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Building families through surrogacy: A new Law - Consultation

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FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 11:59:44

Building families through surrogacy: A new Law - Consultation

Last Tuesday I attended one of several public consultation events around the country to hear discussion of the proposals and recommendations to the government regarding new laws to regulate surrogacy. Now I am opposed to surrogacy in all forms and wish Britain would follow other European countries such as Switzerland, France, Germany and Sweden in banning it. However our government and the department of heath take a different view:

“Our project does not seek to examine whether or not surrogacy should be allowed. Instead, we take as our starting point that surrogacy is an accepted form of building a family, as recognised by the Department of Health and Social Care in the guidance it publishes on surrogacy arrangements”

So in the spirit of examining how the laws should be reformed I thought it would be helpful to have a new thread devoted to this discussion - there have been quite a few threads where the rights and wrongs of surrogacy have been discussed and I have voiced my opposition. Now I think we should look at the fine detail of the proposals and support and advise anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion by responding to the consultation.

Links:

Summary of the consultation paper, a shorter overview of the proposals.

https://s3-eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/lawcom-prod-storage-11jsxou24uy7q/uploads/2019/06/Surrogacy-summary.pdff_

The full consultation paper, all 502 pages, not for the faint hearted! Disclaimer - I haven’t worked my way through it all yet either!

https://s3-eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/lawcom-prod-storage-11jsxou24uy7q/uploads/2019/06/Surrogacy-consultation-paper.pdff_

Link to respond to the consultation - at the event one of the organisers stressed that all answers are welcomed and don’t feel you have to answer all the questions. Just answer some if you want to.

https://consult.justice.gov.uk/law-commission/surrogacyy_

Or you can email comments to:

“However, we are happy to accept comments in other formats. If you would like to a response form in word format, do email us to request one. Please send your response:
By email to surrogacy@lawcommission.gov.ukk_
OR
By post to Surrogacy Team, Law Commission, 1st Floor, Tower, 52 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AG.
If you send your comments by post, it would be helpful if, whenever possible, you could also send them by email.
If you have any questions, you can contact the team at: surrogacy@lawcommission.gov.uk

Back to Tuesday. I have name changed as anyone who was there will know who I am. I left work at lunchtime planning to catch a train that would get me to Cardiff with plenty of time to cross the square from the train station to attend the event starting at 4pm. But it was a very hot day. Successive announcements warned that the train would be delayed by 12, 18, 36, 48 minutes...I contemplated abandoning the trip and going swimming. We got on the train (dd had decided it would be interesting to come with me), and soon we were told the train would be terminating for maintenance and we had to change. So...three trains later I staggered into the meeting room, extremely hot and sweaty, having somehow acquired a generous smear of black grease from one
of the trains all down the front of my dress, and the only seats available were at the front🥵!

The presentation had just finished and questions were starting. Of course I was very disappointed to have missed the presentation however the slides on the screen were of the twenty four pages of the summary paper linked above which I had printed off and read so although I missed the wider explanation I have an idea what the previous hour had covered.

From the questions raised referenced by some of the screenshots:

There was discussion of the proposed new pathway, which will include legal advice for the surrogate and the intended parents, and “implications” counselling for the surrogate, her family and intended parents.

A hopeful intended parent disagreed with compulsory legal advice on the grounds that she was a solicitor and didn’t need it. A recent surrogate mother disagreed with compulsory counselling as she knew what she had done and didn’t need it.

Both of these points were politely dismissed by the person presenting the proposals. And I absolutely agree with him. If anything these views demonstrated to me how these provisions absolutely need to be compulsory and I was surprised that two apparently intelligent and thoughtful people would not see that these proposals are to provide protection for other people who may be less well informed.

There was discussion around the payments and costs. I queried compensation for death of the surrogate. It was suggested that intended parents would be expected to pay for life insurance for the surrogate.

I also raised the matter of egg donors, as they appeared not to have been mentioned. We were informed that payment for egg donors is capped at £750 in the UK.

Thinking about it since the event, shouldn’t egg donors have some sort or health/sickness/life insurance too?
Ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome is a well known complication and can be life threatening in 1-2 % of cases.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-hyperstimulation-syndrome-ohss/symptoms-causes/src-203546977_

Also I have been looking at some American donor egg bank sites online. Payments are significantly higher over there, especially for young women with sought after genetic traits (high IQ, athletic prowess, beauty etc). Payments may be as much as $10,000.
I have no idea if it is legal but if I was looking to make money from my eggs a holiday in the USA and a substantial payment looks a lot more attractive that £750!

