Couples in New Zealand are struggling to access their surrogate babies due to international COV_19 restrictions
The situation has got to such a level, the New Zealand Family Court has had to step in, streamlining the process to allow surrogate babies to be adopted overseas and enter the country on New Zealand passports.
Associate professor in law at Canterbury university, Dr Debbie Wilson, said despite often being the biological parents of their surrogate child, parents usually have to bring them home on an overseas passport and visitor visa. They can then formally adopt and change their nationality once they are back in New Zealand.
She said current popular countries for New Zealanders looking for surrogates include America, Ukraine, and Greece.
For families using surrogates in Ukraine, coronavirus lockdown means the wait to see their children has already lasted six months – devastating for all involved.
She estimated dozens of newborns – and babies still in the womb – would be affected by delays
“With the travel restrictions, what we’re finding is that they can’t travel out over to the country where their newborn child is,” she said. She said that even if the parents can get there, the whole process that they have to go through to bring the child home is not working. “They need to deal with a lot of government departments, and they seem to have other things that are being prioritised, understandably,” she said. She said the main issue was that the couples are not the legal parents, so they can’t actually just go and pick up the child and get on a plane.
“It’s got to be devastating.” She said. “You’ve finally achieved your goal of forming a family, the pregnancy is almost at an end and you’re getting excited. And then you just can’t be there.” “Being there with a child in the first couple of months is everything. You want to be able to bond with the child, seeing them as soon as possible. And they just cannot do that, and they’re not sure when everything will be able to be resolved.
“It puts the surrogate in a difficult position as well because she’s now taking responsibility for the child when that wasn’t the intention. And if she doesn’t, the child kind of gets abandoned which is even worse.”
Babies sometimes stay at surrogacy clinics so the surrogate can go home to her own family – and in extreme cases babies have ended up in orphanages, she added.
Family Court judges and a surrogacy lawyer have written up a new protocol to speed up the process to help New Zealand parents. The court realised the potential problem and moved quickly to cut down on paperwork and allow the child to come home. Dr Wilson said: “They commented within the first day of this thing being enforced they had actually dealt with one application. And they said they knew of at least 15 others, and you can expect that there will be more coming.
“What the protocol is doing is getting rid of that requirement that the child needs to come to New Zealand first, so it’s enabling the adoption to take place overseas,” she said.
“What that means is that the child can get a New Zealand passport and has New Zealand citizenship before it comes to New Zealand, and that just makes the journey back a lot quicker.”