A multinational family law organisation considered the legal issues surrounding surrogacy at a conference in London this week.
The International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML), established in 1986, represents family lawyers recognised by their peers for their experience and skill. It currently has more than 690 fellows, including Stowe Family Law Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe, from 49 different countries.
The IAML holds regular events for members on different legal topics. The recent symposium featured keynote speaker Mrs Justice Theis, who highlighted the increasing number of commissioning parents who enter surrogacy arrangements, often in countries which permit commercial surrogacy, but then fail to properly register the resulting children. The youngsters in question are run the risk of being left both “stateless and parentless” and face many potential difficulties, the Judge explained. The situation was, she said, a “ticking timebomb”.
The event was attended by IAML fellows from 30 different countries around the world, including Australia, India, Hong Kong, Argentina, Mexico, Israel, South Africa and Ukraine. A central topic amongst delegates was a possibility of a new Hague convention (multinational legal treaty) on surrogacy law. The IAML noted that there had been “lively discussion and considerable disagreement on whether such a convention was necessary or beneficial.”
IAML President William Longrigg explained:
“One of the main issues internationally is the difference of opinion about the right of an individual to be a parent. The legal status of the surrogate is also a fraught subject. There is a fundamental conflict over the importance of the rights of the child in different jurisdictions but these differences need to be aired and discussed. This was the first conference on surrogacy which has brought together so many different jurisdictions”.
Delegates examined elements of the different jurisdictions which might form the basis of a new convention, and also discussed ways in which they might lobby governments to change the current laws to harmonize legislation and improve outcomes for affected children.
Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE is a surrogacy specialist and IAML governor. She described “’the creation of a multilateral treaty on surrogacy arrangements” as “a priority” to which the IAML had committed the expertise of its members.
President-Elect Nancy Zalusky Berg, who is also a past president of the US chapter of the IAML, stressed the importance of a proactive approach to this complex topic.
“It is critical, at this time, that we professionals in the field take steps to address the rights and needs of the children born via assisted reproductive technology to establish citizenship and the security of legally recognised parentage”.