Read Natalie’s comments on the increasing acceptance of surrogacy, and the need to create a more structured legal framework, as well as legal changes urgently needed to include single parents and to give intended parents legal status from birth. The Metro article is here.
Posts Tagged ‘Surrogacy UK’
Red Magazine has a feature this month about alternative routes to parenthood. From Melanie and her husband who have surrogate twiblings born five days apart, to gay dads with twins created with the same egg donor but each of their sperm (something we actually see quite a lot of), Kate Bussmann shows just how much is now possible, and the positive impact that increasing diversity is having.
Natalie talks about our experience on the ground of working with non traditional families and says:
“I’m constantly surprised by how many variations there are on having a child, the technologies available and the situations people get themselves into… Gay families are obviously different, so they are inevitably having those conversations with children and developing the language. I think it’s helping heterosexual couples deal with some of those issues, because they can see same-sex couples dealing with it in such a positive way. We have experienced a real cultural shift, particularly with donor conception – 20 or 30 years ago, heterosexual couples were told it was best never to tell the child. Now everyone is encouraged to be open and treat it as a positive thing. It’s a complete revolution in thinking. “
The article has a positive message, with stories including that of Fiona O’Driscoll of Surrogacy UK whose surrogate is now ‘Auntie Kate’ to her kids, and research from Stonewall which shows that children with same sex parents are just as likely to be happy as any others. It explores how gay parents are helping to push some positive trends, and how language is evolving fast to keep up.
It’s great to see such a positive piece, which really does reflect what we see on the ground every day. As Kate Bussmann says so eloquently: “And of all the parents I spoke to, gay or straight, with donors or surrogacy, the stories were almost entirely positive. They’re proud of forging their own version of ‘normal’ and more than one of them described the ‘richness’ that comes with having all those extra people in their lives.”
Amen to that.
A joint claim has been lodged at the High Court challenging the lack of maternity leave rights for families through surrogacy. Surrogacy UK and a mother directly affected are together seeking a declaration from the High Court that the current law is unfair.
The issue is that UK parents who have a child with the help of a surrogate mother do not have rights to time off work to care for their new child, while parents who give birth or who adopt do. As a result, the mother bringing the claim (known only as RKA) was denied maternity leave rights by her employer to care for her newborn child, and was then made redundant while on unpaid leave.
Surrogacy UK, which has brought the claim together with her in its capacity as a leading representative of many UK families, says: “We’ve made this claim as the leading surrogacy organisation in the UK, reflecting our responsibility to promote and protect the interests of our members and all others involved in surrogacy. Put simply, there can be no reason to treat parents of children born via surrogacy any differently from any other parent looking after a new-born. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that all parents have rights to a family life and the best possible start for their child.”
Merry Varney from law firm Leigh Day & Co, who is representing RKA and Surrogacy UK, says: “The Government has a positive obligation under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act to protect surrogate parents to ensure respect for their private and family life and a positive obligation under Article 14 to avoid discrimination.”
The anomaly which denies maternity leave was raised in Parliament earlier this year, when John Healey MP called for equal maternity leave rights for mothers through surrogacy. His constituent Jane Kassim had also been denied maternity leave after her cousin Amy carried her and husband’s twins (read more about what he said here). With the Department of Business Innovation and Skills currently reviewing the law on maternity rights, there is an opportunity to address the problem.
While surrogacy was historically a rare phenomenon which only affected a tiny handful of families, that is no longer the case. The numbers of parental orders (the orders which make parents through surrogacy the legal parents) stood at 138 last year, up from 58 just two years ago.
We at Natalie Gamble Associates have been campaigning to end discrimination against surrogate families for many years. As well as the employment law issues, other problems arise from the fact that it takes so long (often up to a year after the birth) for the parents to win legal recognition. There can be problems with medical consent, not to mention severe difficulties over immigration where children are born through surrogacy abroad. There is also no proper regulation of surrogacy services in the UK, while surrogacy thrives as an industry in many places abroad, driving more and more parents to go abroad. Surrogacy law in the UK desperately needs updating and we hope dealing with the employment discrimination will be just the first step.
For more information see:
More from our blog about our long campaign to end discrimination in maternity leave rights
More from our website about surrogacy law and why it needs reviewing
John Healey MP (the former Shadow Secretary of State for Health) spoke clearly and compellingly in the House of Commons this afternoon about the need for proper maternity leave and pay for mothers through surrogacy in the UK (you can watch John Healey’s speech in full here). Introducing a Ten Minute Rule motion, he told Parliament about his constituents, surrogate mother Amy Bellamy and her cousin Jane Kassim. They came to see him at his surgery having been “stunned” to discover that Jane had no legal right to maternity leave or maternity pay to care for the twin daughters Amy had carried for her after Jane was told at 15 that she could never bear children.
We, and Surrogacy UK, are proud to have supported today’s important landmark, the first time this issue has been properly raised in Parliament. As we know so well, for parents who have struggled to build their families through surrogacy (often after a long and difficult journey of infertility), the lack of basic rights to care for their newborn baby can feel like the final insult. It makes no sense and has never been a policy decision; just a gap in the law which has not been addressed. But it is important, as the current position leaves children born through surrogacy in the UK without the legal protection afforded to other children born to their mothers or adopted.
