International surrogacy traps babies in stateless limbo

Thu Sep 18, 2014 12:08pm EDT
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By Emma Batha

THE HAGUE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The lack of regulation around international commercial surrogacy has left many babies in stateless limbo, with no country granting them citizenship because of complex conflicts over who the legal parents are.

Experts said the problem could affect thousands of babies as more and more couples seek surrogates in countries like India, Mexico and Thailand, turning it into a multimillion dollar business.

Problems arise when the country of the intended parents and the country of the surrogate mother both refuse to grant the baby nationality, or when the parents who ordered the baby decide to abandon it.

“International commercial surrogacy can and does lead to child statelessness,” said Claire Achmad, a New Zealand lawyer told experts told the first international forum on statelessness.

Stateless people have no nationality and are not accepted as citizens by any country. Without citizenship, stateless children are deprived of basic rights most people take for granted and cannot access healthcare and education.

Achmad cited the case of a Norwegian woman, Kari Ann Volden, who had used an Indian surrogate to carry a baby created from a donated egg and sperm.

The surrogate gave birth to twin boys in early 2010, but Norway refused to give Volden passports to take the twins home, saying the Indian surrogate was the legal parent. India also refused to recognize the babies, saying that Volden was the legal parent.

"For the first two years of their life, these twins (were) stateless,” Achmad said. Volden and the twins were stranded in India until she was able to go back to Norway and legally adopt them.   Continued...