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Why the Paige Harris Birth Registration Act 2022 (No 1) was needed (new Westlaw (New Zealand))

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Currently, in New Zealand, if your baby is born via a surrogate, you must apply for adoption in order to get your name on the birth certificate. Paige’s mother, Katherine, had cystic fibrosis and needed a surrogate. She died before Paige’s birth and ran out of time to apply.

It was not considered safe for Paige’s mother, Katherine, to carry a baby to term. Her application for surrogacy was approved but sadly she suffered complications from a lung transplant and died before Paige was born. When her father applied for adoption and received the birth certificate, Katherine’s name was not on the certificate. This caused considerable grief for the family and much public outcry. The Children’s Commissioner at the time, Judge Andrew Becroft, said “I know they are constrained by the existing law. That law must be changed.”

Dr Debra Wilson, who writes for Thomson Reuters Child Law, writes in the latest update: “The reason for Katherine being unable to be recorded as the mother was two-fold. First, the Adoption Act 1955 did not permit Katherine to be named in the adoption application because she was not alive at the time the application was made. Secondly, even if she had been able to be named on the adoption order, the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995 cannot accept an application from a person who is no longer alive to issue a birth certificate in their name following an adoption order.” (See [SG 4.2] in the Surrogacy chapter).

A Private Member’s Bill was promptly introduced into the House, the Paige Harris Birth Registration Bill 2022 (No 109-1), so that Paige could have her mother’s name on her birth certificate. It was just as promptly enacted and passed unanimously by the House (the Paige Harris Birth Registration Act 2022 (No 1)). As Dr Wilson notes in her commentary, cited above, “While the Bill does not apply to anyone apart from Paige and her family, the unanimous recognition of the inadequacy of the current legislation will be important when Tamati Coffey’s Private Member’s Bill and the New Zealand Law Commission Report … on surrogacy are considered by Parliament”.

The Law Commission’s recommendations from their Review of Surrogacy final report was published on Friday 27 May 2022 and can now be considered by Parliament. Dr Wilson is one of the four members of the expert panel that the Law Commission called on in compiling their 63-recommendation report.

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