Understanding Legal Issues Involved in Surrogacy and Fertility Services

The number of intended parents experiencing fertility issues have been increasing for some time. Consequently, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has become an alternative for childless couple to start a family. The inability of intended parents to give birth to a baby of their own has given rise to the profession of surrogates.

While talking about surrogacy, we mean gestational surrogacy, where a hired mother who is not genetically linked to the baby rents lends her womb to get the embryos created through in-vitro fertilization technology (IVF) implanted, becomes pregnant, carries the pregnancy and ultimately gives birth to the baby. The incapability of the biological mother to conceive has invited the surrogate mother to act as a replacement that carries out the pregnancy.

An agreement is drawn up between the surrogate mother and the intended parents. Signed by both parties in mutual consent, it stipulates the terms and conditions of the agreement. The intermediary fertility clinic stands as a witness to the contract. The chief feature of the surrogacy service is the birth certificate of the baby that only carries the names of the intended parents and not that of the surrogate mother. The terms of the agreement specify surrogacy services fee stipulations and other out-of-the-pocket expenses, which are reimbursable to the surrogate mother. This normally includes the expenses for food and accommodation for the surrogate mother plus the travel expenses if she needs to be flown in and out of the clinic in case the fertility clinic is located in a different country from where the surrogate mother resides.

Interestingly, in gestational surrogacy, a third character can also be involved, and that is the egg donor. Her eggs are fertilized by the sperms of the biological father or a sperm donor (in case the intended male parent is incapable of producing sperm). The fertilization takes place in a controlled laboratory environment and the resulting embryos is implanted in the surrogate mother’s uterus. This process making the surrogate mother non-related to the child by blood.

This is different from traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate mother is directly impregnated with the sperms of the biological father or intended father through artificial insemination. The entire process is carried out artificially in a medical facility, but it means that the surrogate mother is biologically related to the baby.

When a surrogate mother receives a financial remuneration for the services she renders, surrogacy becomes a commercial deal in the eyes of the law. Legislation approves commercial surrogacy in India, Ukraine, Georgia, Cambodia and a few other countries, but it is not legally permitted in the United Kingdom, Australia and in many states in the US. In these places they only recognize altruistic surrogacy, where a financial reward is not given for the surrogacy services rendered. Other countries, like Germany, Sweden, Norway and Italy, do not entertain any surrogacy agreement at all.

Although surrogacy services is immensely beneficial to both the childless couples, by making them happy parents, and the surrogate mothers by making them earn a living, many times a lot of the money ends up in the pockets of intermediaries due to the absence of proper legislative control. Therefore, it is immensely important to always work with professional agencies.

In some countries, surrogacy and egg donation services are available only to the citizens of the country and not to those from other countries. In such cases, surrogate mothers and egg donors fly to the country of the intended parents and render their services where the intended parents wish the delivery to take place.