The issues surrounding surrogacy

Surrogacy is a highly controversial form of infertility treatment, with views varying widely between faiths, personal beliefs and national legislation. There is also a range of far more personal surrogacy issues to consider, such as whether you feel you will bond with your child in the same way and whether your child should be told about his or her origins.

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Where is surrogacy legal?

Around a third of all countries do not permit surrogacy at all, including:

  • France, Germany and Italy.
  • Pakistan.
  • Saudi Arabia and many Islamic countries.

In France, the commissioning parents of a surrogate child are legally prevented from adopting it, even if the surrogate mother is happy to give the child up. South Africa, a popular fertility tourism destination, does not allow surrogacy for parents from another country, even though they permit it for residents.

Many more countries have laws that prohibit commercial surrogacy but do allow altruistic surrogacy. In some countries, commercial surrogacy is actually a criminal offence. Altruistic surrogacy is permitted in:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Israel
  • The Netherlands, the UK and Spain.
  • Some states in the USA.

In Israel, surrogacy agreements must be approved by the state and surrogates are restricted to single women, widows and divorcees. In the USA, some states are more open to surrogacy issues than others, with states like California and Maryland surrogate friendly, while New York and the so called ‘bible-belt’ Mid-West states are more restrictive.

Surrogacy-friendly nations

In some countries commercial surrogacy is not only legal, it is encouraged as a growing industry that attracts foreign visitors. Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and, most famously, India, have all become major destinations for fertility tourism due to their liberal views on surrogacy issues.

Not only do countries like India offer easy and legal access to surrogates, but you will also find the costs of infertility treatment are significantly lower than in the West.

Cross border legal surrogacy issues

It is important to remember that while surrogacy, and even commercial surrogacy, may be legal in your chosen destination country, you may still encounter problems once you get home, especially if your home nation is less open minded.

For example, a British couple who travel abroad for surrogacy may find that they need a visa to bring their child home, and will face a complex legal road to register the child as their own. You should check that your home nation will recognise your rights to the child and allow you to formally adopt before you embark on the surrogacy process.

Surrogacy issues – know your rights

Your legal rights  when commissioning a surrogate will also vary from country to country, depending on the local legislation:

  • In the Ukraine, for example, the commissioning parents automatically become the legal parents of the child, and the surrogate mother has no legal claim, even if the surrogate is created with her own eggs.
  • In Russia, even a single father can become registered as the sole parent of the surrogate child, with no mention of the surrogate mother on the birth certificate.
  • In the UK you have no right to enforce a surrogacy contract and the surrogate mother retains the right to keep the child.

With your legal rights varying so widely, it is crucial that you seek qualified legal advice in advance, to ensure that you know exactly where you stand on surrogacy issues from the start.

Other surrogacy issues to consider

Legalities aside, it is important to remember that surrogacy is not like bearing your own child, and one of the biggest surrogacy issues is how you feel about this. Will you be able to bond with your child in the same way, and what steps can you take to help that bonding process?

There are many strategies you can employ to help you feel part of the process, including forming a strong friendship with your surrogate, following her progress carefully via scan pictures and regular updates, and even visiting her whenever possible. This will also help you to build the trust between you, which is essential to the surrogacy process.

Convenience is therefore an important consideration when choosing your destination country. India may offer very attractive surrogacy prices, but if you live far away, you may not be able to visit your surrogate as often as you would like, and this may have a detrimental effect on your relationship with her and your child, causing a range of surrogacy issues.

What do you tell your child?

Of course, surrogacy issues are not restricted to you and your surrogate. You need to consider carefully what, if anything, you plan to tell your child. If your friends or members of your family know about the surrogacy, then it may be better to tell your child yourself than to risk them finding out second hand and feeling deceived.

If the surrogate was simply the host for a child conceived using your own gametes, then this may not be an issue at all. On the other hand, if the surrogate also provided her own eggs, then you may feel that your child has a right to know their genetic origins. You need to check the rules on donor anonymity in your chosen country if you feel this may cause surrogacy issues in your child’s later life.

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