Cambridge international surrogacy forum
I was greatly honoured to be one of the organisors of the recent International Surrogacy Forum, held at the University of Cambridge. The forum was co-sponsored by the University, the American Bar Association, and the International Academy of Family Lawyers.
The conference was described by the former head of the family division of the England and Wales High Court of Justice, Sir James Munby, as a “spectacular success”.
250 of the world’s experts on surrogacy attended to discuss the different ways that surrogacy is regulated around the world, from an outright ban to a tolerant approach, to a more permissive approach, to no regulation, and what works. The experts were also told about empirical data about surrogacy. The point of the conference was to highlight these different methods, and to find – if possible – a way forward in both the domestic and international regulation of surrogacy
It’s little surprise but in essence the research seems to show that kids born through surrogacy turn out just like other kids. However, there are small numbers with the research, and it has been going a relatively short time, so there are some qualifiers.
Those speaking included the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on the sale and sexual abuse of children, as can be seen in this video. I was delighted that she was able to attend.
Just before the conference was held, the England and Wales and Scottish Law Commissions suggested a rewriting of UK surrogacy laws so that intended parents are automatically recognised as parents- see the Youtube video here. Australia’s surrogacy laws were largely adapted from the UK model.
What does the research tell us?
French lawyer Caroline Mecary demonstrated why a prohibitive approach to surrogacy does not work, and its impact on parents and children. Her former clients, the Mennesson family, who lived in France, went to the US for surrogacy, and then had to go the European Court of Human Rights to have their children recognised as their children gave a powerful address.
Free market model
Professor Julia Sloth-Neilsen from Western Cape University in Cape Town talked about how surrogacy is regulated in South Africa, as did leading South African lawyer, Robynne Friedman.
The tolerant approach
This was led by Sir James Munby.
The organisors of the conference were:
- Dr Jens Scherpe, Director, Family Law Research Centre, Cambridge University
- Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, QC (Hon), co-chair of the Parentage/Surrogacy Project Committee of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, London
- Colin Rogerson, international representative on the ART Committee of the American Bar Association, London
- Steve Snyder, former chair of the ART Committee of the American Bar Association, Minneapolis
- Rich Vaughn, former chair ART Committee of the American Bar Association, Los Angeles
- Dean Hutchison, chair of the ART Committee of the American Bar Association, Boston
- Bruce Hale, member of the ART Committee of the American Bar Association, Boston
- me- international representative on the ART Committee of the American Bar Association, member of the Parentage/Surrogacy Project Committee of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, Brisbane.
I particularly want to acknowledge the untiring efforts of Dr Jens Scherpe in putting it all together, and then hosting the conference.