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France to recognise children born via surrogates abroad

7 July 2014
Appeared in BioNews 761

France will no longer deny citizenship to children born via surrogates to French parents overseas, Minister for Families Laurence Rossignol confirmed, after a decision at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The case was brought by two couples who had gone to the USA for surrogacy, which is illegal in France. Their children, who are now teenagers, had been denied citizenship or, in one case, any legal recognition of their parentage by the French courts. US authorities, on the other hand, identified the parents as such.

'This contradiction', said the ECtHR, 'undermined the children's identity within French society'.

In both families, the children were conceived using the father's sperm and donated eggs. The ECtHR judged that 'in one of the families, preventing the recognition and establishment of the children's legal relationship with their biological father, the French State had overstepped the permissible margin of appreciation [given to States in the area of surrogacy]'.

Ultimately, the Court held that the children's right to respect for their private life had been infringed, in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In parliament, Rossignol said: 'This is a decision we will not dispute. The government will take into account these two judgments in its domestic law'.

The decision did not call France's ban on surrogacy into question, but rather primed the 'interests of the children' over the conduct of parents, Rossignol said. She reminded parliament that 'several penal provisions allow for the prosecution of those who resort to surrogacy abroad'.

Patrice Spinosi, the lawyer for one of the couples, claimed that French courts' longstanding denial of citizenship in overseas surrogacy cases had left 2,000 children in legal limbo. They should be able to successfully apply for citizenship in three months' time, when the ECtHR's decision will be incorporated into French law.

Spinosi said that, thanks to the ECtHR's decision, his clients' children now had 'the right to enjoy an ordinary life day-to-day, free from such an administrative burden'. He said that the decision 'should be recognised as jurisprudence in all countries of the EU'.

Commentators from France's sizeable anti-surrogacy lobby were less enthusiastic. 'This judgment by the European Court compels us, somehow, to "close our eyes" if people use surrogacy abroad', legal expert Aude Mirkovic told Le Figaro. 'You can now go quietly abroad to buy a child, the European Court guarantees an after-sales service'.

Philippe Gosselin, an MP for the opposition centre-right UMP party, maintained that 'the government's inaction in the face of the ECtHR decision can only be read as revealing its desire to accept surrogacy in France'.

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