There is a growing clamour amongst lawyers and campaigners for reform of the UK's rules on surrogacy arrangements.
As the law stands, the surrogate mother who carries a child remains the child's legal parent unless and until the intended parents obtain a court order transferring legal parenthood to them (known as a 'parental order'). The intended parents must prove that they have met various conditions before they can obtain a parental order. They cannot pay the surrogate mother (other than reimbursing her reasonable expenses). They cannot enter into a binding agreement with the surrogate mother beforehand, and it is illegal for lawyers to draw up such agreements anyway. Finally, parental orders are only open to couples, not to single parents.
There is a clear argument for regulating surrogacy arrangements 'before the event', rather than forcing the surrogate, the intended parents and the child to go through a stressful legal process after the child has been born. This would give greater certainty and peace of mind for all involved. There is also a very strong case for allowing single people to become parents through surrogacy, and refusing to do so is arguably discriminatory and contrary to human rights law.
Some go further and propose that intended parents should be able to pay surrogates. This is extremely controversial, not least because of concerns that in the parts of the world where it already happens it frequently leads to the exploitation of vulnerable and financially desperate women.
At present, the government appears to be uninterested in reforming this area of the law, and so the confusing and unsatisfactory regulatory framework will remain as it is for the time being.
The regulation of surrogacy in the United Kingdom: the case for reform