Do you think that babies should be on sale as commodities in the UK? Should a disadvantaged woman be paid to be a ‘breeder’ for people much richer than she is? Should those richer people become the legal parents of that child the moment it’s born? Do you understand the impact of this on the rights of all women – that it will end the ancient legal assumption that the birth mother is always the legal parent of the child? Do you think Facebook and Google should be allowed to present adverts to hard-up female students suggesting that becoming a ‘surrogate’ would provide the solution to their financial worries?
Then please respond to the Law Commission’s consultation – otherwise all these things and more are likely to come to the UK very soon. We’ve set out everything you need to know below. You can do it in under 10 minutes.
Then please read our overview that explains what is wrong with the consultation and its proposals.
Responding to the consultation
It is preferable to do your own personalised response to the consultation. However, it’s complex and difficult to navigate – the accompanying paper has 502 pages and there are 118 questions, many with multiple parts and most about complicated details, rather than the key issues. We don’t think many people have the time and energy to do all the reading necessary to create original responses that effectively challenge the proposals.
That’s why we’ve done the work for you. If you agree with our analysis, you can simply download the document, fill out your personal details and send it off. You can, of course, edit some or all of the answers if you prefer. If the Law Commission receives thousands of responses like this, it will go some way to showing that there is significant opposition to their proposals.
If you have more time, consider entering your own hand-crafted answers into the consultation’s online form – using our template answers as a model if you wish. We provide notes about things to consider below. If you haven’t already read it, you may also want to read our overview.
The deadline for responding to the consultation is: 11 October 2019.
How to respond in 10 minutes:
- Download the Word document with our template answers. (Alternative formats are available at the bottom of this page.)
- After it has finished downloading, open the document in Word.
- Fill out your personal details at the front of the document.
- Optionally edit the answers (see notes below for points to watch out for).
- Email the completed document to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to do a personalised response:
- Open the consultation online form.
- Fill out your answers in the spaces provided. You can copy and paste from our document if you wish.
- Optionally save your responses and continue later.
- When you have finished, make sure you submit the form.
20 September 2019: On the advice of a GP who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology, we have expanded the response to question 79 and inserted an additional paragraph into the response to question 107.
Points to consider
- You don’t have to answer all the questions.
- We have not provided template answers to every single question – we have concentrated on the ones that we believe are key.
- There are some questions that are directed at those who have specific experiences – for example, those who have had personal experience of surrogacy or have specialist knowledge of children’s rights, etc. If relevant to you, please consider answering these questions. (There’s a list of the question numbers below.)
- The responses to each question are likely to be analysed separately and in isolation from your responses to all the other questions. When something applies to more than one question, we therefore recommend copying and pasting it into the answer to every question it applies to.
- Be aware that agreeing with some of the detailed proposals could be taken as agreement with the underlying premise. For example, if you agree to pre-conception medical checks, it may be taken as agreement with the proposed ‘new pathway’.
- Currently, the law allows ‘altruistic surrogacy’ in the UK. Birth mothers may receive certain essential expenses, accounted for with receipts. The proposed legislation would change this to a model more similar to that used in some US states, where birth mothers can receive a fee (which may be substantial) and commercially driven agencies are paid to facilitate the arrangements. These proposals violate both women’s and children’s human rights.
- We object to much of the terminology used in the consultation, particularly in questions 60-62. We do not believe that surrogacy is ever a ‘medical necessity’. You may also want to challenge the terms ‘surrogate’, ‘intended parents’, etc.
- The consultation has many questions about what expenses or fees should be allowed to be paid to birth mothers. We oppose all surrogacy and believe that it should be banned. However, if it is to be allowed, we believe that UK law should at the very least be compliant with the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, which are designed to prevent the sale and trafficking of children and the exploitation of birth mothers. We do not believe that the proposals are compliant with these recommendations.
- If implemented, the proposals would place extra pressure on the NHS, because of the additional risks involved in IVF and surrogacy pregnancies and childbirth, and potential long-term psychological distress in both birth mothers and children. The Law Commissioners do not appear to have given any consideration to this, nor to have undertaken any kind of impact assessment.
