Surrogacy, a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) where a woman carries to term, the child of an intend parent or parents, is a topic awash in controversy and debate due to the fact that the market is highly unregulated when it comes to laws and regulations. Currently, there are no internationally recognized or sanctioned surrogacy laws, leaving each country, state and province to form and regulate its own rules and opinions on the matter. Exacerbating the controversy is the issue of ethics – whether or not surrogacy exploits women and their reproductive systems, and whether reproduction and children should be rendered as commodities and services.
Currently, it can be implied that the United States is one of the more surrogacy friendly countries though this is restricted to certain states. Some states allow both compensated and altruistic surrogacy contracts while other states like Oregon and Washington only allow altruistic surrogacy; and some states like California don’t regulate surrogacy practices at all while other states like New York prohibits surrogacy altogether and will issue fines to those that enter into such agreements.
In Canada – except for the Quebec province – the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA) only sanctions altruistic surrogacy meaning that aside from reimbursing the surrogate for approved expenses, any other form of monetary compensation is illegal.
In sharp contrast, Europe enforces strict limitations on surrogacy arrangements, with each country’s government enforcing their own rules. For example, countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Germany currently outlaw all types of surrogacy, whereas countries like Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic have no formal legislation that recognizes surrogacy, resulting in many potential legal complications, especially when it comes to the parentage of the child.
In the United Kingdom, altruistic surrogacy is legal but only for its citizens while Portugal allows altruistic only for heterosexual couples with medical issues. Ukraine and Russia are currently some of the few European countries that allow both local citizens and foreigners to pay for surrogacy.
Surrogacy in Asia is a hotbed for controversy as poorer countries have become prime destinations for unregulated and unsanctioned surrogacy arrangements. This has further fueled the argument for surrogacy to be banned as anti-surrogacy advocates believe that such arrangements “turns babies into commodities and women into factories.”
Countries like Cambodia who previously approved of commercial surrogacy banned it in 2016 because its Health Ministry found too many complications regarding the babies born from surrogate mothers to non-Cambodian intended parents. The government introduced an “exit strategy” in April 2017 for such cases, which required intended parents to identify themselves to the government before they could potentially exit the country via Vietnam.
Other Asian countries such as India are proposing a ban on commercial surrogacy due to pressure from human rights groups protesting about how the $2.3 billion industry is putting India’s vulnerable women at risk for exploitation. Altruistic surrogacy may still be possible but only for heterosexual couples with proven infertility issues.
In conclusion, if you’re seeking surrogacy options abroad, you should read up on the surrogacy laws of that country and what the legal complications and requirements are regarding you as the intended parent, the surrogate mother and parentage of the future child.