A single father who used a surrogate mother to have a child hopes the laws which regulate these agreements will soon be changed.
The man’s son was born two years ago following a surrogacy agreement with a woman in the United States. The child was conceived using a third party donor egg. Under American law, he is recognised as the child’s legal father and has parental responsibility for him.
However, he has faced legal difficulties in the UK. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 states that applications for parental orders following surrogacy can only be made by couples who are married, civil partners or “in an enduring family relationship”. Surrogate mothers are considered the legal parents until the people who wanted the child get a ‘parental order’. Once they have done so, they are legally recognised as parents. Single people are not eligible for such orders.
The father’s legal lack of a parental order apparently means he cannot apply for his son to have a passport, he said in a BBC interview this week. This meant he was unable “to take [his] son away on a trip for a short period of time”. He will continue to have similar problems as the boy gets older, he continued, as he “can’t choose which school [the boy] goes to”.
Earlier this year, the child was made a ward of court. This means that while the father continues to look after him day-to-day, the High Court is responsible for all decisions regarding his care. In a later judgment Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, ruled that the law discriminated against single parents.
In response to the judgment, Health Minister Lord Prior said the government would seek “to update the legislation on parental orders, and are now considering how best to do this”. The father told the BBC this possibility made him “very happy because it means that there’s a strong likelihood that the law will be changed” and he will finally “be in the same situation as most families”.
The man’s solicitor said she had more than 40 other clients in similar circumstances. Most of them are going through daily life “hoping that no-one ever asks the questions to uncover the fact that they don’t have the status they need”.
I must admit that I do think surrogacy law needs overhauling. Science and the creation of “designer babies” has moved faster than the law. But should just one person be able to have a parental order or should a child have two parents as a result of surrogacy. I agree with a revision of the time limit of 6 months to apply for such an order. I’m more troubled by the one parent proposal.
Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.