Surrogacy in the 21st century: rethinking assumptions, reforming law
Friends House, London, 6th May 2016
Surrogacy laws in the UK are now over 30 years old and look increasingly out of date. Within the same timeframe, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) have significantly developed, and their place in modern society has become firmly established, both in terms of family creation and with regard to the extended medical research opportunities they provide. Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproduction, whether an arrangement requires the use of IVF, the storage of gametes of one or more parties outside of the body in a licensed setting, the use of donated gametes, or none of these. It is a legitimate form of family creation for those who have no other option to have their own child, and who exercise the choice not to adopt.
The law relating to ARTs was overhauled in 2008, but little changed in relation to surrogacy other than small and necessary extensions of the categories of people to whom a ‘parental order’ might be available. No consideration was given to the fundamental assumptions that underpin the entirety of the regulation of surrogacy. Since the law on surrogacy was created, we have also witnessed astonishing amounts of social change, not only in terms of who we consider to be ‘families’ or ‘parents’, but also in wider social acceptance of difference. In addition, the internet explosion has made surrogacy an international business, often raising both ethical and practical concerns when overseas arrangements are entered into from the UK.
This one-day event is designed to test and challenge the assumptions that underpin the existing UK law on surrogacy, showing how and why it has become out of date, in a variety of different contexts, and how it fails to protect the interests of children and families created via surrogacy. It draws upon and discusses the findings in the November 2015 report of the Surrogacy UK Working Group on Surrogacy Law Reform, along with reflections from a range of other commentators including Professor Margot Brazier and Baroness Mary Warnock, who each chaired government inquiries into surrogacy, publishing their reports in 1998 and 1984, respectively.