Today, the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have published their joint proposals for a new law and system to govern surrogacy in the UK.

Our recent policy briefing suggested that an update to the current law on surrogacy in the UK is needed to help provide better support and protection to surrogates, surrogate children, and their families.

The Law Commissions’ proposed law reforms include changes which aim to address many of the issues highlighted in our policy briefing, including around how parenthood is attributed, questions around payments to surrogates, and how to ensure that people can make a fully autonomous decision about entering into a surrogacy arrangement.

The proposed new laws would introduce:

  • A new regulatory pathway for surrogacy arrangements that would enable intended parents to automatically become the parents of the child, provided the surrogate does not withdraw her consent within six weeks after birth. This pathway involves required steps before conception, including medical and criminal records checks, independent legal advice, and counselling. It would only be available to those pursuing surrogacy in the UK, and who are able to use their own gametes so that there is a genetic link to at least one of the intended parents.
  • A proposal for this pathway to be overseen and supported by non-profit surrogacy organisations, and to make such organisations subject to regulation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
  • New rules on payments, which explicitly prohibit payments to surrogates other than those that specifically arise from the surrogacy pregnancy such as medical and wellbeing costs, recouping lost earnings, pregnancy support, and travel. Prohibited payments include those made for carrying the child, and living expenses such as rent.
  • A new register of surrogate births to enable surrogate-born children to access information about their origins.

On international surrogacy, which we highlighted in our policy briefing as raising particular ethical issues, the Law Commissions have not proposed major changes. However, some legal and practical measures to safeguard the welfare of children born through surrogacy to UK intended parents, have been recommended. These include, for example, making it easier for the child to acquire UK nationality, and recording information in a proposed new surrogacy register.

We remain of the view that updates to surrogacy law are needed to help better protect and support all involved, and we will continue to engage with policy makers on this issue to help ensure that ethical considerations are at the centre of decision-making. As we emphasised in our policy briefing, in considering changes to surrogacy law and practice in the UK, it will be important to take into account the emerging evidence, experiences and views of UK surrogates and families created through surrogacy in the UK. We also need to be aware of the limitations of this evidence and voices that might currently be missing, such as international surrogates and those involved in informal surrogacy. 

Read our policy briefing: Surrogacy law in the UK: ethical considerations