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'Myth busting' report on UK surrogacy calls for legal reform

23 November 2015
Appeared in BioNews 829

A report calling for reform of surrogacy laws in the UK has revealed that the majority of arrangements are conducted on an altruistic basis and do not take place abroad, contrasting with what it claims are commonly held misconceptions.

The study, produced by Dr Kirsty Horsey at the University of Kent, and Surrogacy UK, a not-for-profit surrogacy agency, examined existing data on surrogacy arrangements, along with results from a survey of intended parents and surrogates, among others.

It found that, contrary to the perception that surrogacy practice in the UK is often done on a commercial basis, the majority of women who had acted as surrogates received less than £15,000 for out-of-pocket expenses incurred. It also found that, although the data on overseas surrogacy arrangements are limited, the number of people who are travelling abroad for surrogacy is far less than believed.

'This report shows that most British people who turn to surrogacy to have a family stay in the UK. It is a myth that thousands of Britons are travelling abroad each year for surrogacy,' said Natalie Smith of Surrogacy UK.

The report, Surrogacy in the UK: Myth busting and reform, states that more should be done to support those who use surrogacy and to increase certainty for all parties involved. It recommends that the law on surrogacy, which is now in part 30 years old, should be updated to reflect the altruistic, compensatory model the report identified in its findings, and to be better aligned with how surrogacy is undertaken in practice.

'The report provides an evidence base from which surrogacy law can be reformed, and the time for that process of reform to begin is now. The law should be based on the realities of surrogacy as it is practised by the majority of those who undertake it, and reflect their perceptions,' said Dr Horsey, who is also a contributing editor at BioNews.

In particular, the report calls for changes to the rules on parental orders, which it says are 'too restrictive'. In order to become the legal parents of children born through surrogacy, most intended parents are required to apply for parental orders. The law currently prevents single parents and also couples who require both donated sperm and eggs from obtaining parental orders.

The report recommends that parental orders should be made available to single people and those requiring both donated sperm and eggs. It also recommends that parental orders are allowed to be pre-authorised so that intended parents can become the legal parents at birth.

The majority of respondents to the report's survey supported parental orders being allowed to be pre-authorised. Three-quarters of respondents favoured law reform, and many believed the existing law is out of date.

Louisa Ghevaert, of law firm Michelmores LLP and who contributed to the report, said that legal reform was needed to protect the welfare of children born through surrogacy. 'Legal reform matters because these are real children and families that are being created through surrogacy in the UK,' she said.

Surrogacy in the UK: Myth busting and reform [pdf]
Surrogacy UK |  20 November 2015
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