Saturday, 21 November 2015

Report calls for urgent legal reform for surrogacy

Far fewer Britons seek surrogacy overseas than previously thought
A new report, published by Surrogacy UK, claims to dispel many of the myths concerning international surrogacy and brings into focus the practice of surrogacy in the UK. The report, endorsed by Mary Warnock, Professor Margot Brazier and Professor Susan Golombok. calls for reform of surrogacy law.

According to the report – Surrogacy in the UK: Myth busting and reform – written by Dr Kirsty Horsey of University of Kent, far fewer Britons seek surrogacy overseas than had been previously thought, so dispelling the myth that international surrogacy has become commonplace for intended parents from the UK.

The report also shows that there is widespread rejection of any move towards commercialisation of surrogacy. The overwhelming majority of surrogacy in the UK is undertaken by women on an altruistic basis with most UK surrogates receiving less than £15,000 for out-of-pocket expenses incurred, demonstrating that surrogacy is a relationship and not a transaction.

Also highlighted by the report is the overwhelming support (75% of survey respondents) for legal reform in order better to represent how UK surrogacy works in practice. The report shows that both surrogates and intended parents want to remove the legal uncertainty over parenthood at the point of birth. At the moment legal parenthood rests with the surrogate at birth. The intended parents must apply after birth for a parental order, which can take several months. In the meantime they have no legal rights and the child is left in legal limbo. The report finds that 69% of surrogates are opposed to being able to change their mind about giving a baby back to its intended parents. Only 5% believe that a surrogate should be able to change her mind at any point.

Surrogacy UK has set up a working group on surrogacy reform consisting of: Natalie Smith, trustee, Surrogacy UK; Sarah Jones, chairperson, Surrogacy UK; Dr Kirsty Horsey, senior lecturer, Kent Law School; Louisa Ghevaert, partner, Michelmores LLP; and Sarah Norcross, director, Progress Educational Trust.

Recommendations for reform include:
  • The principle of altruistic surrogacy, which operates in the UK must be protected to reflect that surrogacy is a relationship, not a transaction.
  • Parental orders should be pre-authorised so that legal parenthood is conferred on intended parents at birth.
  • Intended parents should register the birth.
  • Parental orders should be available to single people who use surrogacy.
  • Parental orders should be available to IPs where neither partner has used their own gametes ('double donation').
  • The time limit for applying for a parental order should be removed.
  • Parental order/surrogacy birth data should be centrally and transparently collected and published annually.
  • IVF surrogacy cycles and births should be accurately recorded by fertility clinics/ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
  • NHS funding should be made available for IVF surrogacy in line with NICE guidelines.
  • The rules on surrogacy-related advertising and the criminalisation of this should be reviewed in the context of non-profit organisations.
The following actions for government are recommended:
  • The Department of Health, in consultation with the surrogacy community, should draft and publish a 'legal pathway' document for IPs and surrogates.
  • The Department of Health should produce guidance for professionals in the field, written in consultation with the surrogacy community for midwives and hospitals, Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and clinics.
  • Surrogacy should be included in schools' sex and relationships education (SRE) classroom curriculum (from primary) – linked to awareness of (in)fertility, family options for same sex partners etc.