We care passionately about modern families in all their evolving forms, and how we help them extends beyond just our legal advice and cases.
Never afraid to stand up for modern families, you will regularly see us in the media campaigning for change - see our media area for more.
We also speak at leading debates and conferences in the UK and internationally, including at the House of Lords and together with speakers such as Supreme Court Justice Baroness Hale and the Bishop of Oxford Lord Richard Harries.
In 2013 we launched Brilliant Beginnnings, a non-profit surrogacy agency which supports parents and surrogates conceiving through ethical surrogacy in the UK and overseas, and which is campaigning for legal reform in the UK. Find out more at www.brilliantbeginnings.co.uk.
Our Knowledge Centre is a widely-used free online resource for legal information about family and fertility law. We founded the Fertility Friends Ask A Lawyer page in 2007 and support this and other online forums to share our expertise without charge.
We help leading charities who help modern families. We advise Stonewall on gay and lesbian parenting issues. Helen is a member of the HFEA’s National Donation Strategy Group and a former trustee of the National Gamete Donation Trust. Natalie is a former trustee of Fertility Network UK and a member of the Donor Conception Network.
We are proud to have influenced changes to the law including:
2017 - Single parents through surrogacy
In 2008, Natalie drafted an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which would have allowed single parents to apply for parental orders (just as married, unmarried and same-sex couples with children through surrogacy can do). Although this was rejected, we continued campaigning hard to end the discrimination against single parents and in 2016 won a landmark legal action for a single father through US surrogacy in which the President of the High Court made a formal declaration that the law was discriminatory and incompatible with the Human Rights Act. In December 2016 the government told Parliament that, in response to the court ruling, it would be changing the law in 2017 by a special fast track procedure to give single parents through surrogacy the same rights as couples. The government also said it has asked the Law Commission to consider reviewing wider surrogacy law reform.
2016 - Passport Office guidance
In 2016, we supported the Donor Conception Network's campaign to update the passport application guidance for British parents through donor conception and surrogacy, and same-sex parents. We wrote proposed new wording which was adopted by the Passport Office, and now forms part of the passport guidance online and in booklets in every Post Office in the UK.
2015 - Maternity leave rights for surrogacy
In 2008, Natalie wrote to the government (with the backing of various national charities), asking them to address the lack of maternity leave rights for parents through surrogacy, and then continued to raise awareness about the issue in national news articles (including Radio 4 Woman's Hour). Finally, in 2012, we worked with John Healey MP who introduced a Private Members' Bill, which was picked up by the government. The Children and Families Act 2014's provisions on surrogacy (which we worked with the government closely to help write) came into effect on 5 April 2015. They introduced the equivalent of full maternity leave rights for intended parents through surrogacy.
2013 – HFEA surrogacy policy
In 2009, we brought to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's attention the fact that clinic forms and procedures for surrogacy were not consistent with the wider law, and prevented some intended parents from having the legal rights they should at birth. In 2013 we advised and worked with them to update their policy. On 1 October 2013 the HFEA introduced updated guidance and surrogacy-specific forms which must now be used by all UK fertility clinics, and which facilitate and support surrogacy.
2010 - British nationality for surrogate children
In 2010, we worked with the Department of Health on the new surrogacy regulations. We successfully argued that children born through surrogacy abroad should become British automatically on the grant of a parental order.
2009 - Embryo storage for surrogacy
In 2009, we fought a high profile case which persuaded the Secretary of State for Health to change the law on embryo storage, so that parents with their own embryos stored for surrogacy could store them for longer than five years. There is now no distinction in the length of time for which embryos can be stored, whether they are stored for personal use or for surrogacy.
2008 – Same-sex parents, single parents and surrogacy (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill)
Natalie was heavily involved in the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the law which made it possible for UK gay and lesbian parents to be named on birth certificates together, and abolished legal discrimination against single and lesbian women having fertility treatment in the UK. The proposed changes faced significant opposition in Parliament, and Natalie was a prominent defender of alternative family rights, quoted in the House of Commons, interviewed on the Radio 4 Today programme and across the national press, and a speaker in the House of Lords on the eve of the Parliamentary vote. She was nominated for Stonewall's Hero of the Year award in 2008, and subsequently invited to meet the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, for her part in winning these changes for LGBT parents.
Natalie also began the campaign for a review of UK surrogacy law, briefing MPs, writing articles and drafting several progressive amendments to the Bill which were debated (and rejected) in Committee.