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Surrogate Law discussed by Senior Family Law Associate Duncan Ranton

The Sun on Monday (10 September) featured an interview with Carole Horlock, described as “the world’s most prolific surrogate mother”.That accolade might be well-deserved:  Carole (who is 45) has carried 12 children as a surrogate mother for parents who cannot conceive a child conventionally or through assisted fertility treatments.  She is pregnant again, expecting baby number 13.Carole lives in Bordeaux in France with her partner of fourteen years.  She has two adult children of her own.   She first heard of Surrogacy when working in a laundrette in 1995.  That was a decade after the UK Parliament rushed through the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985.  January 1985 saw the birth of Britain’s first commercial surrogate baby, which caused a widespread public outcry.  The Act was the inevitable knee-jerk response.  Twenty-seven years later, the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 continues to regulate surrogacy in Britain, even though public attitude has evolved to where surrogacy is sufficiently mainstream so as to form the basis of soap opera storylines.  Under the Act, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK.  It is a criminal offence, on a commercial basis, to:• Initiate a surrogacy arrangement;• Offer or agree to negotiate a surrogacy arrangement, or• Compile information to use in making or negotiating surrogacy arrangements.Certain advertisements about surrogacy are also illegal.  Surrogacy other than on a commercial basis is allowed in the UK.  In these situations, the surrogate mother is paid for her expenses.  Carole Horlock reports receiving between £10,000 and £15,000 for expenses for each pregnancy.  But for her, the money is incidental.  She describes in evocative terms the sense of emotional fulfilment she gets from helping others have children.“They tell me I give [the parents] a precious gift and you can see the joy in their faces when they hold their baby for the first time,” she said.  “It’s a highly charged, emotional moment.  That’s the reason I do it.”Surrogacy involves complicated Legal Issues.  The legal framework continues to evolve.  Those considering surrogacy – whether as commissioning parents or surrogates – should seek specialist advice as early in the process as possible (ideally before making any decisions).  If there are potential problems with a surrogacy arrangement, early identification and management helps ensure a positive outcome.  The Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 prevents a solicitor in this country from negotiating or drafting a surrogacy agreement for a client:  to do so would be considered a “commercial” activity, which remains illegal.  However, a solicitor experienced in surrogacy cases can advise those on either side of a proposed arrangement about how the legal framework here applies to their situation. 

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