We have recently documented a number of problems experienced by Intended Parents from Germany, Israel, Japan and France who utilized surrogates from India. While it is unclear whether this news story is merely an update of the one we wrote about last month (where the identity of the Intended Father was withheld) or a new case entirely, it does send an ominous message to anyone considering a surrogate from India:
The dilemma of foreign nationals looking for rent-a-womb services in India may not always end after crossing Indian borders. Although a number of surrogacy cases where newborns have been trapped in citizenship rows prior to leaving Indian shores have come to light, Raymond Suoto’s may be an exceptional case where the fate of his children is in a limbo. Despite having a biological father, the children may grow up in a foster home.
Suoto, 43, a French national who took back his twins born through surrogacy in Mumbai in April this year, is caught in a court battle in his home country over the legality of his fatherhood. A French court, that is yet to decide the case, sent the twins to foster care in May and Suoto is allowed to visit them only once a week.
France is among the eight European countries to ban surrogacy. The consulates of these eight countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the Czech Republic — in India had issued notifications to IVF (in vitro fertilisation) clinics in India earlier this month to not entertain surrogacy cases of citizens of their countries.
Suoto’s twin daughter and son are presently in foster care in Paris. The birth of his children was facilitated through a surrogate mother from Mumbai where Suoto, a homosexual, was the sperm donor. Sources told DNA that the twins were born on April 6, 2010. Suoto returned to Spain with the children a month later. While Suoto was still coping with his initial days of fatherhood, little did he anticipate the trouble that was he about to court in France. Although the exact date of Suoto’s visit to a doctor in Paris is not recorded, sources acquainted with his case said that he took the children to a doctor in France who observed that the children were underweight (1.2 kg). The doctor then quizzed Suoto about their diet and care, when he told the doctor about their birth through surrogacy in India.
However, suspecting foul play, the doctor raised an alarm and informed the police. DNA has learnt that Suoto was arrested and later released on bail. However, the French court in May sent the children to foster care observing that the inadequate food and care given to the children “had jeopardised their health.” Apart from determining Suoto’s claims over his children, the court will also examine the allegation of not providing them sufficient care which, under the French penal code, is an offence punishable with seven years imprisonment and a fine of €1,00,000. Although released on bail, Suoto is not allowed to leave France as his passport has been seized.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that perhaps part of the problem in this case involves Mr. Suotro’s sexual orientation. For many years now, gay French couples have often experienced difficulties when returning home with a child born via a surrogate arrangement. Their heterosexual counterparts, however, have suffered no such disparate treatment. It also bears noting that unlike many countries, France rejects any birth certificate that lists two fathers.
So it may very well be that this situation is largely a byproduct of France’s discriminatory laws that are directed towards the LGBT community and not a harbinger of things to come for any French couple using an international surrogate (though even if this is the situation, it does not excuse the invidious treatment of homosexuals). Further, it is also possible that the French court acted solely out of concern for the welfare of the twins and neither their Indian origins nor father’s sexual orientation were factors in their being placed in a foster care facility. Regardless, if you live in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain or the Czech Republic, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney in your home country before considering any cross-border surrogate arrangement.
We will update this story as more information becomes available.