Single father of triplets defends surrogacy deal

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The Independent Online

An unmarried businessman defended his decision yesterday tofather triplets using a surrogate mother and another woman's eggs and then to put them at risk of deportation by bringing them to his home in Berkshire from America, their country of birth.

Ian Mucklejohn, a 54-year-old millionaire, paid £50,000 for a surrogate mother from California to be impregnated with another woman's eggs, which had been fertilised with his sperm. Three healthy boys – Ian, Lars and Piers – were born on 8 February this year. The triplets arrived at their Newbury home in March and were given temporary leave to remain while the Home Office decided on whether to allow them to stay permanently.

A former teacher, and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Mr Mucklejohn is the director of a language school that offers residential holidays at public schools. He has never married, but cares for his father who suffered serious, long-term injuries in an accident in 1955. His mother is dead.

Mr Mucklejohn is planning to bring up the babies with the help of nannies and says he will tell them the story of their birth when they are old enough.

"If I was a woman no one would be interested," he said from Newbury, where his business is based. "There are lots of single parents. If I was, I could come into the country with my babies and they would be British, but because I'm a man the law doesn't allow this.

"The system doesn't make it terribly easy. I have tried for a settlement with the Home Office for my little boys, and applied in the beginning of April, following all the rules, and having to provide many details of the sort that I am sure a woman would not. I haven't considered myself a pioneer, I just did what I wanted to do, which was having a family. Meeting someone to marry would be very hard for me because carers don't have much freedom and are not able to get out much."

Although applying for adoption would have been an available option, Mr Mucklejohn decided against it because he wanted the children to be his own. "I deal with other people's children on a daily basis and I wanted my own children to love. Is that so terribly selfish? I didn't want to face a future of loneliness and unhappiness without having a family. The whole family unit is now in place."

Surrogacy is not illegal in Britain but it is more strictly regulated than in America, where buyers can choose an egg donor's details from a catalogue. In Britain, the birth mother has full rights over the child and can change her mind on the agreement at any time.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will decide on whether to let the triplets stay after speaking with the surrogate mother.

Mr Mucklejohn had initially contacted Growing Generations, a Los Angeles agency that specialises in babies for homosexuals, but he was turned away because he was heterosexual. He was recommended to another company, through which he chose an egg donor. He describe her as an attractive 27-year-old civil engineering graduate studying for her masters degree.

He also met Tina Price, 29, the surrogate mother who has two other children of her own, and with whom he has kept in contact since the triplets were born in San Diego.

"What she was doing was a wonderful thing," he said. "She came and met me before and had lots of pertinent questions, the least of which was what would happen if I was to die. We got on really well and continue to do so."

Problems arose when he tried to bring the babies to England, in a case that echoed that of Barrie Drewitt and Tony Barlow, a homosexual couple who used a Californian surrogate mother to give birth to twins two years ago. They were allowed to keep the babies in Britain after threatening to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.