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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Legal case brings France's surrogacy laws into focus

18 April 2011

By Nisha Satkunarajah

Appeared in BioNews 604

France's highest court has denied French citizenship to 10-year-old twins born to a French couple using a surrogate in the USA, reaffirming the country's ban on surrogacy.

Sylvie and Dominique Mennesson decided to enlist the help of a surrogate from California after Mrs Mennesson discovered she was unable to have children. The couple used Mr Mennesson's sperm and a donated egg resulting in the birth of twins in 2000. Although the children have US citizenship, the couple has since struggled in a legal battle to have their children recognised as French citizens.

The French Supreme Court, the Court of Cassation, ruled that a decision of a Californian court to the effect that the Mennessons were the legal parents of the children went too far. It followed a lower court's ruling that removed the children from France's civil registry. Being listed on the registry is a requirement when obtaining identity documents and French citizenship. The Court did say, however, that nothing prevented the children living with the Mennessons in France.

Lawyers for the couple attempted to argue that the twins should remain in the civil registry as it was in the 'superior interest' of the children. The Court found that this would, however, conflict with French laws and said its decision did not 'infringe upon the right and respect of the private and familial life of these children'.

Commenting on the ruling, Mrs Mennesson said: 'Once more the rights of our children have not been respected. We feel crushed. Our children are foreigners on French soil'. The couple's lawyer said they plan to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The French ruling highlights the legal uncertainty couples face due to the varying legal status of surrogacy internationally. Both altruistic and commercial surrogacy agreements are prohibited under France's civil code on parenting although many countries, including some states in the USA, are more permissive.

Recent difficulties have been raised after a French couple were detained after attempting to smuggle twins born to a surrogate in the Ukraine across the Ukraine-Hungary border. The couple said they were desperate after French authorities refused to issue the children passports.


Boston Globe | 07 April 2011
France rules against children of surrogate mothers
Associated Press | 06 April 2011
Seattle Times | 06 April 2011
NY Times | 06 April 2011
French family detained for smuggling 2 infants
Associated Press | 24 March 2011
The Connexion – France's English-language newspaper | 07 April 2011


04 February 2013 - by James Brooks 
The French Justice Minister's instruction to courts to accept citizenship applications for children born via surrogates in other countries has unleashed a political and popular furore... [Read More]
18 June 2012 - by James Brooks 
A French court has effectively reaffirmed the country's policy of gamete donor anonymity by rejecting a donor-conceived woman's demand for information on her biological father... [Read More]
05 March 2012 - by James Brooks 
The Court of Appeal in Rennes, France, has upheld an earlier decision to accord civil status – similar to nationality – to twins carried by a surrogate mother in India for a French couple... [Read More]
14 November 2011 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A High Court in South Africa has set out guidelines for judicial approaches to surrogacy arrangements in light of new family law legislation which came into force last year.... [Read More]
04 July 2011 - by Louisa Ghevaert 
Assisted reproduction in the form of IVF, donor conception and surrogacy is challenging global attitudes towards medical science and is presenting a unique global regulatory challenge.... [Read More]

21 February 2011 - by Nishat Hyder 
Uncertainty has arisen over the procedures followed by an Indian surrogacy clinic following the birth of twins to a gay couple from Spain. The couple used a donated egg, which was then artificially fertilised and implanted in a surrogate.... [Read More]
07 February 2011 - by Nishat Hyder 
The Indian Parliament is debating new surrogacy laws to establish a clear regulatory framework to reduce exploitation in its commercial surrogacy market. If passed in its current form, India will recognise surrogacy agreements as legally binding.... [Read More]
10 January 2011 - by Louisa Ghevaert 
International surrogacy has become big news. Last month, a landmark international commercial surrogacy case, Re L, attracted front page national headlines. Hard on its heels the media spotlight fell on the birth of Elton John and David Furnish's US surrogate born son, Zachary, on Christmas Day. This has fuelled the debate about surrogacy and the question is why has it generated such attention?... [Read More]
13 December 2010 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK's High Court has granted legal parenthood to the parents of a child born using a surrogate in the United States to allow them to keep the child in the country.... [Read More]
06 December 2010 - by Rachel Lyons 
In a cold room on a Wednesday afternoon within the Institute of Child Health in London, talk turned to warmer climes during session two of the Progress Educational Trust (PET)'s annual conference. Even though the temperature of the room was cold, the debate surrounding who does (and should) oversee overseas cross-border reproductive care 'hotted up'... [Read More]

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