Fight for maternity rights in surrogacy taken to Westminster

A campaign started by two Rotherham women to widen maternity rights has gone all the way to Westminster. Cousins Jane Kassim and Amy Bellamy went to see MP John Healey at an advice surgery in Rawmarsh in January when Amy was seven months pregnant with Jane’s twin girls.

Jane had been told she could never carry children and Amy had offered to be a surrogate for Jane and husband Adis.

But Jane was stunned to discover she was not entitled to any maternity leave or pay, as women who give birth themselves or adopt are.

Yesterday Mr Healey brought a Ten Minute Rule Bill calling for mums like Jane who have babies through a surrogate to be given equal maternity rights.

Mr Healey told the Commons:

“The first and most important step is to secure basic maternity rights so that mothers like Jane, who have their children through surrogates, have the same rights as other mothers who give birth themselves or who adopt children. That is the purpose of my Bill.

“It is wrong that thousands of mothers who have their own babies or who adopt have a legal right to 39 weeks maternity pay and a right to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, while others have a right to only 13 weeks parental leave, unpaid.

“In Jane’s case, her employer was ready to give her leave early, although still unpaid, so that she could be at the hospital with Amy for the birth of her twins, Isla and Ivy, and stay there to look after the babies until they were all allowed to come home.

“I am told that the going rate for a surrogacy these days is about £20,000, but Amy tells me that all she received was a pair of maternity trousers and a couple of big tops. She simply wanted Jane to have the same joy as a mother that she has had with her own son, Archie.

“She said, “It’s just what you do for family. It wasn’t an option not to do it.” Together they make a powerful case for legal change. This is their campaign. I hope that the House will back them today and back the Bill.”

Mr Healey also said the UK system of transferring legal responsibility for the child via a parental order should be looked at. He added:

“Surrogate births may still be relatively uncommon in this country. Probably about 100 babies are born in this way each year, but the number is growing as society changes and science advances.

“Surely there must be a good case for Britain, like some states in the US, to have a system of pre-birth orders.

“It is wrong that such parents cannot put their names on their children’s birth certificates or make decisions about medical treatment for their children until they have a formal parental order in place.

“It is wrong that such a legal step can be blocked completely by the surrogate mother and her husband and wrong that it might take months to get the order in place if a magistrates court is busy.

“Above all, it is wrong that mothers such as Jane Kassim are denied the same basic right to the time they need with their new born babies that other mothers have.”

Isla Jane and Ivy May, who were conceived through IVF treatment using Mrs Kassim’s eggs, were born on 16 March.

Mr Healey will next lead a cross-party delegation of MPs – made up of supporters of the Bill – to meet with the employment minister, Norman Lamb MP, when they will discuss the issue further.

The Bill sponsors were: Clive Betts, Katy Clark, Chris Heaton-Harris, Julie Hilling, Simon Hughes, Margot James, Eleanor Laing, Denis MacShane, Fiona Mactaggart, Valerie Vaz and Mike Weir.

* Read John’s speech in full here, or watch it here.

* Sign the e-petition calling for better maternity rights for mums having babies through surrogacy: