A veteran surrogate mother has called for reform of Britain’s aging surrogacy laws.
Under the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985, surrogate mothers automatically receive the legal status of parents to the children they carry, even if (as in most cases) they have no genetic relationship to them. Despite being no relation, the mother’s partner or spouse will also receive this status (unless he or she did not agree to the surrogacy). In order to legally become the child’s parents, the couple who commissioned the surrogacy must apply for a ‘parental order’ transferring the status to them, a potentially slow and expensive process which involves a detailed assessment of both families.
Around 500 parental orders were issued last year.
Sarah Jones has carried no less than four surrogate babies and is now head of the charity Surrogacy UK. She believes this legislation is behind the times and based on a mistaken notion that surrogate mothers sometimes want to keep the children they bear.
“The laws are 30 years old. They were made up when little was known about surrogacy in general. There was a preconceived idea that surrogates wanted the right to change their mind after they’ve had the child and that’s since been completely debunked. Surrogates have absolutely no wish to keep a baby.”
Instead, Jones said, the commissioning parents should automatically receive parental status in law, something legally termed ‘parental responsibility’.
“We want to give genetic parents their parental rights as soon as possible. These are really simple things that I think people take for granted when they’ve got a new baby, and they can’t be done.”
“I’m a childminder, and I look after children for years and years, 10 hours a day, and I do everything for them, but I don’t want to keep them when their parents come and pick them up. It’s the same sort of feeling. You can care for them while you’re carrying them, but you don’t want to keep them at the end.”