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Legal case brings France's surrogacy laws into focus

18 April 2011
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.

France bars surrogate twins’ citizenship
Boston Globe |  7 April 2011
France rules against children of surrogate mothers
Associated Press |  6 April 2011
France rules against children of surrogate mothers
Seattle Times |  6 April 2011
France: Surrogacy Ban Affirmed
NY Times |  6 April 2011
French family detained for smuggling 2 infants
Associated Press |  24 March 2011
Surrogate children 'are not French'
The Connexion – France's English-language newspaper |  7 April 2011
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