Surrogacy reform could remove automatic rights from birth parents

Surrogacy laws could be reformed to remove automatic rights from birth parents, under plans being examined by the Government. Law Commission recommendations to reform surrogacy law have received Government backing and will be developed to make the rules “fit for the modern world”. A three-year project will examine the current rules which give a woman and her husband automatic parentage over any child she gives birth to, even if the child is not biologically theirs. It will “consider the legal parentage of children born via surrogacy, and the regulation of surrogacy more widely,” the Law Commission said. Surrogacy arrangements have risen sharply in popularity in recent years as more same-sex couples and single parents seek to have children this way and it is thought that the number of babies born could have risen tenfold in a decade. The current law means intended parents must apply for a court order to gain legal rights over the child, which can cause problems around issues such as medical treatment and immunisations in early life. It also means parents face a protracted legal battle if a surrogate mother changes her mind about giving up the child after birth. Earlier this year Olympic diver Tom Daley and husband Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winning director and screenwriter, spoke of their shock at UK surrogacy laws, which don’t allow commercial arrangements and restrict couples from advertising for a surrogate.  “For many, having a child is the best day of their lives and surrogacy can be the only option for some who want a genetic link to the baby. But the issues are difficult and there is no quick fix.“Now we want all those with an interest to get involved and help us make the law fit for the modern world.”A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said:  “We recognise surrogacy law is dated and want to make sure it is fit for purpose – which is why we are pleased to be supporting this review by the Law Commission.”Surrogacy plays an invaluable role in helping start new families, but it can be a complex journey – and we are committed to making sure there is real clarity and support for anyone considering it.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. The couple announced in February that they were expecting a child by a surrogate mother, having married in May last year.Speaking to Attitude magazine, Mr Black said the UK was “so far ahead still to the United States on things like employment, housing, security and marriage.”But on surrogacy, it’s not available in the same way.”Surrogacy agreements are unenforceable in UK courts so there is no way to make a legally-binding arrangement. In another case heard in the Court of Appeal last year, a surrogate mother who had made an arrangement with a gay couple was told to hand over the child even though she had changed her mind about the agreement. The judge in that case, Lord Justice McFarlane, said it “demonstrates the risks involved when parties reach agreement to conceive a child which, if it goes wrong, can cause huge distress to all concerned”.The project will also examine the use of international surrogates, as there are concerns that the current situation is encouraging parents to go abroad to set up arrangements, which could lead to exploitation of the women involved. It will cover both English and Welsh and Scottish law. Professor Nick Hopkins, Law Commissioner for England and Wales, said: “Our society has moved on from when surrogacy laws were first introduced 30 years ago and, now, they are not fit for purpose.

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