09:58, May 04 85 0 theguardian.com

2018-05-04 09:58:06
Surrogacy review to tackle laws declared unfit for purpose

The complex laws governing surrogacy are to be reviewed to speed up the granting of parental orders and deter the exploitation of birth mothers abroad.

The Department of Health has given the Law Commission £150,000 for the three-year project, which is expected to lead to a rewriting of the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 and the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

Courts in the UK make about 300 parental orders each year which allow a child to be handed over from its birth mother to the other parents. The number of surrogacy agreements may, though, be far larger – some estimates suggest up to 500 a year.

The figures are growing. Before 2008, the number of parental orders in the UK was fewer than 50 a year. Surrogate mothers cannot receive payments, but their expenses, usually up to £15,000, will be covered.

A law commissioner for England and Wales, Prof Nick Hopkins, said: “Our society has moved on from when surrogacy laws were first introduced 30 years ago and, now, they are not fit for purpose.

“For many, having a child is the best day of their lives and surrogacy can be the only option for some who want a genetic link to the baby. But the issues are difficult and there is no quick fix. Now we want all those with an interest to get involved and help us make the law fit for the modern world.”

The review, which will cover the whole of the UK, is being done in conjunction with the Scottish Law Commission. One of its commissioners, David Johnston QC, said: “Surrogacy is becoming more common every year, so it’s important that we have the right laws in place to protect all involved. That’s why we’ll be consulting widely to make sure we have surrogacy laws that work for the parents, the surrogate and, most importantly, the child.”

One problem with the law is the slow process of granting parental orders through the courts, which makes it difficult for the intended parents to make medical decisions about their child. The legal process can only begin after the baby is born.

Uncertainty over UK legislation is thought to be encouraging the use of international arrangements with birth mothers overseas – an area in which there are concerns about the exploitation of surrogate mothers.

The review will also examine how surrogacy is regulated and how it may be improved. The commission, which can initiate reviews on its own, is working more closely with government departments to boost its small amount of core funding and identify where more urgent changes to the law are required.



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