Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Surrogate births, payments, and legal rights in Britain, continued

The Telegraph reports Childless couples win the right to pay surrogate mothers: Childless couples will be able to pay surrogate mothers large sums of money to have babies for them, following a landmark High Court ruling.

"A senior family court judge allowed a British couple to keep a newborn child even though they had technically broken the law by giving more than “reasonable expenses” to the American natural mother.

"Mr Justice Hedley said the existing rules on payments were unclear, and that the baby’s welfare must be the main consideration. Only in the “clearest case” of surrogacy for profit would a couple be refused the necessary court order to keep the baby.

"His comments, among the first in recent years on the subject by a senior legal figure, will be taken by many infertile couples as a welcome sign that they can now pay women to bear children for them without fear of breaking the law, and so be denied a family.

"Mr Justice Hedley warned that the courts would continue to consider the amount of money paid in each individual case, to ensure that a market is not established.

"Surrogacy was regulated in Britain in 1985, after Kim Cotton was paid £6,500 to carry a child conceived using her own egg but the sperm of a man whose wife was infertile, in what is known as “straight surrogacy”. In “host surrogacy”, embryos are created through IVF using the eggs and sperm of both intended parents are transferred to the surrogate mother.

"Under the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985, companies were banned from brokering deals between couples and potential mothers for profit. All arrangements have to be based on trust rather than money, and are not legally binding. Only “reasonable expenses”, which now can average £15,000, are allowed and must be agreed upon by the parties.

"In 1990, another law introduced the system of Parental Orders which couples must obtain following the birth in order to be regarded as the surrogate baby’s legal parents, rather than the natural mother.
"It is estimated that each year just 70 women in Britain have surrogate babies, but many more couples desperate to start a family now travel to countries such as India where the “reasonable expenses” will be far lower.

"In the current case, the unnamed British couple had made contact with a woman in Illinois, where no restrictions on payments to surrogate mothers apply. Her baby had been allowed to enter Britain on temporarily on a US passport, but the judge granted a Parental Order so it can now stay in the country with its new parents.

"Mr Justice Hedley agreed that the criteria, which also require that the surrogate acted of her own free will and that one of the couple must be a biological parent of the baby, had been “fully met” by the “most careful and conscientious parents”.

"However some have criticised the implications of his comments that payments above “reasonable expenses” were acceptable.

"Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Children are not commodities to be bought and sold. It is not the case that everybody has the right to a child, whatever the cost.

The regulations that we have in this place regarding surrogacy are supposed to ensure that there is no element of profit in the whole process."
Here is my earlier post on this matter: Surrogacy, payments, and parental rights in Britain: Couples who pay surrogate mothers could lose right to raise the child.

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