Families relying on surrogacy question delays on reform to archaic law

May 20, 2019

Families relying on surrogacy question delays on reform to archaic law

Husbands Christian Newman and Mark Edwards became the legal parents of their child Francis after nine months of adoption delays. Photo: Hazel Anson

Concerned families claim Parliament isn’t moving swiftly enough on reform of ‘conservative’ surrogacy and adoption legislation.

People intending to have a child through surrogacy face months of paperwork, thousands in legal fees, and lengthy delays.

Christian Newman says that existing surrogacy legislation fails to reflect the modern family, having not been amended for 60 years.

Mr Newman and husband Mark Edwards celebrated gaining legal guardianship on March 15th, nine months after their son Francis Newman-Edwards was born.

“The education around the process is really lacking,” says Mr Newman, concerned about the minimal support available for intended parents.

Current legislation names the surrogate as the legal guardian, even without a biological connection. Further, a current partner of the surrogate can be named the lawful father.

“The fact that we have to go through this process when it’s my biological child [is frustrating],” says Mr Newman.

Mr Newman wants reform of New Zealand’s Adoption Act 1955 due to its ‘old-school’ principles, creating a petition to seek simplified processes within surrogacy law.

“I really want to ensure that we keep pushing for this,” says Mr Newman.

The petition has garnered over 25,000 signatures, including broadcaster Toni Street.

Ms Street and her husband welcomed their third child in August 2018, via surrogacy.

Though the Streets gained guardianship of baby Lachlan before Christmas, the couple faced delays during their surrogacy journey, including numerous checks by Oranga Tamariki to check the Streets’ suitability to be parents of their biological child.

Delays prompted Ms Street to use her platform to speak out, catching the attention of the Prime Minister who assured Ms Street that change is ahead.

Labour MP Louisa Wall was supportive of Newman-Edwards’ case, and is drafting legislative amendments that would see legal guardianship attributed to the intended parents following birth, so that “[surrogacy arrangements] will not require adoption by intending parents.”

However, Ms Wall is remaining tight-lipped on the details and there is no estimated date for the legislation to be introduced to the House.

Ms Street also would like to see surrogacy removed from the Adoption Act 1955, and would like for surrogate mothers to be eligible to receive compensation from the intended parents.

Across the aisle, National MP Nikki Kaye has “always cared deeply about changes to adoption and surrogacy process.”

Ms Kaye collaborated with ex-Green MP Kevin Hague in 2012 on a Members’ Bill, however, the Bill was binned after Hague left Parliament in 2016.

National was reluctant to adopt the bill as Government legislation, due to more pressing ‘priorities.’

Ms Kaye is interested in Wall’s proposed changes and hopes for legislative reform in this space.

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