Fertility Show repeats calls for fertility law reform

Attendees at this year’s Fertility Show held at London’s Olympia have again called for reform of England & Wales’ opaque, confused and protracted laws. Common misconceptions abound and major obstacles which prospective parents need to be aware of include the difficulty of establishing the identity of a child’s legal parents following fertility treatment or surrogacy; and understanding the conflict of laws between England & Wales and overseas jurisdictions. The results of a survey conducted by Howard Kennedy clearly show that attendees believe that England & Wales’ fertility laws need wholesale reform.

Howard Kennedy surveyed attendees to ascertain which laws most need reform. Of those surveyed, results were narrowly split between surrogacy and adoption, with 36% of the view that surrogacy laws are in greatest need of reform, followed closely by 35% calling for change to adoption laws. 28% believe the laws relating to egg and sperm donation need reform, with just 1% of the vote saying that no reform at all is needed.

A number of themes can be identified to explain the widespread calls for reform, including the complexities of identifying the legal parents in surrogacy and egg/sperm donation; legal contradictions such as the fact that there can be a sole applicant for adoption but not for surrogacy; the confusion of the laws relating to egg/sperm donation and adoption; and laws which are simply out of step with modern society by not allowing for commercial surrogacy.

One of the more striking findings was that 80% of non-adoption attendees at the Fertility Show are increasingly looking overseas for surrogacy and / or IVF treatment. Increasingly, prospective parents are looking to Eastern Europe for IVF treatment, in large part for reasons of economy. Jurisdictions such as California remain the main common destinations for prospective parents since commercial surrogacy is permitted.

Lois Langton, Partner and Head of Family Law at Howard Kennedy
The fact that the vast majority of those surveyed at the Fertility Show did not know that there were no international treaties on surrogacy between England & Wales and other countries is of deep concern and needs to be addressed. The laws concerning parentage and fertility treatment are obtuse and shrouded in opaque legalese and cause unnecessary stress and distress to those looking for assistance in having children. In relation to adoption, numbers appear to be declining, in large part due to the interminable length of time prospective parents must wait for an adoption order to be granted.

The right to a family life is enshrined in the Human Rights Act. But the right to have a family – from natural conception to surrogacy - is an inalienable right that should be available for everyone to enjoy and not be at the whim of complex, chaotic and archaic laws.
Lois Langton, Partner and Head of Family Law at Howard Kennedy
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