Surrogate parents ‘should get minimum wage’… £40,000 for nine months’ work

Surrogacy laws across the UK are ‘woefully inadequate’ meaning surrogate parents are unable to earn £40K through minimum wage that all ‘workers’ are entitled to, according to Manchester medical and ethics experts.

The finger of blame was pointed at the Government’s ‘wilfully ignorant’ approach to the issue of surrogacy, during a talk at Royal Northern College of Music on Wednesday night.

Experts believe that Great Britain is a hotspot for surrogate births despite it being currently illegal to pay anything more than ‘reasonable expenses’ to the gestational mother and advertising for it being banned.

One potential solution identified would see surrogate mothers paid the minimum wage for the duration of their nine month pregnancy – which would see them paid for every hour they carry the baby.

This would see surrogates paid £40,300 for carrying the child by the commissioning couple.

Professor Brazier said: “Many people see surrogacy as selling their body but I have sold my brain to the University for the past 40 years.

“It could be seen as a legitimate payment for a service but I am a little uncomfortable with surrogacy being seen as just a commercial transaction but then these are their rights.

“Surrogates have been neglected and demeaned, right here in the UK, by the couples that they are providing for.”

Though Prof Brazier does point out that one downside to such a solution would be the potential for pricing British surrogates out of a market that already sees hundreds of couples find surrogates abroad.

The issue of payment dates back to 1984 when Kim Cotton, a single mother with two children, accepted a payment of £6,500 from a foreign couple for her third child.

At the time Ms Cotton was grateful to accept the money as she was already pregnant and unable to provide for a third child.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFE Act) was amended in 2008, but the University of Manchester’s Professor Margot Brazier believes the government evaded addressing serious issues surrounding surrogacy.

“At the time the department of health made it clear the government were going to make as few changes to the HFE Act as they could get away with,” she said.

“Proper accreditation would aid the progression of sound and accurate advice, particularly to do with foreign laws.”

The lack of clear regulation at home has seen an estimated 1,000 children, destined for a British childhood, born to surrogates in India over the past 12 months.

Professor Brazier, who is currently researching the impact of the criminal justice system on healthcare, added: “There is a lack of willing surrogates in the UK because of the ban on advertising and perhaps because of their being no guarantee of a relationship with the child.

“The surrogate is always the legal mother at birth, but once the commissioning couple (who are paying the surrogate) obtain a parental order, the gestational link is cut.”

Around 77% of surrogate mothers stay in touch with their children, often meeting once or twice a year, after birth but there is no guaranteed visitation right in UK law.

The researchers also highlighted finances as troublesome for surrogates. Law forbids anything more than reasonable expenses of £8,000-£15,000 being paid to the surrogate.

Couples found to have paid an additional sum to a surrogate will be unable to obtain a parental order and therefore unable to take immediate guardianship of the child.

Doctor Danielle Griffiths, a research fellow at the University of Manchester in Interdisciplinary Bioethics and Law, also believes our surrogacy laws must be updated.

“Current regulation is inadequate and I believe it may be driving couples to foreign surrogacy,” she said.

The researchers were also keen to see recognition of single parents as legitimate guardians for surrogate children.

At present parental orders are not granted to single men or women and Prof Brazier and Dr.Griffiths believe it is time this was changed.

The amended 2008 HFE Act recognised same sex couples as suitable parents for the first time but single parents remain unable to obtain a parental order.

“Single men and women should have the right to go through the same process as couples,” said Dr Griffiths.

With more and more children being brought up in single parent households it is a somewhat conservative view that sees single parents as being unsuitable for parenthood.

However it was the view of politicians in 2008 when the HFE Act was last revised that one parent is not enough for a child.

“Politicians took on the more traditional view of a family that, because of some of the difficulties associated with surrogacy, two parents are needed,” added Prof Brazier.

Image courtesy of Jerry Lai, with thanks.

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