Surrogacy law reform
We are passionate about improving UK surrogacy law, and have led the campaign for UK surrogacy law reform since 2007
Why does UK surrogacy law need to change?
UK surrogacy law was written in the 1980s, when surrogacy – in its infancy – was feared to be risky, and non-traditional families were less accepted. Over the last 40 years surrogacy has become much more common (growing to around 400 births a year to UK parents) and families have diversified. Experience has taught us that surrogates do not change their minds, and that children thrive if they are loved, regardless of the number or gender of their parents.
The law has not kept up. While other parts of fertility law have been modernised, surrogacy law has remained unchanged. The surrogate and her husband are the legal parents, making surrogacy informal and frayed with vulnerability for everyone. Not enough surrogates come forward, since UK law does not respect a surrogate’s decision to carry a pregnancy for someone else, or recognise that surrogacy is a shared intention to conceive together and not the surrender of a child.
Many UK parents are now driven overseas, seeking greater legal certainty and a more reliable process for finding a surrogate. International surrogacy brings challenges, including UK children born stateless and parentless, ethical concerns and high costs.
Meanwhile, the system of transferring parenthood after birth via a parental order has been stretched to breaking point. The family court has tackled case after case where the post-birth criteria don’t fit but the court still needs to safeguard the child’s welfare. In some, the law has been creatively extended but in others children have been left in permanent legal limbo. The result is a mess and a fudge. High Court judges have described UK surrogacy law as ‘irreconcilably conflicting’ and ‘the very antithesis of sensible’ and repeatedly called for ‘better regulation’ of surrogacy in the UK.
Stats and figures
Parental order applications after surrogacy births 2008
Parental order applications after surrogacy births 2021
Percentage of cases involving overseas births 2018-21
What does UK surrogacy law say now?
Surrogacy agreements are unenforceable
The surrogate and her spouse are the child’s legal parents
There is a court process for transferring parenthood, which takes up to a year
The post-birth criteria assessed by the family court for transferring parenthood are restrictive and exclude some families
Children born through international surrogacy are their parents’ legal children in the country of birth but not in the UK
Advertising and professional services for surrogacy are restricted
Although UK law appears to restrict payments to surrogates to ‘reasonable expenses’, the court can (and does) authorise compensation payments
What surrogacy law reform do we need?
A legal mechanism which recognises the intended parents as their child’s legal parents from birth
Written surrogacy agreements and other sensible protections before conception
Prompt recognition of children born through surrogacy overseas, ending statelessness and the long wait to come home
More workable rules for surrogacy services and an easing of the advertising restrictions
Rights to information for surrogate-born people, in line with those of donor-conceived people
Acceptance that there is no bright line between surrogate expenses and compensation, so that financial arrangements can be managed more honestly and transparently
A continued UK surrogacy culture of altruism and strong relationships within a legal framework which is more clear, certain and transparent
Want to know more?
Brilliant Beginnings regularly works with Members of Parliament. Read our Parliamentary briefing summarising surrogacy and the need for law reform for busy MPs.
The Law Commission review
The Law Commissions of England and Wales and Scotland undertook a five year project to consider and recommend how UK surrogacy law should be brought up to date. They published their provisional proposals in 2019 and their final report in March 2023.
From our Surrogacy Information area
What is surrogacy?
Altruistic surrogacy and commercial surrogacy
Why do women become surrogates?
Want to get involved?
Stay up to date. Sign our petition. Write to your MP.