In which countries is commercial surrogacy legal?

A belly for rent - surrogacy in Europe

In contrast to Germany and France, surrogacy is not prohibited in all European countries. It is expressly permitted by law in Great Britain, Greece and Portugal, for example. Each of these countries has precisely defined restrictions and limits by law. In Portugal, for example, only women who cannot have a child for medical reasons are allowed to have a surrogate mother - so not an option for homosexual couples.
In Greece, on the other hand, the doors of the reproductive clinics remain closed to foreigners; both the social mother and the carrying woman must have their permanent residence in Greece. Whether these guidelines are really always enforced is questionable: Greek fertility centers advertise surrogate motherhood on their homepage in five different languages, a German-speaking coordinator is available to answer questions.


Infographic: Frida Dumont


Surrogacy out of altruism - a fraudulent label?

Such laws are susceptible to abuse", Confirms Dr. Chris Thomale, lawyer at Heidelberg University and author of the book Tenant maternity - a criticism under international private law. Above all, he exposes the commandment that all EU member states can agree on as hypocritical: just altruistic Surrogacy should be allowed. This means that no money may flow between the client and the surrogate mother, in contrast to India or the USA, for example. However, Thomale considers it utopian that women, out of pure love of their neighbor, bear a child for a strange couple for nine months.
For him, the principle of altruistic surrogacy is a fraudulent label. "The woman is paid for her pregnancy-related expenses. And these expense allowances are similar to the payment in other countries. Surrogacy in the EU is unofficially just as commercial as anywhere else“.


Legal gray areas

The situation is also problematic in those countries that do not legally address surrogacy at all - which is the case in the majority of the EU member states. Since surrogacy is not prohibited by law, it is carried out and tolerated. This is also the case in Belgium, where some clinics work with surrogate mothers, each according to their own standards. It is estimated that fifty children have been born there by surrogate mothers in the past twenty years.
The vague legal situation in the respective countries leads to a black surrogacy practice, without uniform standards“, Explains Thomale. Some member states, for example the Scandinavian countries, have rudimentarily regulated surrogacy: they prohibit the commercial, but do not subject the altruistic to any rules.


And after pregnancy?

The member states also deal very differently with children born to a surrogate mother abroad. In Italy, for example, the authorities have so far refused to recognize these children in order to maintain the legal order. In Germany, on the other hand, the child of a foreign surrogate mother is more likely to be recognized - after all, it is not responsible for the violations of the law by its intended parents. "The protection of the child's best interests is more important here than the law - but of course that undermines the effectiveness of the ban“Says Thomale. The European Court of Justice also remains vague: a state should be allowed to ban surrogacy on its territory, but the children must not be harmed by this ban. It is unlikely that uniform European legislation on surrogacy will see the light of day.