Surrogacy Law: In conversation with Harriet Errington
Following the recent Surrogacy Reform Bill in the Spring, Family Partner, Harriet Errington has been featured in the Summer 2023 (Pride Edition) of Fyne Times looking at the risks posed by outdated legalisation.
Q: What was proposed in the surrogacy reform bill published in April?
A: “The changes proposed in the bill, if implemented fully have the potential to transform the journey to parenthood for those seeking surrogacy arrangements. Under current laws, when a surrogate child is born, the intended parents need to apply to court for a parental order for their baby in order to become the legal parents. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process and causes a huge amount of uncertainty for everyone involved. If the system proposed in the bill is adopted, one significant change will be that the intended parents will legally be their child’s parents from birth, as long as they have followed the appropriate pathway and fulfilled key requirements. The surrogate mother will retain the right to object to the switch in parentage, but only until six weeks after the birth.”
Q: What is your main serious concern about the effect of current legislation?
A: “Under the present system, surrogacy agreements can’t be legally enforced. In the period up until the intended parents receive a parental order for the child, the surrogate mother, who has no genetic link to the baby, is still considered the legal parent. This can leave the intended parents powerless, as they have no legal say in decisions made on the child’s behalf, such as regarding healthcare. Applying for a parental order can take months, and the process can’t be started until six weeks after the child’s birth. There is potential for a host of legal challenges in this period, placing pressure and uncertainty on both the intended parents and surrogate mother in the crucial first weeks of the baby’s life.”
Q: Other parts of fertility law have been modernised, so why has surrogacy been left behind?
A: “Legislation surrounding surrogacy in the UK has remained largely unchanged since the 1980s – a time when social attitudes towards surrogacy, especially for same-sex couples, were hugely different. In the last 40 years we have seen enormous medical advancements and changing social attitudes towards different types of families, leading to surrogacy becoming much more common amongst both heterosexual and same-sex parents. Whilst we have seen a recent surge in interest in surrogacy, ultimately the UK’s surrogacy laws are now out of step with the modern world and need to catch up.”
This article was first published by Fyne Times in June 2023.