Last week we had an interesting development at the United Kingdom relating to commercial surrogacy. Mr. Justice Headley had pronounced another landmark decision pertaining to surrogacy. Mr. Justice Headley had earlier decided the case of Re: X & Y and also Re: K (Minors) both of which are pertaining to international commercial surrogacy.

The matter relates to a commercial surrogacy arrangement made in Illinois wherein agreements for commercial surrogacy are legal. The agreement is no doubt illegal as per the 2008 legislation in the United Kingdom. Mr. Justice Headley opined that he remains satisfied that “the payment in excess of the reasonable expenses were made in this particular case to the surrogate mother.”

He also opined: “I observe only that ‘reasonable expenses’ remains a somewhat opaque concept. The approach that I have adopted is to treat any payment described as ‘compensation’ (or some similar word) as prima facie being a payment that goes beyond reasonable expenses. It is necessary to emphasize (as comparisons between the USA and Western India graphically illustrate) that no guidance can be gained from ‘conventional’ capital sums or conventional quantum of expenses. Each case must be scrutinized on its own facts.” Mr. Justice Headley stated that it is important every intended parent duly acquaints themselves about the international surrogacy arrangements prior to entering to the same.

With the introduction of the 2008 legislation, the court stated that the welfare of the child is not only the court’s first consideration, but also the paramount consideration. The court weighed and balanced between the public policy considerations and welfare of the child to decide in favour of the welfare of the child. It was stated that the court would be able to withhold an order if otherwise welfare considerations supports its making. “It underlines the court’s earlier observation that if it is desired to control commercial surrogacy arrangements, those controls need to operate before the court process is initiated i.e. at the borders or even before.”

This decision gains importance in view of the growing number of intended parent flying to India for commercial surrogacy. As stated in the decision, it is important the intended parents are well informed about the legal position in India and in UK prior to entering into commercial surrogacy arrangements. It has to be seen on a case by case basis and never there is a general rule.

The official copy of the full text decision is available here.