UK Surrogacy has been regulated since 1985 through the Surrogacy Arrangements Act which reflected societal attitudes towards surrogacy at that time.
However, since then, there have been major social changes, not least the birth of the internet and access to cheap travel abroad for fertility treatment. In addition, there has been a change in the structure of the traditional family unit. Many in society accept readily that this no longer consists of the 2.4 nuclear stereotype, and that there are many more ways of planning and having a family than there had been in years gone by .
I have blogged in the past on the legal minefield intended parent(s) face when deciding to have a family though surrogacy and the challenges that confront them as they navigate this legal framework to ensure that they are recognised as the legal parent(s) of any child born through surrogacy. This can be further complicated when the surrogacy arrangement has taken place abroad.
Consequently, the need for a complete overhaul of our UK surrogacy laws has been well overdue. I was therefore very excited to read the first ever report of its kind by Surrogacy UK Working Group providing an unprecedented insight into how surrogacy is practised in the UK, whilst at the same time eliminating a number of universal myths that have formed the basis of many debates in recent years with calls for a total reform. A complete copy of the report can be found here: Report of the Surrogacy UK.
According to the report, written by Dr Kirsty Horsey, there are far fewer Britons travelling abroad to have a child through surrogacy than had previously been thought. There is widespread support for the proposition that the UK should not be adopting a commercial approach to surrogacy like that found in the USA. What was very clear, however, was the overwhelming support for legal reform of UK law generally,; some 75% calling for a complete overhaul. Interestingly, some 69% of surrogates were opposed to being able to change their minds about giving a baby back to its intended parents. Only 5% believed that a surrogate should be able to change her mind at any point pre- or post-birth.
Surrogacy UK recommended therefore the following changes to our UK surrogacy laws:
- Parental Orders should be pre-authorised so that they are conferred on the intended parents at birth;
- Parental Orders should be available to single people, not just couples;
- Parental Orders should be available to intended parents where neither partner is genetically related to the child;
- Intended parents should be able to register the birth;
- The 6 month time limit for applying for a Parental Order should be relaxed generally;
- Parental Order/ Surrogacy data should be collected centrally and be transparent and reported regularly;
- IVF surrogacy cycles and births should be accurately recorded by clinics/HFEA
- Rules on surrogacy-related advertising and the criminalisation of this should be reviewed in the context of non-profit organisations.
Those who took part in the survey included surrogates, intended parents, practitioners and academics alike, which shows the widespread extent of the support for legal reform of UK law on surrogacy. With such a detailed and comprehensive report available there is clearly a call for law makers to now take action to ensure that the future needs of intended parents, surrogates and children born through surrogacy are met. Hopefully once this is achieved, the UK will begin to see the eradication of the legal uncertainty and stigmatisation of surrogacy generally with it becoming an acceptable and alternative means of assisted reproduction in the future.
If you need UK surrogacy legal advice or any other family law issue please call our Family Team on 0113 246 0622.
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