As our first blog we wanted to introduce ourselves and the reason why we formed.
We are a grassroots group, formed through discussions on social media to run a single issue campaign against the practice of surrogacy. We are feminist, partisan and non-religious group of women. We are keen to work in coalition with other groups that aim to oppose this exploitative practice.
We oppose all forms of surrogacy on the basis of women’s and children’s rights and exist to campaign against the Law Commission’s proposed reform of the Surrogacy Act (1985) in England, Wales and Scotland.
- a substitute, especially a person deputizing for another in a specific role or office.
“she served as a surrogate for the President on a trip to South America”
Surrogacy is the social practice where a woman is ‘used’ for her body, her fertility and reproductive capacity to grow and birth a baby without the intention of being a mother to that child and giving that baby away, or ‘gifting’ that child to ‘Intended Parents’.
We see ‘’ changes the realityCommissioning parents not a service, the baby is the ‘end product’
‘Using aing .
“People who seek a surrogate have a very specific desire…it is not only a desire to raise a child, but also a demand that the mother be absent.” ~ Kajsa Ekis Ekman “Being and Being Bought”
Gestational Surrogacy is where the mother is implanted with a pre-fertilised egg and it is placed in her womb as an embryo. Traditional surrogacy is where the woman has her own egg fertilised by the sperm from the man who is commissioning the pregnancy or by donated sperm. Either way, it is her egg, her genetic material and she, and any children she has or will have, are genetically related to the baby.
Commercial surrogacy is where money changes hands and it has been an illegal practice since the Surrogacy Act banned it in 1985. Altruistic surrogacy is defined by the Law Commission as an “arrangement in which neither the woman who becomes the surrogate, nor any surrogacy agency involved, makes a profit, and the arrangement is not enforceable as a matter of contract law.”
However, the issue of expenses and what constitutes as expense of the pregnancy is a grey area as what can be considered an ‘expense’ can become a benefit or be classified as a ‘profit’. The Law Commission defined commercial surrogacy as:
“A surrogacy arrangement in which the woman who becomes the surrogate and any agency involved charge the intended parents a fee which includes an element of profit. A commercial surrogacy arrangement may also be characterised by the existence of an enforceable surrogacy contract between the intended parents and the surrogate.”
On page 356 of the Law Commission’s document, ‘other expenses’ listed include mobile phone payments, holidays and gifts.
So what’s our problem with it? Well, there are several…
The Law Commission’s proposals include:
- The removal of the legal rights of the Surrogate Mother at birth
This is the key proposal which essentially drives UK law towards a commercial model. Currently the parental order process requires a parental order application to be made within 6 months of the child’s birth. The surrogate mother, or birth mother, maintains parental rights, is named on the birth certificate (along with her male partner if she has one) and she can change her mind at any time.
A court order is required to remove the birth mother’s parental rights with her consent and parental responsibility is given solely to the commissioning parents.
The Law Commission propose to reverse this and to apply a model already used in jurisdictions that allow commercial surrogacy. A Pre-birth order grants the commissioning parents sole parental rights, ‘ownership’ and custody of the baby at birth.
If the mother wishes to reverse this and claim parental rights, the onus is on her to lodge an application to the court within a short period of time. In England and Wales this would be 6 weeks, in Scotland 5 weeks. Judging from her likely hormonal, post birth state, this allows no time at all to make such a lifelong decision that is the opposite of what you have previously agreed to. She would need to find a lawyer and pay the required fees so they can represent you, submit paperwork and prepare for a legal battle. It would be necessary to do all this during a period of recovery from birth. Its important to note that a mother cannot decide to keep her baby, it is the courts who will be making that decisision in the ‘best interests’ which is usually in favor of the baby buyers because they are wealthy and usually have immediate custody of the child post birth.
Crucially, this proposal is in direct contradiction of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children to the Human Right Council which states that “to prevent the sale of children in the context of altruistic surrogacy…the surrogate mother must retain parentage and parental responsibility at birth.”
- The removal of the requirement to have previously given birth.
