Corrie and Surrogacy Law

Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan) has just given birth, prematurely, to a baby boy. She is a gestational (or total) surrogate mother – she is not the biological mother of the baby, nor is she married to the father.

However, all is not well in Coronation Street. The baby’s genetic parents, Gary Windass (Mikey North) and Izzy Armstrong (Cherylee Houston), are having serious relationship problems, which have surfaced when it was revealed Gary had made a pass at Tina.

*SPOILER ALERT* There is a possibility that Tina will refuse to hand over the baby to Gary and Izzy.

As a Corrie Widower, I only know all this because I’ve been dragged into the discussion of surrogacy law and parental rights. So, here is my legal analysis.

The Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 (section 1(2)(a)) states that “a woman who carries a child is to be treated for this purpose as beginning to carry the child at the time of the insemination, or of the placing in her of an embryo, of an egg in the process of fertilisation or of sperm and eggs, as the case may be, which results in her carrying the child.” The legal result is that it is the gestational mother, NOT the genetic mother, who is treated as the mother of the child.

So the baby is Tina’s.

Secondly, under the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985, no-one can enforce a surrogacy arrangement (section 1A). Tina can therefore quite legally walk away from the arrangements she has with the Windass family.

I don’t know enough of the back-story to be able to say whether Gary is already the baby’s legal as well as genetic father. It is possible for a sperm donor to be the legal father of a baby, but consent and notice are required (see Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act 2008 – Meaning of “father” at sections 35-41).

Izzy’s and Gary’s only method of obtaining legal parental status would be to seek a parental court order (section 54 of the 2008 Act). It is important to note that the parental court order would make the baby the legal child of the TWO applicants – spot the potential plot line development there. Other than that qualification, Izzy and Gary meet the other conditions of section 54.

A court would also have to be sure that Tina had “freely, and with full understanding of what is involved, agreed unconditionally to the making of the order” (section 54(6)). Plenty of room for plot twists there, too. Also, any financial arrangement between Owen Windass and Tina should not fall within the ban on money or other benefits changing hands for the parental order, or must be approved by the court (section 54(8)).

Lastly, in considering any application, the baby’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration when considering whether or not to make a parental order: see Re X and Y (children-foreign surrogacy) [2011] EWHC 3147 (Fam).

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