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Surrogate families made to hand over babies in car parks

14 November 2016

By Lucas Taylor

Appeared in BioNews 877

Some hospitals in the UK are reportedly asking surrogates to leave NHS grounds before handing babies over to their intended parents.

The Independent reports that one couple was given their child in a car park after the hospital asked the surrogate's husband to lead them off the premises before the handover could take place.  

'It seems hospitals don't want to take any responsibility in case a legal dispute occurs and it has happened on their territory so they're liable', the woman involved told the newspaper.

Under UK law, as the birth mother the surrogate remains the legal parent of the child until a parental order is approved by the court that transfers legal parenthood to the intended parents. Natalie Gamble, a lawyer specialising in surrogacy, told The Independent that offsite transfers were 'relatively common' since 'hospitals do not wish to be involved in the handover of a child [to people] who are not legal parents'.

Surrogacy is not illegal in the UK, although surrogacy arrangements are not enforceable. It is also a criminal offence to advertise for a surrogate or surrogacy services, and to receive payment for brokering an arrangement. One mother told The Independent: 'We felt like we were stealing a baby'.

Former Labour MP Julie Hilling has criticised the practice of offsite transfers, saying that 'it makes surrogacy into something like a dirty secret, when actually it's a very positive choice'. She said that given the perceived increase in the use of surrogacy, changes must be made 'to ensure ridiculous things like that don't happen [anymore]'.

Natalie Smith, a trustee of the charity Surrogacy UK, told the Daily Mail that 'no new parents should have to start their journey being made to feel demeaned and ignored, especially at such a life-changing, joyful and vulnerable time'.

In response to the reports, the Department of Health told The Independent that 'altruistic surrogacy is perfectly legal [in the UK] so it's unacceptable that some families feel they are being forced off NHS premises'. The Law Commission is currently considering whether to include surrogacy in its upcoming program of law reform, and The Independent says the Government has indicated that any changes could be introduced as early as 2020. 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

19 December 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
The government has welcomed a House of Lords debate on surrogacy law reform, promising to consider whether the statute needs to be updated...

07 November 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A surrogate has refused to give her consent for the parents of twins to become the children's legal parents, even though she and her husband are not seeking any active involvement in the children's upbringing...
17 October 2016 - by Dr Julie McCandless 
Birth registration seems to be an increasingly 'unstraightforward' procedure for many. Given the impact that birth registration has on wider society, effective law reform cannot be implemented without asking wider questions about the role and purpose of birth registration in contemporary society, as opposed to piecemeal reform of a system that was designed to meet the needs of the early Victorian era...
23 May 2016 - by Daniel Malynn 
The wheels of reform in the area of surrogacy law are slowly getting in motion, a conference in London heard this month...
23 November 2015 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A report calling for reform of surrogacy laws in the UK has revealed that the majority of arrangements are conducted on an altruistic basis and do not take place abroad, contrasting with what it claims are commonly held misconceptions...
29 June 2015 - by Rebecca Carr 
Last month, in a judgment that was hailed as the first of its kind, High Court judge Ms Justice Russell ordered a mother to hand over her child to a gay couple...

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