The UK has seen a huge increase in women putting themselves forward to be surrogates, soaring to record levels, but why are so many volunteering to go through pregnancy?
Data from the UK’s largest surrogacy organisation, shared with The Independent, shows eight times as many women applied to become surrogates in 2021 as in 2020. To put it simply, surrogacy involves a woman volunteering to go through with a pregnancy for another individual or a couple who then go on to become the child's parent or parents after the surrogate gives birth. Women who choose to become surrogates carry a child who at least one of the intended parents is genetically linked to, being either the egg or sperm donor, with some surrogates donating their own eggs. Surrogacy UK’s figures reveal 428 women applied to become surrogates in 2022, 626 women applied to be surrogates in 2021 and 75 made applications in 2020. The figures were previously relatively steady, averaging at around 65 for the three years before the pandemic. This raises the question of what is driving the sharp rise in surrogacy applications in the UK.
Harriet Errington, a family law partner at London firm Boodle Hatfield, who advises on surrogacy arrangements, told The Independent there has been an increase in the number of “surrogate mothers willing to enter into surrogacy arrangements” in the wake of the Covid crisis.
The lawyer explained there has also been a rise in the number of applications for parental orders – a protracted legal process that allows the intended parent to become the legal parent of a child born via surrogacy.
Previous research, by UK Surrogacy agency My Surrogacy Journey and the University of Kent, found there was a 253 per cent surge in parental orders permitted from 2011 to 2021.
“Lockdown provided everyone with the opportunity to put things into perspective, focusing on their family and reflecting on the important things in life,” Ms Errington states.
“The law in this country prohibits commercial surrogacy – whereby a surrogate mother can be paid anything other than reasonable expenses – and so those women who come forward as surrogate mothers do so for altruistic reasons; perhaps having reflected during lockdown on how they would like to help others who are unable to have children themselves.”
Looking back further, she reflected there has been a “dramatic rise” in surrogacy arrangements in the UK over the last 37 years since the first piece of legislation dealing with surrogacy arrangements was introduced in England and Wales. She also noted surrogacy will have risen since gay marriage was made legal in 2014, and also increased due to people having children later.
“Medical science and societal attitudes have changed significantly and there is increased discussion regarding the concept and process of surrogacy,” Ms Errington reflects. "The subject is no longer taboo; it is no longer talked about in hushed voices and public figures are speaking out about their personal experiences more and more.”
Read the full article in The Independent here.