UK surrogacy laws must be reformed urgently, says leading fertility lawyer

Her comments follow a ruling where a woman who had a baby with a gay couple but then refused them access had to hand her daughter over to the men

Sarah Cassidy
Thursday 07 May 2015 21:51 BST
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The case has reopened the debate around surrogacy in the UK,
The case has reopened the debate around surrogacy in the UK, (Getty Images)

Britain’s surrogacy laws are no longer good enough and must be reformed urgently to stop court battles wrecking people’s lives, a leading fertility lawyer has said.

Her comments follow a legal ruling where a woman who had a baby with a gay couple but then refused them access was ordered to hand her one-year-old daughter over to the men.

The judge ruled in favour of the men after concluding it would in the best interests of the girl that she grow up with her father and his partner.

The case has reopened the debate around surrogacy in the UK, where a lack of regulation means that disputes between parents and surrogates often end up in the courts.

Natalie Gamble, one of the UK’s leading fertility lawyers, said: “The law urgently needs changing. The laws in place were written in the 1980s and the world has moved on. I don’t think they were ever properly thought through.

“The situation around UK-based surrogacy is driving thousands of parents overseas every year and creating new issues such as children born to UK parents being stuck abroad. What we urgently need is a proper structure.”

Peter Morris, a partner and family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The key issue raised by this case is that the UK lacks a clear, comprehensive legal framework to cover the concept of surrogacy.

“A number of countries, including the US, have a proper process that those involved in surrogacy must undertake. Such systems would see all of those involved make a clear agreement regarding the future of the child.”

Britain’s first gay surrogate fathers were Tony (left) and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, seen here in 2010
Britain’s first gay surrogate fathers were Tony (left) and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, seen here in 2010 (Rex Features)

In the latest case, the woman, identified only as S, said she had entered into an agreement, which would see her acting as the “main parent and carer”. The child’s genetic father, known as H, disputed this, saying the agreement was that he and his male partner, known as B, would “co-parent” the girl, with the woman continuing to “play a role”. The judge, Ms Justice Russell, ruled in favour of the father at the High Court.

Under UK law, surrogates are the legal mother of any child they carry, even if they are not genetically related, unless they sign a parental order after they give birth transferring their rights to the intended parents.

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