We have been working with Coronation Street on their surrogacy storyline (the first in a mainstream UK soap) which has come to a head this week, with surrogate Tina making the emotional decision about whether to hand baby Jake back to his biological parents Gary and Izzy.
We have been helping Corrie to get the law right, but what would happen in reality? Do surrogates often change their minds, and what is the legal position if they do, particularly if it is not their biological child?
UK law says that the surrogate is the legal mother, whether or not she is not the biological mother. The intended parents can apply to court for a new birth certificate after the birth – a process which ends the surrogate’s motherhood – but only with her consent. If she withholds it, the surrogate remains the legal mother, although the family court can order that the child should live with the intended parents anyway.
But the legal position rarely fits with what happens on the ground – in reality, surrogacy arrangements go wrong surprisingly rarely. The structure of the law would make you think that surrogates change their minds often, and need to have their rights protected. In reality, the picture is very different. There have now been over 1,000 parental orders granted in the UK (surrogacy cases with no dispute) and only 2 reported cases where a surrogate has sought to keep the baby. In both cases, the surrogate was also the biological mother, and in only one of them did she win her case.
So what would happen if a gestational surrogate like Tina (who is not biologically connected) wanted to keep a surrogate baby? The answer is that we just don’t know because it has never yet happened in the UK.
And what will happen with Tina, Gary and Izzy? Well, we know, but we aren’t allowed to tell you…
There is more information about surrogacy law on our website. You can also read what Natalie thinks about whether surrogates should still have an absolute right to change their minds under UK law here.
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