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The Laws on Surrogacy: US vs. UK

Because of the stark contrast in legislation between the two nations, intended parents are heading to the US for surrogacy in greater numbers than ever.

There are a few key differences between how surrogacies are conducted in the US and the UK. What may be even more important to note is that while the UK has a united national policy concerning surrogacy proceedings, laws regarding surrogacy in the US vary greatly from state to state. Help comes differently in both countries, from US Surrogacy agencies like ilaya, a surrogacy agency based in Europe but with protocols for families in the US or from surrogacy organizations like Surrogacy UK, that are a non-profit organization that believe only in Altruistic Surrogacy, tending to all wants and needs of what you might be looking for. In the interest of clarity, we highlight the laws from “surrogate friendly” states within the US in order to weigh them against the laws and conduct of the UK.


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Cost of procedure is a huge consideration for most intending parents. Few countries in the world provide health coverage for surrogate programs, so expenses are generally out-of-pocket. In the UK, couples can expect surrogacy programs to cost in the area of £25,000. This is largely due to the fact that surrogacy in the UK is ruled legal only when performed altruistically. Where the surrogate mother receives no direct compensation for her efforts or time. While there are “reasonable expenses” that may qualify for reimbursement, the laws that outline what these expenses are and how much a surrogate mother can be reimbursed for are vague and vary greatly between surrogacy agreements.  

In the US, couples can expect to pay in excess of £120,000 for a surrogacy. Not including travel costs and accommodation. However, despite these massive differences in the cost of programs, many UK parents find themselves embarking to the US for their surrogacy journey anyway. This is large because of the perks that money can buy when in this particular arrangement. In the US, additional “services” can easily be purchased as there are no caps on what a surrogacy can cost, or what a potential surrogate can demand in reparations. In one highly publicized case, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly paid $10 million in order to keep the identity of his family’s surrogate birth mother a tightly guarded secret.

Qualifying Couples

In surrogate friendly states of the US, surrogacy programs and laws extend their services to just about anyone who needs to procure surrogacy. Married couples, including the LGBTQ+ communities, unmarried couples, single parents, and even individuals who require both egg and sperm donation (leaving no genetic tie between the intended parents and child).

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While in contrast, the UK is not as lenient with their qualifying restrictions. Surrogacy in the UK is not open for single parents or couples who require both egg and sperm donations. Parents of homosexual households must petition for custodial rights through adoptive channels.

Legal Proceedings

In addition to qualifications of eligible partnerships, as well as a firm law against commercial surrogacy, the UK also requires intended parents to petition courts for custody of their child. The birth mother and her partner (if applicable) are named as the rightful parents on the UK birth certificate. In order to change this, the UK intended parents must navigate serval legal proceedings.

Also, surrogacy contracts that are created in the UK are not enforceable by law, where in contrast, in the US, the surrogacy agreement is seen as a legally binding document. Should the UK surrogate mother change her mind about giving the child to the intended parents follow birth, there is little legal recourse intended parents can take. In the US, all surrogacy agreements must be negotiated by licensed attorneys, to ensure that the contract fairly represents both the surrogate and the intended parents.

Surrogate Availability

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Because of restrictions on commercial surrogacy, finding a surrogate has proved to be a somewhat difficult task for many UK intended parents. The US, offering and legally protecting, commercial surrogacy, allows prospective parents to choose from a large pool of possible surrogates. This can serve to significantly decrease wait times for the surrogacy process to begin.

In the UK, intended parents must either use a surrogacy organization, which must adhere to strict guidelines and be not for profit. Or, parents must attempt and find a surrogate on their own. Which can raise concerns about whether or not the woman in question is fit for surrogacy.

The US provides intended parents with surrogacy agencies that are generally fully involved throughout the entire process. Many of which will provide medical and legal counsel, as well as help with returning home and acting as a liaison between the surrogate and intended parents throughout the pregnancy. Some agencies will take their role a step further and help to arrange for travel and accommodation as well. It is possible to independently find a surrogate in the US, but it is not recommended due to the many legal ramifications of the process.