The last piece of the government’s flagship Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 came into force today, completing the first major overhaul of the UK’s fertility laws in twenty years. The HFE Bill is a major piece of government legislation which has updated the UK’s 1990 laws to bring them into line with 21st century scienific and social advances. It has introduced important changes including:
* new rights for lesbian partners to be recognised as parents after sperm donation,
* the abolition of clinics’ obligation to consider a child’s need for a father before offering fertility treatment,
* the broadening of the extended storage rules for gametes and embryos, allowing more people to store precious embryos for longer,
* new rights for donor conceived people to make contact with genetic siblings,
* a clearer legal framework for preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and
* the widening of surrogacy laws to allow same sex and unmarried couples to apply for legal parenthood.
The Act has been brought into force in stages, with the new parenthood rules on donor conception in force first for conceptions after 6 April 2009 and the bulk of the Act in force on 1 October 2009. The final pieces of the jigsaw, which came into force today, are the changes to surrogacy law, allowing same sex and unmarried couples to apply to court to become the parents of a surrogate born child and updating the court rules and procedures. This completes the implementation of this major piece of government legislation, rather fittingly today, the day on which it has been announced that this Parliament will be dissolved.
We are proud to have played a role at the forefront of these important legal changes, championing the position of fertility patients and same sex parents. Our contributions to the public and Parliamentary debate and to the legal changes include:
* Helping to secure the important new rights for same sex parents (work for which Natalie was nominated by gay rights organisation Stonewall as their Hero of the Year 2008, named by Diva magazine as one of the UK’s most influential gay women, and invited to 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister last month);
* Winning a last minute government U-turn on embryo storage which allowed surrogacy patients to save embryos from destruction and store them for an extended period;
* Lobbying for changes to surrogacy law, which were debated in Parliament (but sadly not adopted) – we are continuing to campaign on this;
* Winning improvements to nationality law for British parents of children born through surrogacy abroad following our contribution to the Department of Health’s consultation on the new parental order regulations.