Surrogates Across the Atlantic: Comparing the Impact of Legal and Health Regulatory Frameworks on Surrogates’ Autonomy, Health, and Wellbeing
Date: 25 September 2023
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Law
The practice of surrogacy continues to grow, due to scientific advances, social acceptance of non-traditional families and delayed parenthood. However, key aspects of British surrogacy regulation failed to keep pace with medical and social changes, as evidenced by the inclusion of surrogacy in the Law Commission’s 13th Programme of Law ...
The practice of surrogacy continues to grow, due to scientific advances, social acceptance of non-traditional families and delayed parenthood. However, key aspects of British surrogacy regulation failed to keep pace with medical and social changes, as evidenced by the inclusion of surrogacy in the Law Commission’s 13th Programme of Law Reform in England and Wales. California provides a particularly interesting model for comparison with Britain, with its regulated free market approach to surrogacy. This comparative socio-legal thesis explores how surrogacy is regulated in Britain and California, and investigates how their legal and healthcare systems operate in order to capture and contextualise surrogates’ experiences. The rules governing parenthood, enforceability, compensation, and commercialisation are shown to be key divergences in the jurisdictions’ regulatory approaches. As surrogates’ autonomy, health, and wellbeing have been overlooked by regulatory discussions, exploration of the health regulatory frameworks and empirical research sought to explore how surrogates were affected by legal and health regulation. Fieldwork carried out in Britain and California between July 2019 and January 2021 involved semi-structured interviews with 24 surrogates. Using Framework Analysis, altruism is revealed as the lens through which surrogates understand their experiences, and the mediating factor for their autonomy, health, and wellbeing. Contrary to the prevailing view of surrogates as passive, they took ownership of their actions and choices. Altruism motivated their decisions in a way that transcends the different regulatory regimes in Britain and California. The complexity of surrogacy arrangements renders its (im)permissibility irreducible to debates on compensation and commercialisation. Regulatory frameworks do not predictably structure surrogates’ arrangements, with some mechanisms supporting surrogates’ goal to help intended parents, and others acting as obstacles to overcome. This thesis suggests regulatory reforms centred on validating surrogates’ altruism, as this is important for their autonomy, health, and wellbeing.
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