ECHR Condemns Italy for Removing Child Born via Surrogacy Abroad

In its most recent ruling on families formed via assisted reproductive technology, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Italian authorities for removing a child born to an Italian couple via surrogacy in Russia and placing the child in guardianship. In a heartbreaking twist, the ECHR stopped short of returning the child to his intended parents, citing the emotional attachment the child had formed with his foster parents with whom he was placed in January 2013.

But the ECHR did come down soundly on the side of the intended parents and levied stiff fines on the Italian government both for damages and to reimburse legal expenses. The ruling adds to the growing body of European Community law upholding the rights of intended parents via international surrogacy, even where surrogacy is illegal in the parents’ country of residence.

In its January 27 decision, the ECHR held that Italy violated the parental rights of Donatina Paradiso and Giovanni Campanelli, a married Italian couple, who had a child conceived via in vitro fertilization by a Russian surrogate. According to a report by Italian news site The Local, the baby boy was born in Moscow in February 2011, and the intended parents were registered as his parents under Russian law. Although the Italian Consulate in Moscow provided the documents allowing the couple to take their baby back to Italy, when the parents attempted to register the child as their own the same Italian Consulate reported that the baby’s birth certificate was fraudulent. Later a DNA test showed that the father was not biologically related to the baby, although the couple claimed to believe the father’s sperm had been used in the IVF procedure. The baby was removed from the intended parents, placed in a home where the IPs had no contact, and in January 2013 placed with a foster family. In its ruling, the ECHR said the Italian state had violated the couple’s right to respect for private and family life protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Italian government was ordered to pay the intended parents €20,000 for non-financial damages and €10,000 for costs and expenses.

We have reported on a series of ECHR and European national court decisions in recent months, all of which point to growing support for the rights of intended parents and greater consideration for the security of families created via surrogacy and the wellbeing of the children born via ART.

In dual decisions last June said to impact all 47 members of the Council of Europe, the ECHR ruled that France, where surrogacy is illegal, could not deny citizenship to children of French intended parents born via surrogacy in other countries. Less than a month later, a Spanish court ordered authorities in that country to grant citizenship to the children of Spanish intended parents who had children born to surrogates in other countries, including in the case of a gay Spanish couple who had a child via surrogacy in San Diego. In December, the German Supreme Court ruled that authorities must recognize children born abroad via surrogacy as the legal offspring of their German intended parents, although some questions remain about the scope of the decision.

While the legal wheels turn frustratingly slowly, they are turning in the right direction. Every time the media spotlights one of these decisions, telling the stories of the real families behind the headlines, the issues become more familiar and less threatening. That bodes well for a future in which all families are respected and protected.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.