Court orders France to recognise surrogacy children

Michael Cook
5 Jul 2014
Reproduced with Permission

Surrogacy may be banned in France, but it must recognise children born to surrogate parents abroad, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled .

This may have brought to an end a long-running case brought by two French families who had both used an American surrogate mother to gestate a child conceived with the father's sperm. The ECHR said that refusal to recognise the children's parentage "undermined the children's identity within French society".

Courts in California and Minnesota had recognised the couples as the legal parents more than 10 years ago. However, French authorities, suspecting that the cases involved surrogacy arrangements, refused to enter the birth certificates in the French register of births, marriages and deaths. the register. The children were living in a legal limbo - residents of France, but not citizens or legally-recognised offspring.

An appeal to the French Court of Cassation in 2011 failed. That court ruled that recording the births in the register would give effect to a surrogacy agreement that was null and void on public-policy grounds under the French Civil Code.

"This is a great relief," declared one of the fathers, Dominique Menesson, after the judgement and called on French authorities not to appeal against it. The lawyer for the two couples has claimed that 2,000 children are in the same situation as his clients' children.

The case may have broader implications. If children of overseas surrogate mothers will automatically become French citizens, it will be easier for gay couples to create families. Dean Hutchinson, a lawyer for Circle Surrogacy , an international agency which specialises in gay clients, observed:

"Countries that are members of the European Court of Human Rights must recognize the parentage of parents who have a genetic connection to their children born through surrogacy abroad, as this is in the best interests of the child. Our analysis of the case shows that, as long as at least one parent has a genetic connection to the child, the authorities must recognize parentage and grant citizenship - even if the country does not allow surrogacy. This is a blessing to intended parents from countries like France, Italy, Spain, and Germany that do not recognize surrogacy and have placed impediments to parents returning home with children born through surrogacy."