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Increasing demand for assisted reproductive treatment, especially in vitro fertilization and use of surrogate mother, urged legislators of many countries of the world to update their family laws to keep pace with the latest technological innovations.

For example, surrogacy has been a complicated issue in Australia for a long time, with each state and territory having separate rulings regulating the use of this method of fertility treatment. Finally, last year the Surrogacy Act 2010 was passed by the Government of Queensland with the provisions of the Act to commence on 1 June 2010. So it is now legal in Queensland to enter into altruistic surrogacy arrangements, i.e. with no payment involved. However, it still remains unlawful for a couple to enter into a commercial surrogacy arrangement that contemplates reward or any material benefit to any of the parties.

Under existing law it is only permitted to include reimbursement of the reasonable expenses, incurred by the gestational carrier in course of surrogacy program, in the surrogacy agreement.

One more remarkable thing about surrogacy in Queensland is that child-carrying arrangements are not enforceable. This means that surrogate mother or intended parents may change their minds any time before the court makes an order to transfer the parentage of the child to the intended parents. Such ruling may have negative consequences if a surrogate mother makes a decision not to relinquish custody of the child to the intended parents or the intended parents decide not to take care of the child.

This year the revisions were passed by the legislature in the province of Alberta (Canada) and came into effect in August 2011. Under prior legislation, surrogacy was recognized only in situations where a woman provided an egg for creation of an embryo. Under such conditions, a woman could file a court application after the child was born to be listed as his/her mother, rather than surrogate parents. Now the legislation was amended to the effect that surrogacy is recognized in situations where any prospective parent provides his biological material (an egg or sperm) to create an embryo. If that parent is married or in a common-law relationship, their spouse is also declared a parent, as long as he or she gave consent to the use of ART at the time of the child’s conception.

Hence, if the wife is unable to have children and her husband is fertile, they can start a surrogacy program, as a result of which the couple will be able to obtain a straightforward court order recognizing both as the legal parents of the child. The previous parentage legislation did not cover all of the different possibilities due to the fact that children deemed as born outside of a legal marriage were given fewer rights and privileges.

The latest developments in surrogacy legislation are associated with Icelandic Parliaments where the majority of Healthcare Committee supported a parliamentary resolution on surrogacy in September 2011. The issue of surrogacy was highly publicized last year when one Icelandic couple had legal complications and was unable to return to Iceland with their baby, born by a surrogate mother in India.

According to the resolution, Minister of Welfare Gudbjartur Hannesson should hold responsibility of appointing a task force to prepare a bill permitting altruistic surrogacy. The objective of the bill is to guarantee the interests and rights of the child born through surrogacy as well independence and welfare of a surrogate mother and her family, thereby aiming to ensure smooth involvement of the intended parents. The bill is to be submitted to Althingi (National Parliament of Iceland) no later than March 1, 2012.

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