I was delighted to be an invited guest speaker and moderator at The American Bar Association’s international assisted reproduction law congress in Las Vegas from 26-29 October 2011. The conference brought together the world’s most pre-eminent experts in fertility and surrogacy law to discuss assisted conception, family building practices and law and policy across the world.
As increasing numbers of intended parents are crossing borders to access assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy programmes to build their families, there has never been a greater need for recognition and understanding of the legal issues and problems they face. The conference united the world’s leading experts in fertility and surrogacy law and will help to give a much needed voice at a time when the Hague Conference on Private International Children Law has identified surrogacy as a “pressing socio-legal problem” and is investigating ways of regulating surrogacy internationally.
I was delighted to moderate an international panel of fertility law experts from the Ukraine, Greece and Brazil and for my own part give an international perspective of assisted reproductive technology law and practice. My presentation addressed the scale of infertility, the reasons why intended parents cross borders for assisted reproductive treatment and popular foreign destinations, wider issues associated with cross-border assisted reproductive treatment, the risks and problems for intended parents travelling abroad for surrogacy and the nebulous question of whether there should be greater regulation of surrogacy law and practice.
It is estimated that one in seven couples experience problems conceiving. Intended parents cross borders to access fertility treatment and surrogacy programmes for a number of different reasons including cost, availability and cost of donor gametes and permissive legislation abroad. This raises a number of legal, practical and wider issues associated with management of donor information globally, whether there should be an internationally unified donor cap limiting the numbers of families to which a donor can donate, the wider emotional issues associated with assisted conception, management of health care costs, surrogacy law and practice, as well as citizenship and nationality and immigration law issues and protocols.
There is no international harmonization of surrogacy law, with some jurisdictions prohibiting it, others allowing it on a restricted non commercial footing and some embracing surrogacy on a commercial basis. Surrogacy raises sensitive and difficult issues about the right to have a child and a family life, altruism, commercialism and freedom of choice. Assisted reproduction techniques now make it possible for children to be conceived and families to be created in ways that simply were not possible forty years ago. Fertility treatment and surrogacy now has a global reach which has out-paced legislation and regulation. Until nations get to grips with these issues it is difficult to see how any form of progressive international consensus or regulation will be achieved in relation to assisted reproduction. The risk is that in the meantime international regulation of surrogacy will be introduced akin to adoption, which could limit the practice of surrogacy around the world.
Assisted reproduction lawyers play a vital role in educating intended parents about the legal issues and pitfalls when they cross borders for fertility treatment and surrogacy. The American Bar Association is to be congratulated in hosting this international conference and creating a united voice of the world’s leading fertility and surrogacy law experts . As a group we must continue to engage with law and policy makers across the world as they struggle to get to grips with the increasing demand for assisted reproduction and the implications and regulation issues this creates.