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Let’s all be honest about payments for surrogacy

A comment from the previous President of the Family Division and a lively debate about surrogacy on Radio 4 on Monday morning has sparked a discussion about payments in surrogacy arrangements.

Sir James Munby on one side has said that we need to face up to reality in relation to expenses and payments which are being made to surrogates and move to a proper system where payments are regulated rather than prohibited. On the other side, one of the UK’s surrogacy organisations position is that surrogates do not want payments to be made and want to retain the ‘current altruistic model’ we have in the UK.

But what really is the issue here?

Surrogates in the UK are already paid, in most cases anyway. In scenarios where a surrogate is a family member or a pre-existing friend then more than likely no payment will be made, however, in other cases where the intended parents have met their surrogate in other ways, i.e. through one of the not-for-profit surrogacy agencies then payments are almost standard.

Just looking at the guidance of some of the main surrogacy agencies in the UK, they say as follows:

“A surrogate’s expenses can be from anywhere between £7k and £15k depending on her personal circumstances.”

“Surrogates in the UK are typically paid between £8,000 and £20,000. Often with additional costs if exceptional circumstances exist. The amount is personal to every arrangement as the logistics and needs can vary widely.”

So why are we pretending that payments are not already being made between surrogates and intended parents?

The Law Commission is currently looking at surrogacy as part of its Thirteenth Programme of Law Reform, and it is simply going to complicate the process if we are not completely clear about the current state of affairs in the UK.

It is not the case that a commercial system is being proposed, what is being suggested is a system which is simply more honest about what payments are already being made.

Rather than dressing these up as expenses, as they are at the moment, and leaving both intended parents and surrogates feeling unsure/unclear about what the legal position is, we should just be honest about payments, what they are for, and have a legal system which recognises that.

Bethan Cleal, Surrogacy Team at Stowe Family Law

Bethan advises on all aspects of family law and is a specialist in domestic and international surrogacy arrangements. Following her training in a niche fertility law firm, she has experience of fertility cases involving legal parentage and donor conception.

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