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SNAPSHOT: Citizenship for Surrogate Children

People who live in countries where surrogate pregnancy is outlawed sometimes hire surrogates abroad. But in some cases, when they’ve tried to bring the babies home, their governments have refused to grant the children citizenship. Some children have even been taken away from their intended parents and placed in foster care or put up for adoption.

CUNY School of Law Professor Richard F. Storrow examined a variety of cases involving “stateless children” for an article in the North Carolina Journal of International Law. Six cases involving surrogate children who were denied citizenship in France, Italy, and Belgium reached the European Court of Human Rights in recent years after their parents exhausted legal options in their home countries.

A woman's hand holds a young baby's hand

France outlaws surrogacy based on “commitments to human dignity and non-commodification of the human body.” In one case, a French court said the father “made a deliberate choice to place the child and himself outside of the law” contrary to the child’s best interests.

But the ECHR has rejected France imposing “second-class status” on these children “as contrary to important human rights norms.” Storrow says that “the risks of commercialization and harm to children” in surrogate arrangements are real. But the ECHR believes “protecting children takes priority over a law that attempts to stamp out the means by which they were conceived.” He added that ECHR rulings have pushed France to recognize children’s rights in more recent cases.