Surrogacy in the UK
Surrogacy is not illegal in the UK, but it is restricted by various legal rules which, generally speaking, allow only surrogacy arrangements that are informal and non-commercial.
UK surrogacy law: advertising offences
It is a criminal offence in the UK to advertise that you are:
- Looking for a surrogate mother
- Willing to act as a surrogate mother
- A third party willing to facilitate the making of a surrogacy arrangement.
The law catches adverts online worldwide as well as in print, if they are placed by someone in the UK and can be viewed in the UK. They also catch the publishers of adverts in the UK.
UK surrogacy law: commercial surrogacy offences
It is a criminal offence to negotiate a surrogacy arrangement on a commercial basis. This is why fertility clinics in the UK cannot help you find a surrogate mother, and there are no professional surrogacy agencies. The offences only apply to third parties brokering surrogacy arrangements and not those entering into the arrangement. In other words, it is not an offence to agree to make or receive a commercial payment if you are an intended parent or a surrogate mother (although doing so can complicate your ability to obtain a parental order), but it is an offence to profit by helping someone else to make a surrogacy arrangement.
The law has recently been updated to clarify that non-profit making organisations (such as COTS and Surrogacy UK) operate legally in helping surrogacy agreements to be made, even if they charge membership fees. Profit-making organisations commit a criminal offence if they arrange surrogacy in the UK.
UK surrogacy law: surrogacy agreements are unenforceable
The law also says that surrogacy agreements are unenforceable; you cannot enter into a legally-binding surrogacy agreement in the UK. However, this does not necessarily mean that, if a surrogate mother changes her mind, the intended parents have no possible remedy. Find out more about surrogacy disputes and how UK law deals with them.
UK surrogacy law: regulated or unregulated?
Surrogacy in the UK is not subject to regulation, although, if you conceive through IVF or other treatment at a licensed fertility clinic, your fertility treatment is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Surrogacy agencies in the UK (such as Surrogacy UK and COTS) are not currently licensed or regulated.
How we can help
Contact us if you would like further advice or assistance on the legal regulation of surrogacy in the UK. In particular, we help families, fertility clinics, charities and not-for-profit surrogacy agencies with navigating the legal regulation of surrogacy in the UK.
Modern surrogacy in the UK - The Review (journal) article, September 2009
Your surrogate will keep the baby, won't she? - Infertility Network UK magazine, winter 2011