Exclusive: NZ's 'humiliating' surrogacy laws set to be changed

Tue, May 30
Baby Finn, who was born via a surrogate.

New Zealand's "archaic" surrogacy laws are set to be changed as the Government fast-tracks reforms, but there's a slim chance they'll pass before the election.

The current laws, which were first enacted in 1955, do not recognise the intended parents as the legal parents of a child born via surrogacy.

Instead, they have to undergo a formal adoption process that takes months.

1News spoke to an expecting mother, Emma, who has a heart condition and can't carry a baby.

As a result, she's used surrogates for her daughter and another child she's expecting.

"It's an extremely weird process," she said. "When things are happening in hospital, and say the baby is born with something that needs medical intervention — the surrogate is asked what they would like to happen. You almost like feel like an outsider with your own child."

She's calling for the 70-year-old law to be updated so parents don't have to wait months to adopt their own children.

Around 50 babies are born through surrogates each year.

Emma and her child.

Kellie Addison has been a surrogate twice and told 1News that existing laws are brutal.

"I had quite an intense birth the first time round. Ten days after the birth, I wasn't really moving around. I couldn't sit down for long periods of time," she said.

"But I had to get in my car and drive to a lawyer and spend 45 minutes in an office with him explaining to me: 'Was I sure I wanted to adopt.'"

Labour MP Tāmati Coffey told 1News that it felt "humiliating" to adopt his own child. He has a biological son conceived through surrogacy.

That's why the outgoing MP drafted legislation in order to change the current laws around surrogacy. Justice Minister Kiri Allan said: "Now he's exiting politics, I'm happy to pick that up and push it forward."

Tāmati Coffey.

The Government has now put its weight behind reforms, but there's only a slim chance it'll be passed before the election.

The changes include no longer needing adoption for parents, a register that names surrogates, and clarity about what parents can pay for as surrogates can't be paid.

It comes after the Law Commission recommended changes to existing laws last year.

However, some groups, like the Catholic Church, have concerns about how surrogate mothers are paid. Bioethicist John Kleinsman said it was okay to meet basic pregnancy-related costs but that going further raised "murky" questions.

"I think we get into very murky ground when we start thinking about loss of earnings or paying a surrogate mother for the time that she is carrying that child," he said.

Allan said the Government was intent on avoiding the notion of "rent-a-womb" happening in New Zealand.

"There is a commercial element that has been exploited internationally," the minister said.

"We aren't that country. We don't want to proceed down rent-a-womb or any of those horrific experiences."