A recent Pretoria high court decision has established new parameters for courts to consider when granting surrogacy agreements.
If the surrogate mother has any medical history that could pose a risk to surrogacy, the new regulations demand a physician clinical assessment.
They also demand a clinical conversation with the surrogate mother’s children in order to prepare them for the surrogacy process and to address the emotional needs of the minor children. Surrogate mothers are always subjected to a clinical psychological evaluation.
The case involved a couple who could not have children and sought to enter into a second surrogacy agreement with a woman who carried their first child that was born in May 2021.
The surrogate mother and her partner are married and have two children of their own, aged 10 and seven. She has had three surrogate pregnancies since 2019, leading to a miscarriage in one, the birth of twins in the second and the birth of the present commissioning parent’s first child last year. All the births have been through caesarean section.
Though the law provides that a court may confirm a surrogate motherhood agreement if the surrogate mother has a living child of her own, the court in this case had questions about the interests of the child of the surrogate mother.
“How does a surrogate pregnancy affect the surrogate mother’s own child/children? — this bearing in mind that they watch her pregnancy for nine months, they know she is carrying a child, they see her going to a hospital to deliver the baby (and she may be away from them for a period after giving birth) and then she comes back home without a baby in her arms.
“Is it important that the interests of these children be protected and, if so, how does a court do that,” Judge Brenda Neukircher said in a judgment on Wednesday.
The court also had questions about the children the commission parents may already have.
She said in many cases, these children may suddenly be confronted with this “stranger” that now takes up their parents’ time and attention.
When the judge first heard the application in November last year, the surrogate mother had delivered the commissioning parents’ first child a mere six months earlier. What was of concern to the judge was the effect of three births in three years on her body.
Neukircher ordered that a psychologist conduct an assessment regarding the surrogate mother’s suitability to act as a surrogate for the fourth time.
The judge also ordered that a further report by an obstetrician or gynaecologist be prepared regarding her physical suitability (and any risks) to carry a child.
It was also ordered that a clinical psychologist conduct an assessment of the surrogate parent’s two minor children with specific attention paid to the effect on them, if any, of their mother’s pregnancies.
The reports showed that the surrogate mother was physically and mentally suitable to carry a child as a surrogate mother.
An assessment of the children of the surrogate mother’s children showed that both children are well informed about surrogacies and are proud of the fact that their mother assists other couples in becoming families.
After receiving this information, Neukircher confirmed the surrogate motherhood agreement.
Neurkicher said the information she obtained should in future cases be placed before a court to safeguard the interests of the surrogate as well as any existing children of the commissioning parents and the surrogate.
Adele van der Walt, director of Adele van der Walt Inc, the attorney who represented the applicants in the present surrogacy matter, welcomed the judgment.