Discussion moved onto the question of payments to the surrogate. The surrogates in the room were very clear, the commercial model of the USA, where surrogates may be paid around $40,000 is not welcome in the UK. The presenter was in agreement. One surrogate mentioned the type of punitive contracts used in the USA and absolutely rejected the possibility of signing such a contract.
So surrogacy should remain altruistic with just payments for expenses covered, this was generally agreed.

However I have been thinking about this more over the past few days and it seems to be a bit of a conundrum. Look at the proposed pathway and think about the number of services and professionals involved along the way, all of whom will have a commercial interest in surrogacy:

Lawyers
Counsellors
Private fertility clinics
Egg donors - at least for £750
Insurance companies
Surrogacy agencies
Possibly advertisers if this is made legal

All of these people have skin in the game and will be profiting from each surrogate pregnancy. The intended parents get their baby. And the surrogate? Some redundant maternity clothes, a few more stretch marks and a warm fuzzy feeling at having given the most generous gift of life.

That just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe I am just too selfish, too close minded, too unimaginative to understand why someone would want to go through nine months of pregnancy and birth for someone else. But I hate to feel ripped off and taken advantage of. And I can’t wrap my mind around the principle of a whole industry (the presenter mentioned they expected a growth in numbers) predicated on a steady supply of generous individuals who are the only people in the chain who make no profit.

The only comparable situation I can think of is altruistic kidney donation, which is uncommon but some people do it. I’m not sure exactly how one would go about it but I would think in the uk approaching the national transplant organisation would put you in touch with your nearest transplant centre, they would do medical and psychological assessments and if all was well make arrangements. It would all be in house, within the nhs, absolutely no profit anywhere, of that I am sure.

Incidentally the questions raised about making counselling and legal advice compulsory seemed to be rooted in trying to keep costs to a minimum for the intended parents. Which seemed to miss the point of these recommendations somewhat.

I have no answer for this - commercial, with substantial payment to the surrogate v altruistic with payment of expenses only to the surrogate but lots of side players profiting along the way. It is definitely something I will mention in my reply to the consultation.

So to wrap up, there were one or two people present who I suspected could be mumsnetters - one woman mentioned the rights of the child, the “quiet voice” of the baby which was the silent voice in the room. Another woman drilled down some statistics that had been mentioned in the presentation that I missed so I couldn’t comment except to say she was tenacious and had a sound mathematical mind which put the presenter at a distinct disadvantage. Well done her.

I may or may not have caused outrage with one or two grenades I lobbed - least said the better 😉

Which reminds me, I am not happy with a proposed minimum age for surrogates of 18. Yes, as someone said, it is the age of adult majority, and the presenter said it was unlikely in reality that an 18 year old would be accepted, but still....

There are more public events to come, and the screenshot I have shown doesn’t include the Scottish ones - Edinburgh on 9 September, Aberdeen 10 September, another London event is planned, date to be confirmed. You can search for events on Eventbrite, look for “Building families through surrogacy” and they come up.

Also the closing date for the consultation says previously said 27 September but seems to have been extended to 11 October on some of the information, probably best to email directly if you have queries about this.

So I hope this thread can be a useful result rice for anyone be interested in commenting on the proposals and looking at how the new law may pan out. I know many of us get heated about the rights and wrongs of surrogacy but I think it would be helpful to keep those discussions on other threads and keep this one centred on the proposals for new laws in the UK.

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 12:00:35

Oh no - I forgot to name change blush

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 12:01:20

Extra screenshots. My quota for today.

AnyOldPrion Sun 28-Jul-19 12:14:26

Thanks for posting. Will have a look.

Instead, we take as our starting point that surrogacy is an accepted form of building a family,

This is so reminiscent of another of these recent consultations. The UK is frighteningly anti-woman and it’s taken me years to realise just how bad it is.

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 12:22:48

* So I hope this thread can be a useful result rice for anyone be interested in commenting on the proposals and looking at how the new law may pan out.*

Edit failblush"useful resource " I hope.

Fraggling Sun 28-Jul-19 12:24:32

Really interesting thank you op

Your point about everyone is getting something valuable and the surrogate who does all the work gets little is a good point and as you say a conundrum.

I am totally against commercial surrogacy.

