Surrogacy law in the UK

Policy Briefing

Published 16/03/2023

Surrogacy policy briefing note

Surrogacy law in the UK: ethical considerations

Surrogacy is legal in the UK but there is continued debate about its ethical implications in the context of a fast-growing fertility industry, globalisation, and social change.

In spring 2023, proposals for new surrogacy laws will be put forward by the Law Commission of England and Wales, and the Scottish Law Commission, following a wide-ranging review. The review addressed how surrogacy should be regulated, the legal parentage of children born via surrogacy, compensation for surrogates and issues arising in international surrogacy.

This Nuffield Council on Bioethics policy briefing note summarises the practical, legal, and ethical considerations to support informed debate on these issues.


The evidence we have considered suggests that there is a need for law reform, to help address some of the ethical, as well as practical and legal, issues that arise in this context, and particularly in relation to:

  • The process by which legal parenthood is transferred from the surrogate (and the surrogate’s partner) to the intended parent(s), and the potential stress and uncertainty this can cause for all parties.
  • The question of whether and what level of compensation or payment should be permitted for surrogacy and the need to balance the practical challenges associated with enforcing any restrictions with the need to safeguard against exploitation or coercion, as well as considering the impact on wider public values.
  • The international context, practical and ethical difficulties arising from the variation in regulatory approaches to surrogacy, as well as the potential impact of factors such as socio-economic inequalities and potential for direct and ongoing contact on relationships and decision-making.

In considering changes to surrogacy law and practice in the UK, it will be important to take into account the emerging evidence, experiences and views of UK surrogates and families created through surrogacy in the UK, but also to be aware of the limitations of this evidence and voices that might currently be missing, such as: surrogates in destination countries, those involved in informal surrogacy in the UK, and children born through ‘commercial’ surrogacy.

Key ethical issues to consider alongside those mentioned above include the need to enable and respect surrogates’ autonomy throughout the surrogacy process; safeguarding the health and well-being of all parties.

Read the policy briefing - Surrogacy law in the UK: ethical considerations