It is not possible for a woman to provide informed consent if she has not previously experienced pregnancy, and even if she has, every pregnancy is different so a woman cannot be guaranteed a smooth pregnancy even if her previous pregnancies were uneventful.
Surrogate pregnancies require the mother to sever the natural emotional bond that forms and there are physical difficulties to consider. We will explore this in future posts.
- No limit on the number of times a woman can be a surrogate mother.
It will not be written into law how many times a woman can be a surrogate mother and we have concerns over the reasons why a woman might consider doing it once, let alone undergoing the process numerous times.
Pregnancy takes its toll on a woman’s body and ‘serial surrogates’ take risks with their own lives. Women who have been surrogate mothers express their connection to surrogacy as an ‘addiction’, a ‘high’. The Law Commission offers no protection for these women, no upper limit of how many times a woman can be pregnant and no time limit in between pregnancies. The Law Commission relies on fertility doctors and surrogacy agencies (where applicable) to advise on the dangers and best practice.
Dogs are more protected in law through breeder licenses, with a limit of no more than 6 litters per dam and the Kennel Club limit registrations to no more than one per year.
- No limit to the number of embryos transferred.
Whilst the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) recommend a ‘one at a time’ approach, there are no legal restrictions on how many embryos can be transferred into a woman’s womb. The decision rests with the commissioning parents and the woman as to how many she agrees to carry.
However, there have been instances of women in the UK being flown overseas for more embryos being transferred than the number that she has been agreed to grow and give birth to. Due to the cost of IVF and the surrogacy arrangements a woman can be coerced, however gently, to agree to carry more than what she is truly comfortable with. When it is a matter of how many eggs you can fit into a ‘basket’, a buy one get one free deal is very attractive.
Prior to commercial surrogacy being banned in India, it was known for up to five embryos to be transferred into a woman’s rented womb. In America where commercial surrogacy is legal in most states, multiple embryo transfers can be made, followed by foetal reduction’ and it is legal in some states to select which embryos to kill (with a fatal injection to the heart in vitro) based on their sex.
- Lifting the ban on advertising
Currently it is illegal to advertise your ‘services’ as a surrogate or advertise that you seek a surrogate mother. From the proposal document:
“This means that all parties are currently at risk of committing a criminal offence by, for example, posting on a Facebook group that they “may be willing to enter into a surrogacy arrangement”;129 or are “looking for a woman willing to become a surrogate”. 130 It does not matter whether the advert in question is for an “altruistic” or “commercial” surrogacy arrangement.” (page 250).
Whilst it is not illegal to advertise for egg and sperm donors there are serious considerations to be made around this and around advertising for surrogacy. It is clear from this proposal alone that the Law Commission seeks to commercialise surrogacy in the UK and make it easier to rent a womb and buy a baby. Allowing advertising will significantly increase the risk of exploitation of vulnerable women. To allow advertising and not put any proposals in place to protect women is indicative of how women are viewed as part of the surrogacy process.
We feel there is a deliberate omission around egg and sperm advertisements, both are heavily connected to surrogacy and this particular proposal is supported by surrogacy agencies who would benefit from the lifting of this ban, especially when it comes to ‘replenishing’ their stock of surrogate mothers as commissioning parents out number surrogate mothers.
Whilst the Law Commission say they do not want to encourage ‘surrogacy tourism’, points 1, 2 and 3 represent a total failure to consider the protections women might need. All of these proposals are designed to enable surrogacy.
With this campaign, we hope to raise awareness of the proposals ahead of the draft Bill being published and encourage critical thinking towards surrogacy and what these proposed changes would mean.
We invite anyone who has experienced ‘surrogacy regret’ to contact us, whether you have had a surrogate pregnancy, miscarriage or failed attempts at IVF or articifical insemination; whether you have given birth to a surrogate-born child, or are an adult born through a surrogacy arrangement. We would also like to hear from partners or children of surrogate mothers, or surrogate mothers who have given birth to children for family members.
We recognise that your stories are not often shared in the general perception of surrogacy but you can share this with us anonymously, safe in the knowledge that we respect your privacy.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.