As well as talking about maternity rights as the urgent first step needed, John highlighted some of the wider problems with UK surrogacy law which need addressing, including:
the parents not being named on their child’s birth certificate,
problems dealing with the child’s medical treatment,
delays in the court system to reassign parenthood, and
the absolute veto the surrogate and her husband hold, no matter what is in the child’s best interests.
The UK’s surrogacy laws were designed in 1990. After 22 years we live in a much changed world, with more children born through surrogacy and a much more sophisticated understanding of families created in unusual ways. The law on surrogacy was not reviewed properly when Parliament had a chance in 2008 and is overdue for review. John drew attention to other models of surrogacy law, including pre birth orders, which have been much more successful in dealing with surrogacy arrangements in certain US States, and which the UK should look to.
What was said in Parliament?
“Unlike other mothers, Jane is entitled – having her baby through a surrogate mother – to only 13 weeks parental leave unpaid, and then only entitled to it when she and her husband have a parental order in place. That means that for mothers like Jane, they are faced with the choice of going back to work very quickly or indeed giving up their jobs entirely. Today is a day when I hope this House will take the first step in closing this legal loophole.
“As the leading lawyer in this field says: The conditions for a parental order do not place the child’s welfare first, and ultimately children born through surrogacy do not have the same protection as other children to the time to bond with their parents in the early months of life. That is from Natalie Gamble, a leading legal expert in this field and one who has conducted more cases and seen through more parental orders than any other lawyer in the country.
“There are probably around 100 babies born through surrogacy each year, but the number is growing as society is changing and science is advancing. Surely there must be a good case for Britain, like some States in the US, to have a system of pre birth orders. But the first and most important step is to secure basic maternity rights. So that mothers like Jane who have their children born through surrogates have the same rights as any other mothers who give birth themselves or indeed who adopt children.
“It is wrong that thousands of mothers who have their own babies or who adopt have a legal right to 39 weeks maternity pay and up to 52 weeks maternity leave, while others have a right to only 13 weeks parental leave unpaid. It is wrong that such parents cannot put their names on their children’s birth certificate, they cannot make decisions about medical treatment for their children until they have a formal parental order in place. It is wrong that such a legal step can be blocked completely by the surrogate mother or her husband; and wrong that it may take months, if a magistrates court is busy, to get that order in place. Above all it is wrong that mothers like Jane are denied the same basic rights to the time they need together with their newborn babies that other mothers have.
“Amy simply wanted Jane to have the same joy as a mother as she had with her own son Archie. Together they make a very powerful case for legal change. This is their campaign and I hope this House will back them today.”
The Bill proceeded unopposed and was formally listed for a second reading, although in practice it is rare for Ten Minute Rule Bills to be given sufficient Parliamentary time to become law. However, a cross party group of MPs will now meet with the Minister for Employment to press for government-led change. We will continue to support this however we can and if you want to get involved or can help with case studies, please do contact us.
Woman’s Hour today
Natalie was also interviewed on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, following a discussion on the lack of maternity leave rules for surrogacy which Natalie contributed to back in 2009, and updating the programme on what was happening today. You can listen to Natalie on today’s Woman’s Hour here.
Find out more about why we think surrogacy law needs reviewing.
Find out more about our campaigning work.
Find out more about surrogacy law.
John Healey MP will be presenting a Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament next Tuesday 17 April calling for improved maternity rights for intended parents through surrogacy. Surrogacy UK and Natalie Gamble Associates have supported John in getting this Bill to this position by providing information on the increasing prevalence of surrogacy and the difficulties suffered by intended parents receiving maternity leave.
Currently parents who have a baby through surrogacy have no legal rights to time off work or to maternity pay, even though they are caring for their own biological child in the first months of his or her life. This is very different from parents who give birth or adopt a child, who are entitled to maternity or adoption pay and around a year off work to bond with their new child.
As those who follow our Blog will know, this is an issue that we have been campaigning on for many years and we are delighted that it is finally being debated in Parliament. Although the chance of a Ten Minute Rule Bill becoming law is statistically small, this is an important step towards putting this problem on the Parliamentary map.
The Bill will be screened live on on Tuesday 17th in the afternoon; you should be able to catch it on the Parliament TV channel or on the web: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/main/home.aspx. We will update the Blog with news as things go forward.
Radio 4 Women’s hour, 3 June 2011 – Interview with Natalie Should surrogacy law be changed?
Natalie writing in The Guardian, 29 December 2010 – After the birth of Elton and David’s son, can the UK deliver surrogacy reform?
Evening Standard, 27 October 2009 - Ministers face a legal challenge over rules barring women who use a surrogate from receiving maternity pay
Medical News today, 28 December 2008 – Leading fertility patient organisations call for urgent changes to surrogacy law
Bionews, 28 April 2008 – Why UK surrogacy law needs an urgent review