It’s common for many people to find another person they love, come together in a lifelong relationship, and then decide to take the next big step. That step is, usually, starting a family. And while it is a major life choice that always changes everything and is full of challenges to overcome, for some, one of the biggest challenges is right at the start. Some couples are unable or medically advised not to have a child. In these situations, fortunately, surrogacy is an alternative.
Surrogacy itself is an age-old process that literally dates back to the biblical period, and even has examples cited in the Old Testament. But even though surrogacy is a very old technique, even in the 21st century, its usage is complex, nuanced and sometimes frowned upon. Nowhere is this more apparent than in looking at the surrogacy process in Europe.
Old World, Small Areas
The “new world” of the Americas has a major difference in its geopolitical landscape compared to the old world and Europe. The dominant cultures of the new world are colonists, and as a result, have spread throughout their respective regions maintaining a common, central culture and government. This is why, in North America, there are only three massive countries, Canada, the United States and Mexico, each with a giant, centralized government and set of laws.
In the old world of Europe, different cultures sprouted in different regions, which is why even though the European landmass is smaller than the total of North America, for example, it is home to far more countries, languages, traditions, cultures, sovereign governments, and laws.
For surrogacy, this has created many boundaries. While massive areas like the United States either condone surrogacy or have no laws in place to ban it, Europe is an entirely different story. Large countries and small countries are all tightly packed together, and the moment a border is crossed, the language, culture, rules and even alphabet may change entirely. For surrogacy, this means that different countries have vastly different legal views on the practice, so which country a couple resides, and which other countries they visit very much affects their access to surrogacy.
The Countries With Bans
Some countries in Europe have banned surrogacy in all its forms. For couples that want to start a family, legally, within these countries, but are unable to conceive and deliver a child naturally, this means the only alternative while remaining in these countries is adoption. Any couple that tries to work with another woman to act as a surrogate mother in these countries will find they have little to no legal claim on the child. Because surrogacy is banned, the surrogate mother is considered both the biological and legal mother of the newborn, and she retains custody and right to raise the child.
A few countries in Europe have this ban in place. Two of the most prominent are France and Germany, although Norway, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland are other countries where the practice is entirely banned. Couples in these countries must weigh their options carefully.
Countries That Permit Altruistic Surrogacies
A common form of surrogacy is known as the “altruistic surrogacy,” and, as the name suggests, this is where a woman agrees to become a surrogate mother as an act of compassion and generosity. Surrogate mothers in these countries agree to take on the role with a sincere desire to help a couple hoping—but unable—to start a family. As a result, while these surrogate mothers may receive financial help to cover their living and medical expenses as the pregnancy progress, they receive no other financial support for their efforts.
In Europe, countries like Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Hungary are a few examples of such countries. Couples living in these countries must find a woman of extraordinary generosity to agree to this considerable undertaking.
Countries That Permit Compensated Surrogacies
Finally, the compensated surrogacy is one where the intended family and the surrogate mother enter into something more closely aligned with a traditional business transaction. In other words, in countries that permit this type of surrogacy, the surrogate mother receives considerable—some would way well deserved—financial recognition for her role in the surrogacy process. This is in addition to the living and medical expenses she should receive over the course of the pregnancy.
Fewer countries offer compensated surrogacy in Europe legally. Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia and a small handful of others permit the practice. As a result, the laws in these countries skew heavily towards protecting the rights of intended parents. This means that, as in a country like Georgia, for example, laws are in place within the country’s constitution that carefully declare and protect the rights of an intended family, ensuring that regardless of birth mother, the intended parents, as long as all legal procedures have been observed, are immediately granted legal parental custody of a newborn.