• France's news in English

France told to recognise kids born to surrogates

Joshua Melvin · 26 Jun 2014, 17:13

Published: 26 Jun 2014 17:13 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled France must allow families to officially register the birth of babies born abroad to surrogate mothers, which would then pave the way for the children to become French citizens.

The ECHR ruled that by refusing to officially recognize the children France was undermining their identity within French society.

Thursday's verdict is linked to a case brought by two sets of French parents who hired surrogates in the United States, where surrogacy is legal in some states, and had children by them.

The Mennessons had twins daughters through a surrogate in California in 2000, while the Labassees had their daughter via proxy in 2001. All three of the children are American citizens.

Under usual circumstances, a child born abroad to French parents would automatically be granted French citizenship, but in the case of the two couples, authorities refused to recognize the couples’ position as parents to the children because they were born to surrogates. Meaning the children still haven't been granted French citizenship.

The European court ruled however that although these parents didn’t give birth to their children, they “live together in way that doesn’t distinguish their family life from its usual meaning.”

While Dominique Mennesson said the verdict was a "great relief", her lawyer Patrice Spinosi, told French daily Le Figaro the case could impact on thousands of children.

"In the eyes of French law, these children have no parents, not even the father who is raising them," said Spinosi. "Two thousand children in France are in the same situation as the Mennesson girls."

On Friday the French government announced that it would not appeal against the ruling, meaning unless the families decide, the order will come into force in three months.

Laurence Rossignol, Junior Minister for familes stressed that the ECHR ruling did not question France's right to make surrogacy illegal on its own territory but prioritised "the interests of the children" in cases where parents chose to use surrogacy.

'ECHR has guaranteed an after-sales service'

Although the ECHR didn't challenge France’s right to make surrogacy illegal some critics of the ruling have suggested that it will seriously undermine France’s ban. 

"This judgement by the European Court compels us, somehow, to 'close our eyes' if people use surrogacy abroad. You can now go quietly abroad to buy a child, the European Court guarantees an after-sales service," Legal expert Aude Mirkovic told Le Figaro.

Mirkovic, who is a spokeswoman for the anti-surrogacy group Juristes pour l'Enfance, believes France must respond by taking preventative measures to dissuade French parents from seeking out surrogate parents abroad. "We really have to take steps to deter the French," she said.

Currently those caught flouting the ban on surrogacy face stiff punishments. Anyone who puts parents in touch with surrogate mothers in exchange for money faces a maximum of five years in prison and a €75,000 fine if convicted.

Arrests for surrogacy are unusual, but not unheard of in France. In July 2013 a surrogate mother was hit with a €5,000 fine, the majority of which was suspended, for “artificial insemination”, French daily Le Monde reported.

Earlier this year a conservative French pressure group, backed by several lawmakers filed a legal complaint in France against American surrogacy agency Extraordinary Conceptions in California.

The agency brings potential parents in France into contact with American surrogates and has reportedly been hosting informal meetings in France.

The controversial issue of surrogacy has proved increasingly devisive in recent years in France, partly due to the fact it is seen as a route to parenthood for same-sex couples.

France's legalization of same-sex marriage last year and the opening up of adoption to gay couples was met with huge opposition and saw hundreds of thousands protest against the ground-breaking legislation.  

That extent of the protests appeared to dissuade the government from legalizing artificial insemination for lesbian couples, as it had initially intended. Surrogacy has remained prohibited for gay and straight couples, although the government had not intended to look at relaxing the law.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available