Surrogacy, that is, the process of working with another woman to agree to become pregnant on behalf of another couple, is one of the oldest solutions in the world for couples with challenges in having a traditional pregnancy and birth. It’s so old, in fact, that it is even mentioned in the Bible as a solution for some Biblical figures to have children when they are unable.
Today, surrogacy is widely practiced all over the world. However, that doesn’t mean that surrogacy itself is the same everywhere. This is one reason why some couples consider going with surrogacy but leaving their country of residence to work with a surrogate clinic and mother in another nation. But why would you do this? And what are the implications? Here’s a quick breakdown.
Is Surrogacy Abroad Ethical?
As always, this depends on how the couple approaches both the surrogacy and the surrogate mother. Thailand, for example, had one story of surrogacy that was so horrendous it provoked the government to change the laws of surrogacy to bar foreigners from being able to participate.
In 2013, a couple from Australia worked with a woman in Thailand who agreed to become their surrogate mother. However, a complication arose once the pregnancy was confirmed. There was not one baby but twins, a boy and a girl, and a quick medical diagnosis showed that the boy had Down’s Syndrome. The Australian couple insisted that the Thai surrogate mother have an abortion to “eliminate” the boy, while they wanted to keep the girl. The Thai surrogate mother would not agree to this, and when the babies were born, the Australian couple took the girl and left the Thai mother to fend for herself with the boy, that had Down’s Syndrome.
The nation of Thailand was so shocked by the callous treatment of both the child that was abandoned and the way the Australian couple treated a Thai woman that had agreed to be their surrogate that they changed their laws. In 2015, foreigners were barred from soliciting Thai women’s services for surrogate pregnancy.
In this case, it’s very clear to see that ethical boundaries were crossed. The Australian couple did not treat their surrogate mother with the appropriate respect and made unreasonable demands on a woman who had already agreed to donate her time and her body to provide them with a child they would have otherwise been unable to add to their family.
Surrogacy is typically an ethical practice, but only if the appropriate levels of respect and civility are observed. This is often made easier by using a clinic or agency that acts as a mediator between a couple and surrogate mother, protecting both of their interests. When done properly, legally binding contracts are drafted and signed, laying everything out for both parties. In some cases, there may even be Federal level laws at play, such as in the country of Georgia, where the rights of both surrogate mothers and hopeful couples are protected under the constitution.
The legality of surrogacy abroad varies enough that the answer to this is, “it depends.” Some countries, such as France and Germany, have banned any surrogacy, which has ramifications for couples from those countries attempting it. There are examples in France of couples that have worked with surrogate mothers in other countries, only to have the child not recognized as a French citizen upon return.
This creates two legal considerations when it comes to surrogacy abroad. The first factor is the legal status of surrogacy in another country. Some countries only allow what is called “altruistic surrogacy.” This is where a surrogate mother volunteers herself out of generosity and a wish to help a couple in need. In some countries, it is illegal for a surrogate mother to receive any contractual payment for her efforts.
However, in other countries, “compensated surrogacies” are legal, meaning that a surrogate mother’s significant role is met with significant financial recognition of her service. Because this payment can be substantial yet legal, countries that permit compensated surrogacies tend to have a much higher pool of available surrogate mothers, providing more choice to couples.
Depending on the country you go to, there may also be different legal considerations—or not—for surrogacy. The United States, for example, hugely varies the legal status of surrogacy from one state to the next. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, Georgia has Federal levels laws enshrined in the constitution that lay out the rights and protections for surrogate mothers and families.
The legal aspects, especially regarding the newborn’s citizenship of the newborn can be completely legal, but only if the appropriate legal procedures are observed before returning to the intended country of residence. Much of the assertion of legality depends on the country of residence and the country where surrogacy takes place. A prepared surrogacy clinic or agency will have the legal experience to deal with this.