Surrogates do not support calls for commercial surrogacy in the UK
Over 70 per cent of surrogates in the UK believe they should only be allowed to claim expenses when they carry a child for another couple, the UK’s largest ever survey into surrogacy has found.
The findings come as the Law Commission reviews the laws surrounding surrogacy. One of the issues the Commission is looking at is payments and whether surrogates and surrogacy agencies should be allowed to profit from the procedure. At the moment it is illegal to make money from surrogacy in the UK, which has altruism as its guiding principle.
There has been much debate over whether the ban on payments should be lifted. Sir James Munby, former President of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice, recently argued that it is time to give: “serious consideration to abolishing the restrictions on commercial surrogacy” . The survey, by Kent Law School on behalf of Surrogacy UK’s Working Group on surrogacy law reform, shows that the vast majority of surrogates back the status quo. The survey as a whole is based on answers from 510 respondents, including surrogates, partners of surrogates, intended parents, and other parties.
Of the 98 surrogates who answered the specific question on whether they should only be allowed to claim reasonable and verifiable expenses, 71 per cent either strongly agreed or agreed. The surrogates questioned came from a range of organisations and included ‘independent surrogates’. Responses to the same question from all survey participants put the figure at 69 per cent, showing that the majority of all stakeholders in the surrogacy process believe payments should be limited to expenses .
Sarah Jones, who has been a surrogate for three different UK couples says: “Surrogacy isn’t a job. We do it because we are passionate about making families, not money. Being paid anything more than expenses would change the relationship we have with the parents and would put most surrogates off doing it. I agree that greater transparency and guidance is needed in relation to expenses but we do not need to move towards a US system where intended parents are paying upwards of £100,000 for surrogacy, with around £35,000 being paid directly to surrogates”.
Dr Kirsty Horsey, reader in law at Kent Law School and author of the report says: “The survey proves that altruism remains the overwhelmingly favoured route among UK surrogates. We also saw that financial accessibility of surrogacy was a major concern for intended parents”.
Surrogacy is an increasingly common way for couples who struggle to have children to complete their families. The number of Parental Orders – the mechanism that transfers legal parenthood from the surrogate to the parents – have increased from 63 in 2008/9 to 281 in 20017/18.
The survey also found that 84 per cent of respondents believe that UK law should be changed so that legal parenthood automatically rests with the parents at the point of birth. At present, the surrogate is the legal mother until the granting of a Parental Order months after the birth. The current situation leaves new parents in legal limbo regarding their newborn. Surrogacy UK has been campaigning for this aspect of the law to be changed so that legal parentage is transferred at the moment of birth.
Surrogacy arrangements in the UK are regulated by the Surrogacy Arrangements Act (SA Act) 1985 and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFE Act) 2008.  Surrogacy itself is a perfectly legal activity, though aspects of it are not. Under the SA Act commercial surrogacy is illegal, and third parties (such as agencies, brokers or solicitors) are prohibited from charging for surrogacy services, including the negotiation or brokerage of a surrogacy arrangement. 
The Law Commission, which is the government’s independent law reform adviser, announced in 2017 that it would review surrogacy law. The Commission is due to present its consultation paper in spring 2019.
In total, the survey found that 92 per cent of respondents believe surrogacy law reform is needed.
Natalie Smith, Chair of the Working Group said:
“Surrogacy law is outdated and in dire need of reform. We welcome the Law Commission’s review and hope that the findings of this report will be taken into consideration. The law has to reflect how people actually going through it feel. There is a clear message from intended parents and surrogates: allow at birth legal parenthood for intended parents and guard the principle of altruism in the UK”.