Surrogacy in the UK

Children|Family Law|August 21st 2014

The surrogacy system in the UK may not be sustainable, according to a BBC documentary which will be broadcast tonight.

The Report: Surrogacy will examine the current state of surrogacy in the country.

Surrogacy is a highly emotive and complex subject. Couples who cannot have children often turn to surrogacy in the hopes of becoming parents.

Recently, headlines were made when an Australian couple abandoned their surrogate child when they found out he suffered from Down’s syndrome.

UK surrogacy laws are not all that different from Australia’s. Surrogacy is legal in the UK, however ‘commercial surrogacy’ is not. A potential surrogate mother can neither advertise nor charge for her services. The only money she can legally accept would be for medical bills, clothes and other ‘reasonable’ expenses, such as loss of income.

The British system is based entirely on trust. Agreements between a couple seeking a child and the surrogate mother cannot be enforced by law.

When a surrogate mother gives birth, she is legally the child’s parent until a parental order can be made. This is a legal transfer of parental responsibility to the ‘intended parents’. The issue of parental responsibility is further complicated if surrogate mother is married. Under English law, the husband will be recognised as the child’s father even if he is of no relation.

As agreements are not enforceable by law, the parents who want a child may be denied if the surrogate mother chooses to keep the baby. They will have no legal avenue to explore in order to get the child they were promised.

That is the system which the BBC will look at. The documentary will ask the question: is a system based entirely on trust, with no legal enforcement, sustainable?

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