- The Law Commissioners have recommended that all restrictions on advertising surrogacy and surrogacy-enabling services should be removed. Consider the impact on women who are in debt or struggling to make ends meet being bombarded by adverts offering large sums for being a ‘surrogate.’ Can this ever be ethical? Consider that we do not allow such advertising of paid kidney donations.
- The Law Commissioners have not even mentioned the probability that spouses, partners and other family members might coerce women into surrogacy arrangements for financial gain. There are many men who might see surrogacy as a great opportunity to freeload off their womenfolk, just like with prostitution.
- Many people have ethical objections to legalizing commercial-style surrogacy in the UK, but the consultation makes very little provision for raising these. Please use the final question (118) to add any ethical and other concerns you haven’t covered elsewhere.
- The Law Commissioners are obliged to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) when carrying out public functions, such as this consultation. It almost certainly has not done so – or it would have published their equality considerations and impact assessments. As surrogacy has a very different impact on women and children than on adult males, we believe the Law Commissioners are in breach of equality legislation.
- The government publishes guidelines for running consultations. It seems to us that this consultation breaches many of these guidelines.
Summary of questions
We think that these are the most important questions:
- Question 7
- Questions 11-16
- Questions 21-29
- Questions 33-42
- Questions 72-87
- Questions 107-108
- Question 118
The following questions are aimed at those with specialist knowledge and/or personal experience. These questions are in the Word document, so you can add answers to them if relevant. The law commissioners have asked you not to include any personal information that could identify yourself or any of the other people involved.
- Question 6 – About legislation in Scotland.
- Question 31 – For those with personal experience of ‘independent surrogacy.’
- Question 78 – About the impact of ‘surrogates’ receiving payments has had on means-tested welfare benefits.
- Question 89 – For those with personal experience (or knowledge) of international surrogacy arrangements.
- Question 90 – For organisations focused on children’s rights and welfare.
- Question 91 – For those with personal experience of international surrogacy.
- Question 96 – For those with personal experience of international surrogacy.
- Question 100 – For those with personal experience of surrogacy arrangements in the UK with foreign ‘intended parents.’
- Question 109 – For UK-based ‘intended parents’ who have a child through surrogacy.
- Question 110 – For those with personal experience of applying for a parental order in the UK.
- Question 112 – For those who have knowledge of the costs of medical screening, implications counselling, and the legal costs of surrogacy and parental order proceedings.
- Question 114 – For those who consider they might be suitable for the proposed independent professional role.
- Question 115 – For those who are ‘intended parents’ or ‘surrogates.’
- Question 116 – For those who are ‘intended parents.’
- Question 117 – About the impact of proposals in Northern Ireland.
We have not provided answers to the following questions, but you can add answers to them if you want.
- Question 3
- Question 111
- Question 113
Alternative download options
We provide three different formats of the template responses:
1. We had feedback that people were finding our answer to Question 118 was being truncated under some versions of Word. We believe we have now fixed this problem. If you downloaded the document before 10 September and find this problem, please download it again. If you downloaded it since 10 September and find this problem, please let us know.
2. We have heard that some people have had difficulties because they didn’t know how to save the “template” on their device.
The downloadable Word document is a standard Word document that already contains all 118 questions and suggested answers to the majority of them. It is not a “template” as such.
There are many versions of Word and some people use other software to edit Word documents. There are also many different types of devices (laptops, tablets, phones, etc.) running different versions of different operating systems (Windows, Apple, Android, etc.).
All of this means the exact details of how to do the above steps will vary considerably. Typically the document is automatically saved when you download it and so there is no need for an extra step of saving the document. We have now changed the instructions and apologise that the original instructions were confusing.
3. We have heard that some people are having difficulty editing the downloaded document on their tablets. On an iPad, download the Word document to Pages and then open it in the Word app. You should be able to edit it and attached it to an email in the normal way. You can get a free version of Word in the App Store. We have not tried doing the equivalent on an Android tablet, but we believe it should also be possible. You can get a free version of Word in Google Play.
4. Any other problems that you think we should know about, please contact us and let us know. We want this to be easy.