Maniak Sun 28-Jul-19 12:57:22

.I think people shouldn't be able to be surrogates unless they've already carried a baby to term. Because you have no idea how horrible it is until you do. You simply can't imagine what you're consenting to, and so without that experience, I'm not sure there's really informed consent.

The other issue is the health risks to the mother. How to address the fact that she may end up with abdominal surgery or major complications? I don't think those risks can be compensated for financially anyway, but at the same time it seems unreasonable to ignore them.

BadgertheBodger Sun 28-Jul-19 13:11:54

Thanks Fanny I will definitely fill in the consultation. I agree with Maniak you should have carried your own baby and given birth before you can be considered.

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 13:26:19

As far as I have seen in the USA they like women who have had a couple of children and completed their family. Proven ability to carry a baby, low risk medically (financially) and hopefully well informed of the psychological aspects. I doubt that would be different in practice over here, from a selfish buyer point of view it makes sense.
I'm not sure if issues like this will be presented as guidelines?
I think as they are making new law there should be definite standards about who can be a surrogate.
I listened to all the programmes on bbbc5 iPlayer by Dustin Lance Black. He interviewed one woman who had had 13 babies, not sure how many pregnancies as there had been at least one set of twins and one triplets. However it is well known that increasing parity goes hand in hand with increased risk of post partum haemorrhage. She was a high risk woman at least in the later pregnancies. It should not be allowed to use a high risk mother for her own protection.

Maniak Sun 28-Jul-19 14:52:46

Suppose surrogates were paid at the minimum hourly wage for 9 months pregnancy, that would come to about 50K. Then expenses and health insurance, recovery time etc would be on top of that.

RedToothBrush Sun 28-Jul-19 15:15:14

“Our project does not seek to examine whether or not surrogacy should be allowed. Instead, we take as our starting point that surrogacy is an accepted form of building a family, as recognised by the Department of Health and Social Care in the guidance it publishes on surrogacy arrangements”

No Debate Repeats.

We will tell you what you are allowed to talk about in this discussion and what we have already decided we will impose regardless of the social impact.

SonicVersusGynaephobia Sun 28-Jul-19 15:27:46

And I can’t wrap my mind around the principle of a whole industry (the presenter mentioned they expected a growth in numbers) predicated on a steady supply of generous individuals who are the only people in the chain who make no profit.

I haven't thought about it like this before.

The main class of people benefiting from this are probably privileged males (the business owners, the gay male couples who can afford it, the lawyers, etc.

The one who the whole process depends upon, the key linchpin in it, is the woman. She is the one who will suffer only negative consequences, and no compensation.

Hmm.

SonicVersusGynaephobia Sun 28-Jul-19 15:28:31

Maybe, if its such an altruistic thing to do, all the rest who are involved in the chain should be altruistic too.

ChattyLion Sun 28-Jul-19 16:57:26

Thank you for the feedback on the event, great that you made it and asked these important questions. Really important for women to respond to this consultation.

Just for completeness, linking here to previous recent threads discussing these proposals or ethics around this area:

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/3606313-The-Rumplestiltskin-Law

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/3169070-To-think-theres-a-valid-discussion-to-be-had-about-the-ethics-of-surrogacy?pg=1&order=

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/3608712-Breeders-A-Subclass-of-Women

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 17:59:36

* Maybe, if its such an altruistic thing to do, all the rest who are involved in the chain should be altruistic too.*

Lawyers work for free! Heh. wink

But just the IVF clinics are all massively expensive to run - the gynaecologists, the embryologists, the sonographers and nurses, all the other staff, the equipment - scanners, high powered microscopes, the storage facilities for sperm/eggs/embryos, the fertility drugs. No wonder each cycle of IVF costs so much and actually £2500 per cycle (quoted from one clinic) begins to look quite good value.

* Suppose surrogates were paid at the minimum hourly wage for 9 months pregnancy, that would come to about 50K*

Minimum wage. Hmm. But that probably roughly equates to the sort of sum a surrogate can expect to be paid in the USA.

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 18:00:22

Thanks for the links Chatty

LassOfFyvie Sun 28-Jul-19 19:08:11

All of these people have skin in the game and will be profiting from each surrogate pregnancy. The intended parents get their baby. And the surrogate? Some redundant maternity clothes, a few more stretch marks and a warm fuzzy feeling at having given the most generous gift of life

I am opposed to surrogacy and all forms of assisted conception, however if we are going to have surrogacy (as banning it seems to be not for discussion) I'm almost now inclined to move to the other extreme and that only fully contractually regulated, commercial surrogacy is permitted.

