This is a précis of a longer piece Helen and Natalie have written for Bionews, which you can read in full here.
We at Natalie Gamble Associates have been pressing for a better framework for UK surrogacy for some time. We live in a globalised world in which commercial surrogacy is a reality. If parents cannot build their family in the UK, they will, and do, look abroad to countries (like India, the Ukraine and the USA) which provide commercial surrogacy and egg donation services. There are some exceptional surrogacy support organisations in the UK which operate through the efforts of committed volunteers, such as Surrogacy UK. But UK law restricts proper resourcing for agencies, limits advertising (which in a global market means that foreign agencies overshadow UK providers), prohibits enforceable agreements and defers any legal process until after the child is born.
We are launching a new non-profit making UK surrogacy and egg donation agency, Brilliant Beginnings, which will help create UK families through surrogacy and egg donation, and will reinvest resources into campaigns to promote change and raise awareness.
We have now worked with over 400 families created through donor conception and surrogacy in 30 different countries and we know that parents (and surrogates/egg donors) are often overwhelmed with information and do not know where to start or who to trust. Our role at Brilliant Beginnings is to help them build families not just legally, ethically and responsibly, but also with the right information from the start and the practical back up. Surrogacy is a sensitive exercise in human collaboration and those involved need advice, information and support before they go into a surrogacy arrangement.
Brilliant Beginnings will offer ‘first port of call’ advice to intended parents on all the global options, recommending safe existing providers in the UK and abroad, and providing honest information about the risks, costs and implications of international surrogacy. It will also offer professional matching of parents and egg donors/ surrogates in the UK, with practical and emotional support for parents, donors and surrogates throughout, and management of US surrogacy arrangements to help parents work with reputable agencies and professionals and manage all the UK requirements.
We want to raise awareness among women who may be willing to help create families through surrogacy and egg donation, and make the process easier for them, giving their life-changing gift the recognition it deserves.
And we want to improve law and practice. There have been some positive steps forward in recent years which we have been proud to be involved in – such as the introduction of maternity leave for parents through surrogacy and the review of the HFEA guidance on surrogacy. But there is more to do. We want to see intended parents recognised as legal parents from birth where the surrogate mother consents. We want to see more honesty about the UK’s approach to payments for surrogacy, given that the reality is that the UK does allow commercial surrogacy. We want to see an end to discrimination against single intended parents. And we want to make a practical difference to the experience of children born into these arrangements on the ground.