Crown Princess Mette-Marit has confirmed that she made what the Royal Palace is calling a “private” trip to India this autumn, to take care of two babies born through surrogacy to gay Norwegian parents, one of whom is employed by the palace. The unconventional royal trip attracted media attention, not least because surrogacy is illegal in Norway and a topic of frequent political debate.
Local newspaper Haugesunds Avis reported on Monday that the crown princess traveled to New Delhi on October 23 to fill in for the twin babies’ biological Norwegian fathers after they had run into problems getting visas to India. The two men were described as “close friends” of the royal couple who had hired a surrogate mother in the Indian capital to bear their children.
The palace confirmed that the crown princess had traveled to New Delhi on her credentials while the fathers waited for their visas. One of the men spends 80 percent of his work time running the royal couple’s charitable fund (Kronprinsparets Fond) and the other 20 percent working in the Royal Secretariat. The palace reported on its website Monday that Crown Princess Mette-Marit returned to Norway October 28 after the babies’ “close family” arrived in India and “took over responsibility” for the babies.
Norway’s embassy in New Delhi, which cautions Norwegians on the front page of is own website that surrogacy is not binding under Norwegian law, was informed of the crown princess’ “private trip” to India, according to palace officials. Indian officials were not informed, the palace confirmed. The officials also noted that “the crown princess stayed at a hotel and the trip was paid for with private funds.”
The crown princess’ assistance in the case may stir debate, because Norwegian authorities routinely advise Norwegians against entering into agreements with surrogate mothers in foreign countries. In India, surrogacy has become a lucrative industry, with Haugesunds Avis reporting how Indian analysts have valued the country’s fertility industry at around NOK 13 billion (USD 2.3 billion) this year.
Increasing numbers of Norwegian couples, both gay or otherwise unable to have children of their own, have nonetheless used surrogacy including the former director of the Norwegian state police who used a surrogate mother in the US. While some would-be Norwegian parents encounter legal problems surrounding their claim to the children after returning home, nearly 30 babies born to surrogate mothers in India have received Norwegian passports from the Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi after the Norwegian fathers were formally recognized.
It’s a risky process, though, because the surrogate mother’s husband is, according to the embassy, generally viewed as father to the child regardless of biological ties. Legally accepted fatherhood, writes the embassy, demands that both the surrogate mother and any husband she may have agree to pass on parenthood to those who have paid her to bear the child.
Denies taking a stand on surrogacy issue
Palace officials claimed on the website that Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s trip does not mean she “has taken a position on the surrogacy debate.” Mette-Marit herself acknowledged on the royals’ website that “an important debate” about surrogacy is “going on” in Norway. “For me, this (her involvement in helping Norwegians who opted for surrogacy) isn’t meant to be a contribution to the debate,” she wrote.
“For me, this was about me being the person who could help two newborn babies who were alone in the world,” Mette-Marit added, with no further word regarding the status or whereabouts of the babies’ surrogate mother.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit reportedly traveled to the Manav Medicare Center in New Delhi under the guise of being a “nanny” to the twins, who would care for them until their fathers arrived. No one at the clinic was told the so-called “nanny” was Norway’s next queen. Mette-Marit herself suggested that she used her position with entry rights to India to make the trip.
“I was the one who could travel,” she wrote. “For me, it was important to contribute with what I could do.” She also wrote that she made her decision to travel after “discussing the question with my husband (Crown Prince Haakon). He agreed that I should go.”
Her trip meant that, among other things, she missed attending the annual banquet held for Members of Parliament at the Royal Palace in Oslo. Her absence was not explained. Haugesunds Avis reported that the crown princess herself checked the baby twins out of the clinic two days after they were born and took them to an undisclosed location. On October 27th, a relative of the children assumed care of them and Mette-Marit traveled home to Norway. The babies’ fathers finally received a visa in November and they arrived back in Norway over the weekend.
‘Crown princess’ involvement could have consequences’
The fathers declined to be interviewed but said through a palace spokeswoman that they were “eternally grateful for what Crown Princess Mette-Marit did for us in this difficult situation.” There was no immediate word on whether King Harald approved her trip and her involvement in the surrogacy case, or whether the Norwegian government was aware of it.
Haugesunds Avis, whose journalist reportedly had bumped into Mette-Marit by coincidence at the clinic in New Delhi back in October, noted that it had held off on publishing the story “out of consideration to the children who are not public figures.” The newspaper also referred to “the children’s situation and the process of getting them out of India.” Haugesunds Avis also reported that it had received indications that “immediate coverage of the crown princess’ involvement” could have political consequences for the babies that were uncertain.
Mette-Marit herself explained her involvement by noting on the palace website that “sometimes in life you come into a difficult situation with few if any good solutions. It’s in such situations that you need to make difficult choices, even though it can have a price. I experienced this as such a situation.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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