Surrogacy—what's next for the UK?

Surrogacy—what's next for the UK?

Guest blogger Natasha Slabas examines what could, and should, happen next in relation to surrogacy laws in the UK, taking into account changes to international surrogacy in other countries including India and Thailand.

Changes ahead

India accounts for 56.3% of all of the UK’s international surrogacy arrangements (as cited within Cafcass’s study on parental order applications made in 2013/2014). Surrogacy is a $2.3b industry according to the BBC. Sama, an advocacy support group promoting women’s health and rights in New Delhi, measures profits of $42m. Of this, BBC reports indicate that the clinics receive about 62%, with the surrogates themselves receiving only 38%.

In India a surrogate mother must have had a child of her own and can take part in this type of arrangement once only. The surrogate remains in a hostel throughout the pregnancy, so as to receive medical treatment and to avoid being outcast by her home community. But soon this 'surrogate capital' of the world will prohibit foreign couples from entering into surrogacy arrangements. Thailand also banned surrogacy in 2014 following an Australian couple’s choice to disown one of their twins born with Down’s Syndrome, leaving him behind with his Thai surrogate mother.

Position in the UK

The UK prohibits commercial surrogacy, only allowing for altruistic circumstances. There is no onus on the commissioning parents to make financial provision for medical treatment for the surrogate during the pregnancy but they can reimburse reasonable expenses. The surrogate is the legal parent, as is her husband if she is married, unless and until an application is made by the commissioning parents for a parental order (which can be made no earlier than six weeks and no later than six months after the child’s date of birth). An adoption order can also be applied for in respect of which no time limit is stipulated.

This means that there is no legal recognition of the commissioning parents' status for as much as six months after the child’s birth. There are obvious risks – medical issues may arise during pregnancy, or, even worse, a surrogate may die without

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