Let's be straight: UK surrogates do get paid. Some surrogates have their actual out of pocket expenses covered, which can be no small amount once you add up travel costs, loss of earnings, extra childcare, medications, support with housekeeping and additional food costs. More commonly, UK surrogates agree to be paid a lump sum, including expenses but in a fairly general way without much reference to the actual costs.
Figures of £12,000 to £18,000 are typical (often with variable costs like travel and loss of earnings in addition) plus other payments if the surrogate miscarries or delivers twins. We are also aware that some UK surrogates’ expenses can be £20,000 or even more. None of this is new, with such arrangements being common in the UK for at least 20 years.
No, it is not - although this is a common misconception. It is illegal for anyone to arrange surrogacy for profit but this does not apply to surrogates or intended parents. That means that intended parents and surrogates can agree anything they like about payments without breaking the law.
However, there is some unravelling to do and that's where it can feel murky. If a child is born, the intended parents will need to get a parental order from the family court to make them the legal parents. As part of the process, the court must assess what has been paid. If more than 'reasonable expenses' has been paid to the surrogate, the court has to authorise the payments. There is now a long track record of the court doing this (including authorising life-changing sums to Indian surrogates, and big-value amounts to some US surrogates). The court has never refused to authorise payments since ultimately that would not be in the best interests of the child. But paying more than expenses may complicate the court process for the intended parents.
Another widely misreported myth is that up to £18,000 can be paid in the UK as reasonable expenses. While it does often seem in practice that £12,000 to £18,000 is the going rate for UK surrogacy arrangements, in the eyes of the court what is reasonable depends on each circumstance. There is no set figure. However, the family court rarely questions the level of payments in domestic surrogacy cases.
We make sure our surrogates and intended parents are fully informed so they can make the best choices. Some itemise their expenses, others agree a lump sum at the outset. Whatever is decided, it is important that everything is clearly agreed upfront, and put in writing, with provision for what will happen if unexpected costs arise or if there is a miscarriage or early birth.
For those concerned about the potential for exploitation if surrogates are paid, we say that the answer is not to ignore these concerns. We should be tackling these issues by making sure that everyone going into a surrogacy arrangement is fully informed about the risks and implications - medically, psychologically and legally. Well-managed surrogacy involves informed choice, a balanced relationship, and clarity and security around payment.
We also want to see greater honesty about payments for UK surrogacy. In the US, where surrogacy is commercialised, surrogates can be paid $20,000 to $50,000 whereas in the UK, where we have an 'altruistic' system, surrogates can receive £12,000 - £18,000.
Updated: March 2020