London – A gay couple who created an instant family by paying three surrogate mothers £40 000 (R773 000) to have three babies in only six months have been legally recognised as their parents.
The men met the three women on a Facebook surrogacy forum and handed over sums ranging from £13,000 to £15,000 so they would give birth via IVF – but then lied about the amounts when they were questioned by a judge and social workers.
Despite condemning their ‘dishonest’ and ‘reprehensible’ actions in attempting to cover up the sums, the judge, Ms Justice Russell, agreed in a ruling handed down yesterday that the children would receive ‘excellent parenting’ from the couple.
Paying for surrogacy in the UK is illegal, and the judge condemned the online surrogacy market, where there is a ‘going rate’ for babies of between £8,000 and £15,000.
But the couple – who cannot be named for legal reasons – were entitled to pay a fee to the mothers for ‘expenses reasonably incurred’, with the leftover money said to amount to a few hundred pounds at most. Ms Justice Russell noted that none of the women was ‘party to the deception’ in covering up the sums of money.
They are legally forbidden to make a profit, and the money they received was used to cover expenses, including ‘recuperation holidays’, clothing and travel costs, the High Court in London heard.
The Facebook page – run by a woman referred to as W – was set up to arrange contact between would-be parents and potential surrogate mothers, with meetings held at W’s home or in pubs. Following meetings, the women gave birth to three children within six months last year.
Ms Justice Russell said: ‘As well as being concerned about the actual amounts paid to the surrogates and the dishonesty of the applicants to the court in disclosing the amounts they had paid, the welfare of the three children was an issue that had to be determined by the court, as it would be a challenge to any parents to manage three children born in such close proximity to each other.
‘Their decision raised questions about whether the applicants had taken appropriate, child-centred decisions about “building their family”.’
But the judge was swayed by the evidence of the children’s court-appointed guardian who praised the couple’s ‘excellent parenting’ skills.
The babies were all the biological children of one or other of the men and they took ‘enormous pride and joy’ in the youngsters, the court heard. The guardian described them as ‘completely attentive fathers’, adding: ‘It seems like it is what these gentlemen were put on this earth to do.’
Ms Justice Russell said the couple had maintained ‘warm and close relationships’ with the surrogate mothers throughout their pregnancies.
And none of the surrogate mothers was under any illusions that they would have any rights over the children after giving birth to them.
The judge, therefore, granted the couple’s application to be granted parental orders.