Rich Vaughn, IFLG: Law Commission Takes Initial Steps to End UK Surroacy Ban

Commission Takes First Steps Toward Ending UK Surrogacy Ban

Great news out of the UK! The UK Law Commission—the body that reviews outdated laws and recommends revisions to the UK government—has made provisional recommendations for reforming the United Kingdom’s surrogacy and parentage/citizenship regulations to better protect the rights of families created via assisted reproductive technology, or ART.

Currently, surrogacy in the United Kingdom exists in a legal grey zone. As colleague Natalie Gamble explains in her appeal for signatories to her Change.org petition urging a review of existing laws:

The UK's surrogacy laws were written in the 1980s.  All those involved in modern UK surrogacy recognize that the law is woefully out of date and impractical. Under the current laws:

    • The surrogate and her spouse are the legal parents of the baby born.
    • Surrogacy agreements are unenforceable. 
    • Parents who have children through surrogacy overseas are the legal parents in the country where their child is born but not in the UK.
    • Parenthood is transferred to the intended parents through a court process, which takes up to a year after the birth, and has problematic and outdated criteria.
    • The law appears to restrict payments to surrogates to 'reasonable expenses,' but, in reality, the courts routinely authorize compensation, and the rules are both confusing and unenforceable.
    • In the UK it is illegal to advertise, and for surrogacy agencies to make a profit. 

The legal obstacles imposed on intended parents in the UK have had several unintended consequences. One is a shortage of surrogates. As a result of the requirement that surrogacy agencies must be non-profit, there are only three in the country; all three have had to turn away new intended parents due to the shortage of surrogates, Gamble wrote.

That shortage, as well as other legal obstacles, has motivated large numbers of UK intended parents to pursue surrogacy abroad. Many go to Western countries such as the United States, where surrogacy is legal and tightly regulated to protect all parties, while those on tighter budgets often wind up in countries where costs are lower. However, the process in these lower cost destinations frequently is rife with legal, quality of care and ethical concerns.

Those intended parents with the fortitude and nerves to brave surrogacy in the UK often enter informal arrangements without benefit of legal counsel or an enforceable surrogacy agreement.

As demand for access to surrogacy and other forms of ART has grown, the nation’s High Court justices have begun calling for changes in the laws. As we reported, in May 2015 the UK High Court ruled that a then-existing law prohibiting a single, unmarried intended father via surrogacy in the U.S. from obtaining a parentage order was in breach of the UK’s human rights laws. The law was changed January 3, 2019, to include single intended parents among those qualified to obtain parentage orders.

The Law Commission’s most recent report calls for a number of changes to existing law that would go a long way toward creating a “pathway” for legal surrogacy in the UK as well as better ensure the rights of individuals who undertake surrogacy abroad and their families. Among the Commission’s recommendations:

  • Safeguards, including a written agreement, counseling, and requiring independent counsel for all parties, that would serve as criteria to allow intended parents to be listed on the birth certificate
  • A process for designating countries where rights of surrogates are protected and from which children born via surrogacy would be automatically recognized as British citizens and their UK intended parents as legal parents. I am particularly proud of work in this area by the American Bar Association Family Law Section in its recommendation to the Hague Conference on Private International Law Concerning Children, cited in the Law Commission report.
  • Keeping in place the “existing system of immigration, nationality and post-birth parental orders” for children born via surrogacy in countries do not have adequate safeguards and protections in place

Much work remains in the UK to advance the reproductive rights of individuals suffering from infertility, LGBT people and single intended parents. The Law Commission’s final recommendations on changes to UK surrogacy and parentage laws are not due until 2021, after which Parliament will decide whether or not to accept the recommendations and enact reform. We are encouraged by the commission’s initial progress and commend all of our colleagues, in the UK and elsewhere, who continue working for reproductive freedom and equal protections for all families.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

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
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
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 SOSA
Paralegal

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
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

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
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
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

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 TAMAYO
Paralegal

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 CHIEN
Paralegal

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
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

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.