After years of heartbreak, single parents in the the United Kingdom will soon be able to apply for parentage rights, following a ruling earlier this May.
For many single mothers and fathers, this means they will finally be able to secure parentage to their child, as well as secure their child’s British nationality with a UK birth certificate, even if the child was gestated by a surrogate in the United States.
Back in 2014, Baby Z was born via a surrogate in the United States. Baby Z was gestated using his intended father’s sperm and an egg donor.
The medical procedure was completed without incident, until Baby Z’s intended father brought him home to the UK. The intended father was denied legal parentage in the UK because of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act of 2008 (HFE Act). Under this Act, only married couples, civil partners or couples in an “enduring family relationship” could apply for parental orders after a surrogacy arrangement.
This Act meant that single parents could not become the legal parents of their own child if they were born via a surrogate.
In September 2015, the UK’s High Court ruled that the legislation could not be “read down,meaning that a single request for a parental order from the father could not be accepted. The result was that the child was legally a ward of the court under the care of the father.
Baby Z’s father later requested a “Declaration of Incompatibility” under the Human Rights Act of 1998. President of the High Court Family Division, James Munby, ruled by issuing a declaration that the HFE Act was in breach of Human Rights Act.
Munby explained that the provisions in the HFE Act that only allowed for couples to apply for a parental order were incompatible with Article 14 of the Human Rights Act that protects people against discrimination based on their marital status, and with Article 8, which is the right to family life.
Munby explained that the father was discriminated against due to his single status.
Natalie Gamble served as the attorney for Baby Z’s intended father. Gamble explained that Parliament was the sole entity responsible for changing the law regarding parental orders. She also mentioned that “Declarations of Incompatibility” were unusual.
'The UK has a proud tradition of taking a progressive approach to assisted reproduction and non-traditional families,” said Gamble, “and the current surrogacy laws are a glaring anomaly which fail to uphold our most fundamental values of safeguarding children's welfare.'
Out of twenty (20) “Declarations of Incompatibility”in the UK’s history, all but one (1) have lead to changes in the law.
Baby Z’s father expressed his relief following the Declaration. “I persevered with the legal action because I strongly felt that my son should be in the same legal position as others born through surrogacy,” he said. “I am now eagerly waiting to hear what the Government will do so my son does not need to indefinitely remain a ward of court.”
Fortunately the government will be changing the law. Using a special fast-track Parliamentary procedure starting in January of 2017, the new law should take effect in June of 2017, assuming there are no roadblocks.
“We’re proud to have contributed to this progress, especially through supporting the great work of Natalie Gamble and her law firm,” said ConceiveAbilities CEO and Founder Nazca Fontes. “Natalie Gamble Associates is leading the conversation in surrogacy legislation reform. We’re also proud of all the other leading industry figures that have helped reshape the perception of surrogacy in the UK.”
“Finally, we celebrate this victory alongside the countless parents who have longed to call their baby their own. A revamp of the current Act was long overdue.”
While this story is far from over, the news brings hope to many citizens of the UK who felt unheard or abandoned by the esoteric law. ConceiveAbilities looks forward to seeing all the beautiful families that will be born as a result of the protections of this new law.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.