UK Donor Link threatened with closure

The UK Donor Link (UKDL) is the voluntary contact register for donor conceived adults in the UK who were conceived prior to August 1991.  It is threatened with closure and shuts its doors to new registrants today because the Government will stop its funding in October 2011 pending a decision next month by the public health minister.

UKDL enables donor conceived people, their donors and half-siblings to exchange information and where agreed contact each other. The register is available throughout the UK and helps individuals who were conceived with donor gametes and donors who donated before the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act came into force in 1991.

UKDL has so far been unsuccessful in securing alternative funding and is running a campaign seeking donations.  UKDL closes its doors today to new registrants because DNA testing and linking cannot be completed before the service may have to close at the end of October.

Louisa Ghevaert, a specialist in fertility and parenting law at Porter Dodson states “UKDL provides a very important service for donor conceived individuals and donors, who might not otherwise be able to access information about their genetic origins or make contact with genetic relatives (as donors were usually anonymous and there was no legal requirement to maintain records before August 1991).  If UKDL closes altogether it could have devastating consequences for donor conceived people and donors in the UK. It would be a serious retrograde step and an immeasurable loss to the fertility sector.”

For more information about donor conception law contact me by email

International surrogacy and fertility law: is greater regulation needed?

The American Fertility Association (The AFA) has reportedly been inundated with questions from prospective parents and professionals about whether there should be additional regulation of surrogacy following the recent criminal investigation and prosecution of three US surrogacy lawyers. People have reacted with anger and shock to the news that these professionals have acted illegally and that surrogacy has once again been placed in the spotlight.

The AFA has stated that “it is easy to forget that assisted reproduction is, in the vast majority of cases, a process with integrity and humanity” and that “many people who choose to build their families through surrogacy can feel secure that the vast majority of professionals, surrogates and parents are decent and honest.”

The AFA believes there should not be greater regulation of surrogacy because regulation does not necessarily promote good practice. It points out that there are already regulations, policies and laws in some US states about surrogacy and that those few professionals who were willing to break the law would have done so whether or not there had been additional regulation.

Many have asked why these US professionals acted illegally and this remains unclear. The AFA has stated that “there are desperate people who will take desperate measures to fulfill their dreams of becoming parents – and there will always be some individuals who will take advantage of them if they can.  As an organization, The AFA’s goal is to try to ensure access to family building methods that are safe, informed and legal.” It also emphasizes that  “The AFA denounces the practices that have reportedly occurred.  Any kind of so-called “baby selling” is abhorrent, and contrary to everything that we stand for”

The legal restrictions surrounding surrogacy in the UK are designed to prevent the commercialization of surrogacy and stop the sort of activity reported to be at the heart of the recent US surrogacy criminal investigation. Commercial surrogacy agencies are prohibited and surrogacy contracts are not enforceable in the UK.  However, surrogacy law and practice remains legally complex, particularly when intended parents cross borders and enter into international surrogacy arrangements.  Anyone contemplating surrogacy in the UK or abroad should proceed with care and thoroughly investigate the legal issues from the start.

Surrogacy in focus: the perils and the pitfalls

The birth of a much wanted child can bring immeasurable joy and happiness, but the legal issues associated with an international surrogacy arrangement are complex. The lack of international harmonization of surrogacy law and practice and widely differing approaches to surrogacy across the world raises many challenges for intended parents and law and policy makers. Recent reports that three US surrogacy lawyers have pleaded guilty following a criminal investigation has once again brought international surrogacy into focus.

In the UK, surrogacy is a restricted and regulated practice.  There is a public policy prohibition against commercial surrogacy and commercial surrogacy agencies are illegal. It is a criminal offence to advertise for a surrogate mother or to advertise as a prospective surrogate mother.  Surrogacy contracts are not enforceable in law and it is a criminal offence for solicitors in the UK to professionally organize a surrogacy arrangement or prepare a surrogacy contract.  The English court carefully scrutinises each surrogacy arrangement to police the legal restrictions before conferring legal parenthood upon  intended parents as part of a post birth court process known as a parental order.

The legal framework and restrictions surrounding surrogacy in the UK are  therefore very different  to other legal jurisdictions where surrogacy is permitted on a commercial basis and there is no central regulation or control.  The legal restrictions in the UK are designed to prevent the commercialization of surrogacy and stop concerns about the sort of activity reported to be at the heart of the recent US surrogacy criminal investigation.  However, the legal patchwork of surrogacy law and practice across the world and the international conflicts of law this creates means intended parents must proceed with care and get to grips with the legal issues from the outset.