Review of The Families Through Surrogacy London Conference 2015
I was delighted to be a keynote speaker on UK surrogacy law at the Families Through Surrogacy Conference in London. I also chaired an interesting session on surrogacy in Georgia and Ukraine.
The Fertility and Parenting team at Michelmores had a dedicated stand and we were on hand to answer intended parents' legal questions and speak with other conference delegates throughout the day.
The conference was attended by over 150 delegates and included expert speakers from all over the world. The speakers covered a diverse and topical range of issues; from first hand experiences as a surrogate mother and intended parent through to fertility treatment, the psychology of surrogacy and the process for applying for a British passport for a surrogate born child. There was lively debate throughout the day about the current state of UK surrogacy law, immigration issues, costs, and the varied legal and practical approach to surrogacy internationally.
I spoke about the sticky legal issues in surrogacy cases. Surrogacy law and policy around the world is evolving. It is fast moving and the lack of international harmonisation of surrogacy law creates complex legal issues for intended parents and surrogates. This has been brought into focus once again following recent military intervention in Thailand, the ban on commercial surrogacy and foreigners undertaking surrogacy in Thailand and the introduction of lengthy prison sentences for breach of Thai law.
Surrogacy law in the UK was first put into place 30 years ago. The aim was to prevent the commercialisation of surrogacy in the UK and for it to take place on an altruistic basis. The subsequent globalisation of the fertility arena and changing attitudes to family building create increasingly challenging issues for intended parents, surrogates and law and policy makers. Some of the sticky legal issues covered in my session included:
- Surrogacy and legal parenthood
- Legal requirements for a parental order
- Legal consent to the grant of a parental order (following the recent Indian surrogacy case of AB and CD v CT  where legal difficulties arose with the consent of the Indian surrogate mother).
- Legal challenges for single parents through surrogacy (following the recent case of B v C v D v A v Local Authority  where an adoption order was granted to a solo father).
- The six month time limit for issue of a parental order stipulated in s54(3) HFEA 2008.
- Legal treatment of commercial payments in surrogacy cases.
The head of the policy team for Her Majesty's Passport Office spoke about current law and policy for the grant of British citizenship and British passports for surrogate born children. He highlighted some of the legal pitfalls including the importance of third party checks, identification and verification of surrogate mothers, correct documentation to support British passport applications and varying processing times.
Given the legal complexities associated with surrogacy, it remains the consistent message of the English Family Court and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that intended parents should obtain specialist legal advice at the outset of their surrogacy journey.