Families in New Zealand with babies born through surrogacy are unable to bring them home due to international border restrictions related to COVID-19.
New Zealand's Family Court has now streamlined the process to allow babies to be adopted overseas and taken home on New Zealand passports. Previously, the families of surrogate babies had to file paperwork to bring them home, then apply for adoption once back in New Zealand.
'With the travel restrictions, what we're finding is that they can't travel out over to the country where their newborn child is,' Professor Debra Wilson, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, told RNZ. 'And even if they can get there the whole process that they have to go through to bring the child back to New Zealand is just not working because they need to deal with a lot of government departments, and they seem to have understandably other things that are being prioritised.'
Popular countries for New Zealand families looking for surrogates include the US, Ukraine and Greece, but COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in international border closures. For some families using surrogates in Ukraine, the wait to see their children lasted six months.
Parents also have to bring their babies home on an overseas passport and visitor visa, and formally adopt and change their nationality once back in New Zealand, according to Professor Wilson. 'The problem is that they're not the legal parents. So they actually can't just pick up the child and get on a plane.'
Now, Family Court judges and a surrogacy lawyer have written a protocol to speed up the process. 'They realised that this was going to be a potential problem for quite a long time and so they've put in place a different system, which tries to cut down on all the paperwork and allow the child to come home,' said Professor Wilson.
'What the protocol is doing is getting rid of that requirement that the child needs to come to New Zealand first, so it's enabling the adoption to take place overseas.'
MP Tāmati Coffey of the New Zealand Labour Party, who has a one-year-old son born via surrogate, applauded the change but said that there should be no need for genetic parents to have to adopt.
'I still personally believe that if a child is biologically yours that you shouldn't have to go through an adoption process because in no normal situation would you have to do that,' he told RNZ. 'But as the law currently stands, that is the situation, so congrats to the Family Court for trying to streamline their processes for trying to make it easier in terms of international surrogacy.'