Surrogacy

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Making surrogacy laws that work for the parents, the surrogate and, most importantly, the child. The consultation period ran from 6 June to 11 October 2019 and is now closed. We expect to produce a final report with our recommendations for reform of the law, and a draft Bill, in 2021.

Download the full consultation paper here.

Download a summary of the consultation paper here.

Download a Welsh summary of the consultation paper here.

Download an easy read summary of the consultation paper here.

The problem

Becoming a parent is the greatest day in many people’s lives. But sometimes surrogacy can be the only way for people to have children who have a genetic link to them.

Surrogacy is where a woman – the surrogate – bears a child on behalf of someone else or a couple, who intend to become the child’s parents.

As society changes, surrogacy is becoming more common – the number of children born this way could be 10 times higher than it was a decade ago.

In the UK, surrogacy is governed by the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 and certain provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

But there are significant problems with the law. Currently, intended parents have to wait until the child has been born and then apply to court to become the child’s parents. The process can take many months to complete and doesn’t reflect the reality of the child’s family life, and affects the intended parents’ ability to take decisions about the child in their care.

There is also insufficient regulation which makes it difficult to monitor the surrogacy process and those involved in it and ensure that standards throughout the process are kept high. Finally, a lack of clarity around surrogacy payments makes the laws difficult to apply in practice.

The project

This project came out of our 13th Programme of Law Reform. In our open public consultation surrogacy received the most support of those projects which form part of the Programme, with over 340 people and groups saying the law was not fit for purpose.

The project will consider the legal parentage of children born via surrogacy, the regulation of surrogacy more widely, and the international context of surrogacy.

It will take account of the rights of all involved, including the question of a child’s right to access information about their origin and the prevention of exploitation of children and adults.

Consultation paper

We have published our consultation paper on surrogacy reform – Building families through surrogacy: a new law. In the paper, we made provisional proposals to improve surrogacy laws so they better support the child, surrogates and intended parents.

Key proposals include:

  • Creating a new surrogacy pathway that will allow, in many cases, the intended parents to be the legal parents of the child from the moment of birth.
  • Introducing specific regulation for surrogacy arrangements and safeguards such as counselling and independent legal advice. This should reduce risk of arrangements breaking down.
  • Allowing international surrogacy arrangements to be recognised here, on a country-by-country basis.

We asked a series of questions to find out views on the types of payments that intended parents should be permitted to make to the surrogate. You can find a link to the full consultation paper below.

Consultation events

We have held a series of consultation events on our recent consultation paper which provided an opportunity for people to discuss their views on our provisional proposals and questions, to help us shape our recommendations to Government. The events were open to all (e.g. professionals, surrogates, intended parents and general members of the public).

  • Manchester – 17 July
  • Exeter – 19 July
  • Brighton – 22 July
  • Cardiff – 23 July
  • Newcastle – 2 September
  • Birmingham – 3 September
  • Edinburgh – 10 September
  • Aberdeen – 11 September
  • Belfast – 17 September
  • London – 19 September

We also hosted:

  • a London event for lawyers and other professionals – 12 July
  • a London symposium for invited attendees – 12 September

Any questions should be directed to surrogacy@lawcommission.gov.uk

Next steps

The consultation closed on 11 October 2019. We have now begun collating and analysing responses, and will be developing our policy and final recommendations, and instructing parliamentary counsel to produce draft legislation to effect these recommendations. We expect to publish our report and draft Bill in 2021.

 

If you have any questions, you can contact the team at: surrogacy@lawcommission.gov.uk

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Property, family and trust law

Commissioner

Professor Nicholas Hopkins