Natalie has written a comment piece for Bionews criticising the unchallengeable position surrogate mothers are currently given by UK surrogacy law.
The law in the UK has long provided that the woman who gives birth is the legal mother. In surrogacy cases, the intended parents (one or both of whom must be the biological parents) can apply to the family court to have parenthood reassigned to them, but they are entirely dependent on the surrogate and her husband/civil partner giving their consent. If it is withheld, they cannot become the legal parents. Conversely, if the intended parents do not take responsibility, the surrogate has no means of holding them both legally responsible for the life they have created.
Natalie criticises the law as being outdated in a modern age in which surrogacy is becoming more common. Very few arrangements do go wrong (a proportion of roughly 0.02%) and where things run to plan, the current law means that parental responsibility is left in the wrong hands for far too long, contrary to everyone’s wishes and the best interests of the child. In the rare cases where things go wrong, the courts in practice decide care arrangements flexibly on a best interests basis, but legal parentage can remain unresolved forever.
It is time for us to introduce law which deals with surrogacy in a much more sophisticated way, understanding that it is a collaborative process in which the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved – the surrogate, her partner, the intended parents and the child – all need to be carefully balanced. This is what both surrogates and parents want, and what is in the best interests of children born through surrogacy.
You can read Natalie’s comment piece Should surrogate mothers still have an absolute right to change their minds? or find out more about surrogacy law from our website.