi, Bari, since 2004. The two partners have often highlighted how much discriminated they feel in a state that doesn’t recognize their rights. Indeed, in Italy, there is still no law regulating adoption for same-sex couples. Since the stepchild adoption was taken out from the “maxiemendamento Cirinnà”, Nichi Vendola’s paternity will in fact be recognized in Canada only. In other words, Nichi Vendola has become a father in Canada, but not in Italy. According to the Italian Law, Vendola is just a stranger for the little Tobia.
Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies, claimed that she’s very happy for the arrival of Tobia in Nichi Vendola and Eddy Testa’s family. The birth of a child is always a happy event to be welcomed with joy. She also asserted that disagreeing on a sensitive issue such as surrogacy doesn’t authorize anyone to insult someone else. The topic is certainly complex. The President reiterated her position by saying that she has problems for what concerns surrogacy involving destitute women in developing countries. However, when the women’s choice is free and informed, the situation is different. I agree with Laura Boldrini. Of course, surrogacy represents a huge topic to discuss on. I personally conceive surrogacy as a beautiful, altruistic gesture and not as a form of proletarian exploitation. However, since there are pros and cons, it’s important to open debates around the topic. What it’s fundamental to underline is that surrogacy cannot be simply defined as an impulsive, selfish act. First off, the will of having a baby through surrogacy is always a rational, thought out choice. Secondly, having a baby is always a sort of ‘selfish’ act: couples decide to have a baby to complete their own life journey (what I call ‘positive selfishness’). Therefore, if ‘selfishness’ applies to same-sex couples, it has to be applied to straight couples too.
(See: http://www.ansa.it/english/news/politics/2016/02/29/boldrini-slams-attacks-on-vendola_8adaf4ee-7e82-44e5-9a8c-f1f71df705a0.html, https://twitter.com/lauraboldrini/status/705091720179011586, https://twitter.com/lauraboldrini?lang=it and http://www.lauraboldrini.it/)
In Italy, surrogacy started being discussed in the last year since it has been connected to debates on homosexual couples’ rights, for instance with the “DDL Cirinnà”. However, the practice of surrogacy was born for helping infertile, heterosexual couples. Why does the topic create scandal only when it’s used by same-sex partners? I don’t want to enter the issue of surrogacy, since it’s delicate and vast. What I want to reflect on is the condition of homophobic backwardness in which Italy finds itself. Italy is still culturally unprepared to welcome the happy news of a child born through surrogacy because of its conservatism, ignorance and bigotry. Imagine for a moment a conversation among children at elementary school. We are in Tobia Antonio’s class. The other children noticed that Tobia is never accompanied by his mother. They never saw her at school. At Tobia’s birthday parties she is always absent. She never attends parent-teacher’s meetings and Tobia’s school plays. Surely, children will ask, at a certain point: “teacher, why does Tobia have two fathers? Is the mother dead?” To put in other words, I am afraid that Tobia Antonio will find himself in a school that during these years has never talked about or dealt with homosexuality and sex education. Nichi and Ed’s son probably will find himself in a school where teachers still give assignments for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Can we hope for Italy to become like Sweden, for instance, in which teachers are prepared and opened to welcome family diversity? Can we guarantee Tobia to live without ever being discriminated? Beyond our opinion on surrogacy, which can be either pro or against, let’s reflect, first. A baby is born. Let’s focus on that. In the world, there is a new life making an entire family happy. Let’s respect Nichi and Eddy’s privacy, then. Tobia is the result of a future that has become possible. Regulating people’s rights, without being imprisoned by prejudices, it’s the only useful thing that we can do as human beings.
Welcome to the world, Tobia. To fight for you too will be an honor.