Two people who had to have another child using a surrogate mother have been informed by the Norwegian state they are not its legal parents.
‘Anne’, a 31-year-old Norwegian who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that despite initial advice given to her by the Labour and Welfare Service (NAV), they later sent her a letter telling her that only the woman who gives birth to a child is considered its mother.
“This is so terribly painful, because it affects the most important thing in life,” she told Aftenposten.
Having damaged her uterus when she gave birth to her first child, Anne and her husband nevertheless wanted their 5-year-old child to have a sibling.
Opting for surrogacy, the couple initially contacted NAV, who approved their plan to have a surrogate mother bear the child for them. Buoyed by this news, they contacted an American woman in Minnesota and sent her their own eggs and sperm.
Everything went as planned, with one tiny unforeseen element: in 2009, the surrogate mother delivered twins instead of a single baby. Elated by the good news, the couple obtained a legal ruling in America that they were the child’s parents and returned to Norway with their babies.
Faithfull to NAV’s instructions, they subsequently went to the National Register and attempted to register the children. It was there that authorities struck their devastating blow.
“We were one hundred percent sure when we started the process,” complained Anne. “That’s why I am so angry now. Should it be so easy for the state to withdraw and say ‘sorry, we have another opinion now’?”
The situation became worse when ‘Anne’s’ employer, who granted her maternity leave as normal, sent a letter to NAV asking for a refund of payments made to her. NAV only replied after the third time, stating that according to them, Anne was not entitled to parental leave because she was not considered the twins’ legal mother.
“Absurdly, it was our case officer in NAV who filled out the form for us when we applied for parental benefits,” said the mother. “We were also invited to NAV when we came home from the United States with the children.”
The couple’s only option now is to follow recommendations by Audun Lysbakken, Minister for Children and Equality, and adopt the twins as stepchildren: a tortuous legal process involving child welfare services consent from the American surrogate mother, as well as possibly from the child when it is old enough.
“There’s a big risk in this type of process. It's exhausting to spend so much energy on this, whilst we really should have spent all our time on the children. It hurts to think that I am a ‘good enough’ mother to our first child, but not the last two,” ‘Anne’ says.
“What Norway is doing now is to deprive children of its parents. In the U.S., [the court has ruled ] we are parents. Norway chooses to judge children by removing the rights they are granted in the U.S., rights which would also apply in other countries. A major paradox is that paternity in Norway determined by DNA, whilst I am not allowed to be my genetic children’s mother,” she continues.
Whilst NAV is not allowed to comment on individual cases, Director Ellen Christiansen told Aftenposten, “We understand that this is a difficult situation [but] are not aware of this specific matter. There were previously very few cases and little attention surrounding surrogate children.
“The rules are basically not designed for this type of problem. Therefore, we cannot ignore the fact that NAV may have given incomplete advice regarding a parental welfare benefit issue,” she concludes.
According to the paper, Norwegian parents wishing to have a surrogate child often pay up to a million kroner. Surrogacy is forbidden in Norway.
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