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Surrogate families separated by coronavirus travel restrictions

30 March 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1041

The COVID-19 pandemic is preventing many families expecting children through international surrogacy from being present for the birth, or from bringing their child home.

With strict international travel restrictions now in place, some intended parents are unable to travel overseas for the birth. Others are experiencing problems in obtaining travel documentation to enable them to return home with their children, leaving them stranded with their newborn babies overseas.

'The difficulties for surrogate babies are particularly acute. This is the fault of outdated UK law which, in conflict with the law in the country of birth, treats the surrogate and her husband as the legal parents rather than the British intended parents', fertility lawyer Natalie Gamble told BioNews. 'The effect, amidst the current crisis, is that many surrogate children are not born British and are therefore not entitled to UK passports or emergency travel documents in the same way as other children. It is yet another example of how UK surrogacy law leaves children unprotected and why it so desperately needs to be updated.'

According to the Guardian, a British couple whose child was born through surrogacy in Portland, Oregon, are unable to obtain an American passport for their child to allow them to travel home. Ordinarily, the couple would have returned to the UK using a US passport for the child, and once home, applied for a parental order through the UK courts. Since the US passport office is currently only granting passports to people facing 'life or death' emergencies, they are unable to leave the US.

Other intended parents are faced with the prospect of missing the births of their children. Gamble told the Guardian that parents of children born through surrogacy in the US 'are extremely worried about how they will get to the US in time for their birth.'

According to the Network of European LGBTIQ Families Associations ('NELFA') this is an issue which is having an especially severe impact on LGBT+ families. A representative told Pink News 'There are dozens of LGBT+ parents facing similar problems. Some of them are stuck in Europe with deliveries in the USA, Canada or Mexico. They are highly stressed and don't know what to do as they are far away from the woman who carries their child.'

Gamble told BioNews 'We now have five cases of British families with babies born overseas which we are helping parents to deal with urgently, and a further 14 families with babies due between now and July. There are likely many more, and this is not just a UK issue but a global one, with families with surrogate children from other countries also effectively stranded in the US.'

14 September 2020 - by Dr Laura Riggall 
Families in New Zealand with babies born through surrogacy are unable to bring them home due to international border restrictions caused by COVID-19...
26 May 2020 - by Emma Bunting 
The COVID-19 pandemic has left parents across the globe whose children have been born through surrogacy in Ukraine across the globe unable to bring their babies home...
13 December 2019 - by BioNews 
In this film, Sarah Norcross - director of the Progress Educational Trust, the charity that publishes BioNews - discusses global surrogacy...
28 October 2019 - by Dr Calum MacKellar 
The Law Commissions of Scotland and England and Wales' joint consultation on surrogacy reform has now closed to responses...
30 September 2019 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
Can law reform solve surrogacy's problems? That was the big question at the start of the Progress Educational Trust (PET) and the Scottish Government's joint public event in Edinburgh on 24 September 2019...
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