In the same week he and his husband formally adopted their biological son, carried by a surrogate mother, Labour MP Tāmati Coffey has lodged a bill to make the process easier for others in his shoes.
The Improving Arrangements for Surrogacy Bill was lodged at the Table Office in Parliament yesterday just one day after Coffey and husband Tim Smith formally adopted Tūtānekai, born in July.
The bill will amend five acts and two sets of regulations, to simplify surrogacy arrangements, ensure information recorded on birth certificates is complete, and provide a way to enforce surrogacy arrangements, in case an intending parent chooses not to take custody of the child.
Under the current law, intending parents of a child born via surrogacy are not offered automatic rights to custody of the child, meaning a formal adoption process is required to complete the arrangement.
The bill is Coffey's first member's bill and one close to his heart.
"One great thing we get to do is put in our own bill to fix something that's broken we've come across.
"Having observed the process and been through the process ... I recognise lots of things needed to change."
Coffey said current technology had long surpassed laws.
"We're nearly at 2020 and we're going off law from 1955."
The bill includes changes to multiple parliamentary acts including the Care of Children Act, Status of Children Act and Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act.
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It would also require a court registrar to register information about the identity of the surrogate and any person who donated an embryo or cells for the pregnancy.
The Waiariki MP said he and Smith had to formally adopt Tūtānekai. The process included lawyers, Oranga Tamariki, counsellors, medical specialists and an ethics committee.
Coffey said having to adopt a biological child was "absolute craziness and shouldn't be allowed".
"We had to go through the process and we had to be vetted by Oranga Tamariki social workers.
"I kept having to remind the caseworkers this is Tim's biological child."
Coffey said he was proud of the bill, created with help from MP Louisa Wall.
"It's not just for gay couples, this is for anyone that wants to get into surrogacy. We wanted to streamline the process so every New Zealander can have their own family because I believe everyone has the right to a family."
Coffey said the process was "slightly humiliating" and during it he decided "when I got through I'm going to look back and make it easier for others".
Whether the bill is brought to the table is the luck of the draw but Coffey is hopeful.
- Participants in a surrogacy arrangement could claim payment for actual and reasonable expenses incurred in the process such as the costs of counselling, travel and reimbursement for lost wages. It still excludes payment for the embryo itself.
- Establish a register to facilitate surrogacy arrangements between willing women and intending parents.
- Surrogacy arrangement parties can get the terms in a surrogacy order of the court which can be enforced like a parenting order.
- If a child is born in an arrangement subject to a court order, the surrogate ceases to be a parent of the child from the birth.
- Changes the information that must be included on the birth certificate.
- Surrogates who are beneficiaries may apply for an exemption to some or all work test obligations if at least 27 weeks pregnant or suffering from complications arising from the pregnancy.