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The of parents having a baby using a surrogate in England and Wales has almost quadrupled in the last 10 years, new figures show. Parental orders, which transfer legal parentage from the surrogate, rose from in to in Two-thirds of applicants are now mixed-sex couples often in their 30s or 40s. The report is by the University of Kent and My Surrogacy Journey, a non-profit organisation which supports surrogates and intended parents. Surrogacy is when a woman carries a pregnancy for another couple or individual.
In most cases it is because someone cannot carry a pregnancy themselves for health reasons or because they are men in a same-sex relationship. As it becomes more common, experts say the UK law on surrogacy - in place since - is outdated and leaves both surrogates and intended parents vulnerable. The law states a surrogate is deemed the legal mother when the baby is born - irrespective of genetics or any agreements that have been made.
A parental order must be made to transfer legal parentage to the intended or biological parents. And it is illegal to advertise for a surrogate - meaning unless family or friends offer, intended parents can struggle to find a match. Non-profit organisations and social media sites say they are seeing more people using their services to help match surrogates and would-be parents. Two women who met on a Facebook group were Fran and her surrogate Gina. Fran, 39, from Stockton-on-Tees, needed a surrogate to carry her two daughters, Evelyn and Grace, after cervical cancer treatment meant she could not carry a pregnancy herself.
She said those using surrogates in order to have a family are "just normal people, teachers, people who re-mortgage their houses to do this". Gina, 45, Fran's surrogate, runs one of the many Facebook groups where surrogates and intended parents match.
She believes more people are considering surrogacy, in part down to celebrities such as Robbie Williams and Kim Kardashian talking so openly about their own experiences. Gina backs changing the law so that those who have a baby with a surrogate become the legal parents "from the minute that baby is born". I never went into this to have another baby of my own.
I've got three beautiful children of my own. It was all about creating a family for someone else. I don't want to be a mum to someone else's child," she said. Natalie is mum to two children and is now 30 weeks pregnant with her first surrogate baby. The year-old, from Bath, said: "We struggled starting our own family - we had a miscarriage and a still birth. A friend had had breast cancer and I'd offered to be a surrogate for her if she needed.
She didn't, but it was always in the back of my mind. She added she was driven to help others who wanted to have but could not. Department of Health guidance said it does not generally recommend that those considering surrogacy do so independently on sites like Facebook, instead pointing to one of the four UK non-profit organisations.
The trouble is those organisations have long waiting lists. Natalie Gamble is director of Brilliant Beginnings - another non-profit organisation in the UK which matches surrogates and intended parents.
Megan, 25, from Ipswich looked into becoming a surrogate when she was furloughed during lockdown. She is currently getting to know two sets of intended parents she met through a surrogacy organisation. My mum's main concern was she wanted me to have my own kids but they're both really supportive. I've donated eggs twice and this is absolutely what I want to do. The legislation relating to surrogacy is UK-wide, but there are different judicial systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Department of Health guidance only applies to England and Wales. In the US where surrogacy is more common and highly regulated, intended parents can go on to the birth certificate as soon as the baby is born - and payments of tens of thousands of pounds to surrogates are common.
Commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK, so a third party cannot profit from matching people. The government agrees the surrogacy law in the UK needs to change and has asked the Law Commission of England and Wales along with the Scottish Law Commission to review it. Professor Nick Hopkins is the Law Commissioner for family law, and is one of the proponents leading the consultation. The law does need updating. But it is fundamental to our review that the surrogate must retain her bodily autonomy throughout and a surrogacy agreement would not be enforceable if a surrogate withdrew her consent - which is extremely rare.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We know surrogacy is an important option for families and we remain committed to reforming legislation to ensure more certainty for surrogates and intended parents. The Law Commission will publish its recommendations for reform of the law and a draft bill towards the end of Tan France welcomes first child via surrogate. Why a single man turned to IVF for fatherhood. Image source, Getty Images.
Image source, Family photo. Surrogacy is legal in the UK. Related Topics.
Surrogacy Parenting. More on this story. Published 11 March.
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