London, 28 April 2016:
A press release from the University of Kent (https://www.kent.ac.uk/law/news/index.html?view=1558) reports that the architects of UK surrogacy law have changed their mind about surrogacy legislation and that it is time for reform. This backs up calls from Surrogacy UK and others for urgent reform of UK legislation to better protect children born through surrogacy.
Baroness Mary Warnock – whose report led to the creation of the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 and Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 – is due to be speaking at a conference on Friday 6th May entitled ‘Surrogacy in the 21st century: Rethinking assumptions, reforming law’, at the Friends House, Euston Road, London (https://www.kent.ac.uk/law/research/projects/current/surrogacy/projectevent.html).
Discussing her 1984 report in an interview earlier this year (‘Meeting Mary Warnock’ BioNews February 2016, http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_611935.asp), Baroness Warnock admitted “I do feel ashamed of the stance that I took about surrogacy… That’s my one element of shame”. She now says many of the ethical concerns that led her to recommend legal measures that discouraged surrogacy are no longer valid as ‘we now feel far less threatened by “unorthodox” forms of family than we did thirty years ago’.
The conference is organised by Kent Law School surrogacy law expert Dr Kirsty Horsey, and will examine the assumptions that underpin UK surrogacy law to see if they stand up to scrutiny today.
Also speaking at the conference is Natalie Smith, a trustee of Surrogacy UK and mum to twin girls born through surrogacy. She comments, “it is clear that UK law does not protect the best interests of children born through surrogacy, nor does it reflect the wishes or experiences of surrogates and intended parents in the UK. Surrogacy can be a very positive experience and we need to improve the law to catch up with the reality of modern family building”.
A recent survey conducted by a Surrogacy UK working group (https://www.surrogacyuk.org/legal-reform-for-surrogacy.html), found that surrogates, along with intended parents, reject the principle that makes the surrogate the legal mother at birth and allows them to change their mind about handing the baby to its parents. Sierra, a surrogate from Surrogacy UK speaks about her experience; “I always knew that that baby was theirs. It was never mine and never mine to keep. I think the babies should always belong to their parents”.
Sarah Jones, a three times surrogate, also at Surrogacy UK, says “the current law protects no one – the child is not legally part of the right family at birth, parents have no rights until a parental order is granted (which can take over a year), and surrogates are left with a risk that they will be left holding a baby that isn’t theirs”.
The Surrogacy UK working group on legal reform is campaigning for UK law to be changed. It is a cross organisation collaboration with Dr Kirsty Horsey, senior lecturer, Kent Law School, University of Kent; Louisa Ghevaert, partner, Michelmores LLP and Sarah Norcross, director, Progress Educational Trust.