Surrogacy parenting is on the rise, especially in the United States. Experts speculate that roughly a thousand infants are born through a surrogate. The practice is regulated by state-by-state legislation and the widely believed mindset is “if you have the money, you can do it.” However, in other parts of the world, the emerging industry lacks guidelines and regulations.
Surrogate parenting is actually illegal in several countries, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In countries where it is legal, it is still plagued with difficult restrictions. This can create challenging situations for families in these countries, even once the child is born.
Northern Public Radio reported on one such incident, where one UK couple encountered the severity of red tape surrounding the surrogacy process. While the practice is legal in the UK, it is surrounded by strict restrictions.
“British couples hoping for a child cannot openly solicit a surrogate, and women cannot publicly offer to be surrogates.”
So, parent hopefuls must meet in formal groups and socialize with potential surrogates without ever discussing the topic. While this may work for some, many British couples decide to look in other countries, such as India and Thailand, where the industry has been gaining attention.
Experts speculate the women in these countries are more willing to become a surrogate because of the huge money-making opportunity. Hopeful couples are attracted to the country because of the lower procedure costs. In Nepal, the procedure costs $60,000, while in the U.S. costs a whopping $150,000. The women will only see a portion of this money, but it is still enough to make a living.
India also has a lack of regulation, which can leave these women vulnerable.
“These women are identified by the doctor. There is a middleman who would then benefit by this whole effort of getting the woman to the doctor,” Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi says. “These women who are being hired, most of them are illiterate so they don’t know what they have been promised. Even the money promised doesn’t go to them because all the food they eat, all the care that is provided, is all deducted from her [payment].”
The industry is extremely troubled in countries, such as India, but even countries with surrogacy parenting legislation in place can still create complicated situations for couples looking for a child.
It is important that parties involved in conceiving a child through surrogacy seek the counsel of a family law attorney. An experienced attorney will make sure the correct legal procedure is followed and make sure the parents are given the proper legal rights.
Securing parental rights can also be a complicated part of the process, depending on the law. Most states in the U.S. have regulations that immediately give parental rights to the couple seeking the surrogate. However, other countries do the opposite.
For example, English law states that the legal mother is the “gestational” mother, until a court rules provides a parental order for the hopeful couple. The arrangement is made even more complicated if the mother is married. Her husband is considered the legal father. This leaves the couple wanting the child without legal protection. This has created problems, such as the “gestational” mother deciding to keep the baby or the hopeful couple deciding to back out.
The most important advice given to couples looking into this arrangement is to consult with a knowledgeable attorney in the country where the agreement is being made. An experienced family law attorney will be able to assure legal protection and provide important advice to aid in the process.
Anyone looking to enter either side of a surrogacy agreement (surrogate or couple) should realize the risk that comes along with the process.
Until there is a strict worldwide governing policy for the surrogate parenting industry, parties involved will be plagued with legal battles, confusing arrangements and complex ethical decisions. With thousands making the decision to utilize this type of family building, a worldwide regulation is vital to stabilizing this booming industry.