Interest in surrogacy continues to grow around the world. Surrogacy is becoming more common as a family building option, whether on an altruistic, commercial, host or straight basis.
For some heterosexual couples, surrogacy is an attractive option when IVF treatment has failed and when faced with the often daunting, lengthy and uncertain adoption process.
Surrogacy can also deliver the prospect of a genetically related child, which can be a powerful incentive for many people struggling to conceive naturally and for same-sex couples.
For gay male couples looking to start a family, surrogacy can offer parental autonomy as opposed to entering a co-parenting or known donor arrangement which can involve three or more adults.
Celebrities continue to endorse surrogacy, capturing public interest and raising the profile of surrogacy around the globe.
More jurisdictions than ever before are opening their doors to surrogacy, providing an increasing choice of surrogacy destination for intended parents. Some foreign jurisdictions endorse surrogacy on a commercial basis and offer binding surrogacy contracts and a pool of prospective surrogates and donors, which can seem an attractive option for some intended parents when faced with legal restrictions limiting the practice of surrogacy in their home country.
However, surrogacy law and practice remains an evolving area. There is no international unification of laws surrounding surrogacy and this can create a range of legal problems for intended parents looking to cross-borders and enter into international surrogacy arrangements to create a much wanted family.
Robert DeNiro and his wife Grace Hightower are the latest celebrity couple to have a baby through surrogacy. They recently announced the birth of their baby daughter, Helen Grace. Baby Helen is the couple’s second child, being a younger sister for their son Elliot aged 13. Robert DeNiro has further children with his former wife and girlfriend, two of whom are reported to have been born with the help of a surrogate mother.
They follow in the footsteps of other celebrity couples including Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Elton John and David Furnish and Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. Whilst the cost of surrogacy in the US, where these celebrities are understood to have entered into their surrogacy arrangements, is far from cheap and can cost tens of thousands of dollars, celebrities are increasingly embracing surrogacy as a way of having or expanding their family and raising the profile of surrogacy across the world. Surrogacy is increasingly being viewed as a flexible family building option, particularly for those couples unable to carry their own pregnancy and same-sex couples and is often combined with the use of donor eggs or sperm and IVF.
The English family court has now endorsed a small number of international surrogacy arrangements involving British couples who have entered into surrogacy arrangements with foreign surrogates abroad. However, any cross-border surrogacy arrangement raises a number of complex issues, reflecting the international dimension, the commercial nature of the agreement which offends domestic public policy designed to prevent commercial surrogacy in the UK, the often complicated immigration, citizenship and nationality considerations and the need to protect the best interests of the surrogate born child or children, the surrogate parents and the intended parents. The English family court continues to highlight the need for prospective surrogate parents to take great care over the relevant legal issues and ensure they obtain expert legal help and assistance so they can navigate a safe path home to the UK with their surrogate born baby after the birth and legally protect their family and parental rights in the UK.