A recent report by the University of Kent and My Surrogacy Journey has concluded that the number of parents choosing to use surrogacy in England and Wales has nearly quadrupled in just ten years; an increase from 117 parental orders made in 2011 to 413 in 2020.
This colossal increase in the use of surrogacy is not reflected in the approach of the law in this country, causing many would-be parents and surrogates alike to call for a reform of the antiquated law, which is now almost 40 years old.
And this country is not alone. This week it was announced in New Zealand that a bill was likely to pass which would streamline the process there, including introducing the ability to compensate surrogate mothers financially, as well as enabling parents to become legally parents at the moment of birth. It is currently not possible in New Zealand even to commence the surrogacy process until after the child has been born. Similar to the process in England and Wales, this can cause many would-be parents (and indeed surrogate mothers) anxiety at the prospect that either party may change his/her mind before the process has concluded; leaving both parties vulnerable. Advertising and financial compensation for surrogacy in England and Wales are also prohibited, making it difficult for would-be parents and surrogates to find one another. In many states in the US, by contrast, commercial surrogacy is legal and surrogates can be generously compensated.
The Law Commission issued a consultation report in relation to surrogacy in 2019. Various proposals were made, for example for the creation of a new surrogacy process to enable intended parents to become legal parents when a child is born, subject to the surrogate retaining a right to object for a period following the birth. A draft bill, expected next year, is awaited by lawyers, surrogates and would-be parents alike with baited breath.