Background and the Aims of the APPG on Surrogacy
The UK has regulated surrogacy arrangements for 30 years, initially enacting the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 as a response to the 1984 Warnock Committee’s recommendations. Later additions to the law were made by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Little, however, has changed since, other than the provision of a mechanism for the transfer of legal parenthood from surrogates to intended parents from 1994 and allowing, from 2008, unmarried intended parents in ‘enduring family relationships’ or civil partnerships to become legal parents via these parental orders (and latterly also same-sex married couples).
Surrogacy laws are now largely out of date, and out of step with the modern reality of surrogacy as it is practised in the UK. A 2015 report showed that the majority of surrogacy arrangements undertaken by intended parents in the UK are relationships entered into using UK-based surrogates and on an altruistic expenses-only basis. We also know, from academic studies following families created by surrogacy that surrogate-born children fare well in supportive environments. A 2015 report highlighted the reality of the practice of surrogacy in the UK, while recognising the problems that international surrogacy arrangements may bring. It is true that some aspects of the landscape of surrogacy have changed – the internet age has brought an expansion of international surrogacy fed by easily-accessible information and cheap international travel, alongside the willingness of other nations to open their borders and clinics for those willing and able to travel to enter surrogacy arrangements. This is not without risk and is one of the key reasons that this group is being set up – to drive reform of the domestic law on surrogacy not only to bring it into line with modern reality, but also to potentially lessen the need or desire to undertake surrogacy overseas.
This group believes that the careful formulation of new legislation on surrogacy which recognises the value of surrogacy as a way of having children and helps to protect and facilitate the altruistic, compensatory nature of surrogacy in the UK, while preventing commercialisation and sharp practice, is necessary. Its recommendations will be premised on the primary assumption that the welfare of children born through surrogacy is paramount.
The Government has lent its support to a review being conducted by the Law Commission, including in a debate in the Lords’ chamber in 2016, and in responses to many subsequent parliamentary questions in both Houses. It has recently laid before Parliament a remedial order to allow single parents to apply for a parental order following surrogacy, following the issue of a declaration of incompatibility with human rights laws issued by the President of the Family Division of the High Court in 2016, demonstrating in part its commitment to change. This group will continue to urge the Government to fully review our surrogacy laws, to facilitate further research into how it is conducted, to bring the law into line with modern social realities and to discourage those who need to undertake surrogacy from doing so overseas.