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Landmark report shines light on the practice of surrogacy in the UK and calls for legal reform

Date:18 NOV 2015

The first ever report of its kind gives unprecedented insight into how surrogacy is practised in the UK and busts a number of pervasive myths that have informed debate in recent years.

Undercutting widespread belief to the contrary, 'Surrogacy in the UK: Myth busting and reform' finds that the vast majority of UK-intended parents enter into UK-based surrogacy relationships and that they do this on an altruistic basis.

According to the report, written by Dr Kirsty Horsey (a legal academic who has been researching surrogacy and the law for over 18 years) and published by Surrogacy UK, far fewer Britons seek surrogacy overseas than had been previously thought. This dispels the myth that international surrogacy has become commonplace for intended parents from the UK.

The report also shows that there is widespread rejection of any move towards commercialisation of surrogacy. The overwhelming majority of surrogacy in the UK is undertaken by women on an altruistic basis with most UK surrogates receiving less than £15,000 for out-of-pocket expenses incurred, demonstrating that surrogacy is a relationship and not a transaction.

Also highlighted by the report is the overwhelming support (75% of survey respondents) for legal reform in order to better represent how UK surrogacy works in practice. The report shows that both surrogates and intended parents want to remove the legal uncertainty over parenthood at the point of birth. Furthermore, the report finds that 69% of surrogates are opposed to being able to change their minds about giving a baby back to its intended parents. Only 5% believe that a surrogate should be able to change her mind at any point.

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Natalie Smith, a trustee of Surrogacy UK, comments: 'This report shows that most British people who turn to surrogacy to have a family stay in the UK. It is a myth that thousands of Britons are travelling abroad each year for surrogacy.

'There is a consensus amongst the surrogacy community, practitioners, leading academics and policy influencers that the time is ripe for legal reform. Law makers need to take action now in order to better meet the needs of intended parents, surrogates and surrogate-born children.

'Any reform must reflect that surrogacy is a relationship, not a transaction; there is a firm rejection of any move to a commercial model. Changes to policy should be centred on the welfare of surrogate-born children.Allowing the pre-authorisation of parental orders, so that legal responsibility is conferred on intended parents at birth, would go a long way to removing the uncertainty around parenthood.'
Louisa Ghevaert, leading surrogacy lawyer and partner at law firm Michelmores LLP, comments: 'This first-of-its-kind report shines a light on the reality of surrogacy in the UK.

'Surrogacy law is outdated and it leaves surrogate-born children and their families in limbo. Legal reform is needed to provide much-needed clarity to people undertaking surrogacy in the UK, to reflect their needs and wishes and to protect the welfare of surrogate-born children.Legal reform matters because these are real children and families that are being created through surrogacy in the UK.'
The report's author Dr Kirsty Horsey - a senior lecturer at Kent Law School, University of Kent - comments: 'The report provides an evidence base from which surrogacy law can be reformed, and the time for that process of reform to begin is now. The law should be based on the realities of surrogacy as it is practised by the majority of those who undertake it, and reflect their perceptions.

'The concepts of family and reproduction have changed dramatically since surrogacy law was formed in this country, yet there seems to have been a reluctance to review what is now outdated legislation.An unprecedented number of surrogates and intended parents contributed to the report, which indicates that the surrogacy community wants its voice to be heard. It should be that voice that helps to inform future debate on the way the law should look.'
The full Surrogacy in the UK report is available to view and download here.