A British couple who won the legal right to pay a “commercial” rate to a surrogate mother in the US have said that the act was their last chance to have a child - and disclosed that the woman is now "firmly part of our family".
In a rare legal case, a senior family court judge allowed the couple to keep their newborn child, even though they had payed more than the “reasonable expenses” permitted under English law to the birth mother in Illinois.
Speaking publicly for the first time about their decision, the couple said they had suffered years of fruitless fertility treatment, several miscarriages and had no choice but to seek help abroad.
Their case is one of only three such arrangements ever to have emerged. It attracted condemnation from Christian lawyers, who warned that allowing surrogate mothers to make a profit turned children into “commodities”.
Other family law experts and childless couples said the High Court was right to put the needs of the child first and called for reforms to allow commercial surrogacy in the UK.
In a statement to The Daily Telegraph, the couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, expressed their joy at their newborn child, who is known only as “L”.
“We entered into this surrogacy arrangement after a great deal of thought and research, having exhausted all our other options for having a family, and following years of fertility treatment and several miscarriages," they said.
“Our surrogate is a wonderful person who is now very firmly part of our family and will be part of our – and our child’s – lives going forwards. She gave us the most incredible life-changing gift which we will be ever grateful for.”
An estimated 70 children each year are born to surrogate mothers in Britain but hundreds of couples are thought to be so desperate that they are travelling abroad to countries such as India and the USA, where costs can be £25,000 or more.
Surrogacy has been regulated in Britain since 1985, after Kim Cotton was paid £6,500 to carry a child conceived using her own egg but the sperm of a man whose wife was infertile.
Another method involves transferring embryos created through IVF from the eggs and sperm of both intended parents to the surrogate mother’s womb. In this country, no commercial arrangements are permitted to be made and it is illegal to pay a surrogate mother more than "reasonable expenses".
In the case of L, the British couple made contact with a woman in Illinois, where no restrictions on payments to surrogate mothers applied.
The baby was allowed to enter Britain temporarily on a US passport, but would have been potentially stateless and parentless if the courts had not retrospectively approved the large payment.
In his ruling at the High Court, Mr Justice Hedley described the couple as the “most careful and conscientious parents” and granted them parental status and custody of L.
He stressed that the case was clearly a “commercial surrogacy agreement”, which was legal in Illinois but “unlawful” in England.
The couple’s solicitors, Natalie Gamble and Louisa Ghevaert, said it was right that recent reforms to the law made the welfare of the child the court’s “paramount consideration”.
“The reason this case was published was because the judge wanted to highlight the legal and immigration difficulties faced by intended parents, and the poor public information which parents continue to fall foul of,” they said.
“Surrogacy is invariably a last option for those who have had a long and difficult battle with infertility. International surrogacy arrangements are typically entered into with enormous care and thought.
“In Illinois, there are many checks built into the system - where this is a long established and successful process - including counselling, psychological testing and independent legal advice for everyone involved at the outset.
“As in this case, the parents often have very positive relationships with their surrogate mothers which can last a lifetime.”
Article: 11th December 2010 www.telegraph.co.uk
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