Rethinking Surrogacy Laws 2015-2018


A collaboration between Law, Business, Health Sciences, Philosophy and the Office of the Assistant Vice-Chancellor Maori.

Surrogacy, particularly international surrogacy, is prevalent and increasing. 

The legal, ethical and cultural issues include:

  • Child welfare
  • Reproductive freedom
  • Exploitation of the surrogate
  • Commodification of the child
  • Immigration and citizenship
  • Parenthood and custody

The law in Aotearoa New Zealand and elsewhere does not adequately address these issues. In 2004, the New Zealand Law Commission noted an urgent need for specific surrogacy legislation. This recommendation was accepted in principle by the Government but to date no changes have been proposed.

We will rethink Aotearoa New Zealand’s regulatory framework for surrogacy. The interests, perspectives and rights of the child, surrogate mother and intended parents will each be addressed, together with the process of arranging surrogacy and the legal and ethical implications of surrogacy arrangements. 

We will conduct critical and comparative legal analysis as well as qualitative interviews with stakeholders, policy makers and interest groups in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique cultural identity will feature prominently throughout the research.

We intend that our project will facilitate debate and form the basis of legislative changes.

  1. To identify and consider the legal and ethical issues which potentially arise as a result of surrogacy arrangements.
  2. To identify and consider the cultural and societal beliefs and concerns of iwi Māori in relation to surrogacy.
  3. To identify and consider the cultural and societal beliefs and concerns of other cultures within Aotearoa New Zealand in relation to surrogacy.
  4. To consider the effectiveness and appropriateness of the current regulation of surrogacy in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  5. To evaluate different options for the regulation of surrogacy, including domestic and/or international law reform, or amendment to regulatory guidelines.
  6. To develop a best-practice guide for New Zealanders considering domestic or international surrogacy arrangements.

Our research team is multi-disciplinary, allowing for issues to be considered from a variety of academic perspectives.

Principal Investigators 

Associate Investigators

  • R Powell, ‘International Surrogacy and Parenthood in New Zealand: Crossing Geographical, Legal and Biological Borders’ (2017) 29(2) Child and Family Law Quarterly 149-163
  • Debra Wilson, International surrogacy and the Adoption (Intercountry) Act: defining habitual residence (2016) 8 NZFLJ 217
  • Debra Wilson, Surrogacy in New Zealand [2016] NZLJ 401
  • Debra Wilson, Who decides? Consequences of the public policy approach to non-enforceability of surrogacy contracts, International Association of Bioethics, Edinburgh, June 2016
  • Debra Wilson, Surrogacy in New Zealand, Framing International Surrogacy Conference, University of Sussex, July 2016
  • Debra Wilson, Surrogacy in Aotearoa, Eastern and Western Perspectives on Surrogacy Conference, Hong Kong, September 2016
  • Debra Wilson and Julia Carrington, Commercialising Reproduction: In search of a logical distinction between commercial, compensated, and paid surrogacy arrangements (2015) NZBLQ 178
  • Debra Wilson, Different rhythms, faster tempos and unsystematic advancement: the potential impact of recent European Court of Human Rights cases on international surrogacy and human rights (2015) 8 NZFLJ 133
  • Debra Wilson, Is A Ban On Commercial Surrogacy In The Best Interests Of The Child? Reflecting On Recently Proposed Irish Reforms, Presentation at Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care Conference, July 5-7, 2015 Brocher Foundation, Switzerland
  • Debra Wilson, Commercial vs Altruistic Surrogacy: A Principled or Imperceptible Distinction (Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference, University of Warwick, April 2015)
  • Debra Wilson, The Distinction Between Commercial And Altruistic Surrogacy: Illusory, Or Necessary Protection Against Commodification And Exploitation? (Canadian Socio-Legal Studies Conference, Ottawa) 2015
  • Debra Wilson, Seven Parents But No Citizenship? The Challenge of International Commercial Surrogacy Agreements (Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law, Wellington 2015)
  • Debra Wilson, Between Scylla and Charybdis: Commercialising Surrogacy (UNESCO Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law, Naples, 2015)
  • D Wilson and R Powell, ‘Rethinking Surrogacy Laws’ theme at the Socio-legal Studies Association Conference (31 March – 2 April 2015, University of Warwick, United Kingdom)
  • R Powell 'What have genes got to do with it?' Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2015
  • D Wilson ‘Moving Towards an International Convention on Surrogacy and Artificial Reproduction: Is it Time?’ 10th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics & Health Law (January 2015, Jerusalem, Israel)
  • R Powell, panelist at Crossing Boundaries: Reproductive Tourism in Asia organized by La Trobe Asia and La Trobe Law School (12 December 2014, Melbourne, Australia): View Crossing Boundaries ReportCrossing Boundaries PresentationCrossing Boundaries Podcast of Public Forum.
  • D Wilson, ‘Stranded and Stateless: International Surrogacy’s Legal Nightmare’ Georgetown Journal of International Affairs (26 August 2014)
  • D Wilson, ‘Surrogacy’ and ‘Human assisted reproductive technology’ in Brookers Family Law - Child Law (online).

For further information, please contact:

Associate Professor Debra Wilson

Associate Professor
Director of the LLM (Coursework)
Law 315
Internal Phone: 93953

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