NZ surrogacy laws in desperate need of overhaul – study

by Sol Dolor01 Feb 2017

Child surrogacy law in New Zealand is urgently in need of an update, according to a new study funded by the Law Foundation.

Dr Debra Wilson, leader of the University of Canterbury research team that conducted the appraisal, said that judges are currently forced to “creatively interpret” the existing law. The country’s dated surrogacy legislation is leading to intended parents not having their relationships to their children legally recognized, ultimately harming the child.

Apart from social and scientific conditions changing, surrogate births are further complicated by births overseas, which further necessitate law reform, Wilson  said. International surrogacy brings about numerous complex issues that are yet to be fully understood and which New Zealand’s law does not account for, she added.

“It used to be that a child came from two people. Now there are potentially multiple people with a legal claim to being involved in bringing a child into the world,” said Wilson, who’s currently surveying lawyers in New Zealand on their experience with surrogacy matters.

The case of “Baby Gammy” is a perfect example of a case the law in the country would be ill-equipped to handle, she said. According to Wilson, the case involved the Thai surrogate mother of a child with Down syndrome. The child was initially thought to have been abandoned by his Australian intended parents, who were seeking custody of the child’s twin when it was brought to light that the intended father was a convicted child sex offender.

Under New Zealand law, the only way the intended parents can become legal parents of a child is by adoption, since the surrogate mother and her partner are the initial legal parents of the child.  Wilson said that Australia has already mooted a model national law on surrogacy, while the UK’s Law Commission has proposed adding surrogacy to its work program.

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