The surrogate should be at least 21. She should be reimbursed at the equivalent of twice the national minimum wage (regardless of whether she continues in her own paid employment)

She should be provided with life insurance and private health insurance during the pregnancy and for up to 5 years after the birth.

If she is in paid employment the surrogate parents should reimburse all statutory maternity pay provided by the state and all voluntary contractual maternity pay provided by her employers. Her employers should be entitled to be reimbursed by the surrogate parents for all paid leave she takes during the pregnancy.

A surrogate should only carry one pregnancy.

HeyDuggeesCakeBadge Sun 28-Jul-19 19:54:21

I agree with Lass - I totally disagree with commercial surrogacy too but actually if its 'no debate' then I quite like the idea laid out by Lass.

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 20:24:36

I agree too, I just can't accept so many people making money off the back of the one person, who is the most important person in the whole process, doing the greatest service for free. I think Lass's plan is the way to go. I think employers need protection, I don't see why they should be out of pocket funding maternity benefits to someone who is doing the service for another party. That is not what the battle for maternity rights was fought for.

Birdsfoottrefoil Sun 28-Jul-19 20:34:25

Prospective parents should also have to go through the same process as prospective adopters.

IcedPurple Sun 28-Jul-19 20:36:10

If she is in paid employment the surrogate parents should reimburse all statutory maternity pay provided by the state and all voluntary contractual maternity pay provided by her employers. Her employers should be entitled to be reimbursed by the surrogate parents for all paid leave she takes during the pregnancy.

Absolutely. Why should taxpayers or employers have to subsidise the desire of individuals - who are very likely of above average wealth - to have their 'own' child? If they want that child so very very badly - as we're always told by the guilt-trippers who come on these threads - then let them pay for it. Fully.

Reminds me of how in America, military wives are highly sought after by the surrogacy industry (ugh). Although these women are not wealthy - because let's be honest no wealthy woman would choose to be pregnant for 9 months as a way to make a living - they do have what most Americans don't have, which is health insurance. And that health insurance is subsidised by the American taxpayers. So in effect, in a country where millions don't have access to basic health care, the selfish desire of well-off individuals to have their 'own' child is being funded by the taxpayer.

JustAnotherWoman Sun 28-Jul-19 20:43:00

I don't agree with surrogacy and one of my objections is the exploitation of the women who are taking all the risks.

If it's altruistic everyone should be providing their services for free. If not the mother should have full health and legal protection and be paid accordingly. I'd add payments to cover the risk on top of minimum pay. If that makes it too expensive maybe some of the other parties involved in the process could consider reduced fees...

Already had a child is an absolute must, I don't think any woman appreciates the impact on them until they've had a baby.

No exemptions to the legal and financial protection for family members, the possibility of undue pressure is even greater in those circumstances and thus the need for protection greater.

IcedPurple Sun 28-Jul-19 20:50:38

The only comparable situation I can think of is altruistic kidney donation, which is uncommon but some people do it.

While I see your point, I don't think it's a valid comparison, because lacking a kidney can be a life or death matter. The kidney doner is giving up an organ without which he/she can probably live very well, but which may save someone's life. By contrast, nobody needs to have their 'own' child. It's a want, not a need. A very powerful 'want' for many people, obviously, but still a want.

I would consider donating a kidney, perhaps for a stranger, certainly for someone I love. But there's absolutely no way I would go through 9 months of pregnancy and give birth to a child only to give it away to a stranger.

I think we need to emphasise that having a child is not a human right - not even close - and that while infertility can be painful, it shouldn't be seen as this terrible calamity which requires extreme solutions. I consider the commodification of women and children to be an extreme solution.

LassOfFyvie Sun 28-Jul-19 20:55:43

The only comparable situation I can think of is altruistic kidney donation, which is uncommon but some people do it

It isn't comparable for the reasons IcedPurple sets out.

FannyCann Sun 28-Jul-19 21:02:57

Yes, kidney donation is a bit of a red herring and not comparable, I probably shouldn't have mentioned it. The point I was trying to make is that anyone offering altruistic kidney donation within the UK would have all the arrangements and counselling etc organised via the nhs, and no agency or other person would make a profit off the back of it.

Whereas "altruistic" surrogacy will offer a profit to numerous players except for the one person making that altruistic gift.

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