New rights for UK donor babies as they turn 18

OCTOBER 3, 2023

New rights for UK donor babies as they turn 18
by Helen ROWE

Around 30 young adults conceived via sperm or egg donation in the UK will soon be able to discover the identity of their biological parent.  The new rights come as rising numbers of children are being conceived using the technology, posing a range of challenges for the children, their families and donors.  The UK law removed the anonymity of egg and sperm donors in 2005 and gave children the right to receive basic information about them when they reached 18.  With the first children covered by the legislation turning 18 this month, they will finally be able to request details such as the donor’s full name, date of birth and last known address.  Advances in fertility treatment methods and changing social attitudes have seen an increasing number of donor-conceived children being born not just to people facing fertility challenges but also same-sex couples and women in their late forties and even fifties.  Initially the numbers of children who will have the right to know will be small, with just 30 people becoming eligible between now and December this year.   Data from the UK’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) shows that will rise to more than 700 people by the end of 2024, increasing to 11,400 by 2030.  According to the latest available figures from the regulator of fertility treatment and research using human embryos, 4,100 UK births around one in 170 were the result of donor conception in 2019.

Few months off

The cut-off point for the legislation has left some donor-conceived people disappointed that the identity of their donors will remain a mystery.  “I’m happy for the people who want to find out but I’m also a little annoyed that I was a couple of months off, so I won’t have the chance,” 19-year-old student Jamie Ruddock, from Brighton on England’s south coast, told AFP.

Ruddock said he had known for as long as he could remember that he had been donor-conceived and while he was not looking for another father figure he was still curious.  His older brother along with their father had begun looking for the donor via a DNA ancestry testing service but had not had any success.  “My brother definitely has a bigger sense of curiosity than I do but if my brother finds him I would like to have a conversation with him,” he said.

People in the UK conceived by egg or sperm donation will now be able to trace their biological parents.  Nina Barnsley, director of the UK’s Donor Conception Network, said many of those eligible to ask for the information might not even be aware of how they were conceived.  When new techniques such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF) were first introduced some four decades ago, infertility was something of a taboo subject and parents often did not tell children how they were conceived.  But for many years now, psychologists have advised families to be open with the information as early as possible.  Others might not have realized the significance of the legislation or have other priorities.

‘Incredible gift’

“Certainly in terms of our donor-conceived young people, many have got far more important things going on in their lives with exams and girlfriends and boyfriends, travel and work and other challenges,” said Barnsley.

“Being donor-conceived may well just be low on the list of interests.”

Having the right to access the information, however, could still be important to them in the longer term, even if it also brought potential challenges.  Some parents would inevitably be “anxious about making the donor into a real person in their lives and how their children would feel,” she said.

At the same time many were also “curious about these donors and wanted to thank them to acknowledge their contribution towards helping them make their families,” she added.

Donors are being urged to get in contact with the clinic where they donated and make sure their details are up to date.  “This is a very important time for young adults who were conceived by the use of donor sperm or eggs. Many will hope to find out more about their donors as they reach 18,” said Professor Jackson Kirkman-Brown, chair of the Association for Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS).

He said it was important that donors too reach out for support and guidance to help them navigate any approaches.  “Being a donor is an incredible gift and alongside the sector ARCS are keen to recognize and support those who enable people to have the families they desire,” he added.

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Almost a volatile time

It felt strange talking about Anthony with my cousin as I didn’t say much about him when sending letters to my parents who rarely mentioned him.  Of course my mum was extremely annoyed about Anthony wanted me and my family in his life but the extent of this came out over the next year or so.  My sister and I hadn’t had any contact for six years by this time and it would another five years and our mum dying before  we did.

Rick had joined the site that Anthony had set up and he had included Rick’s family tree on the site, we were administrators of that side. When I thought about the early days it was difficult as Rick had his issues to deal with and Anthony had problems accepting him.  Rick wasn’t his father who wouldn’t accept Anthony but it got easier.

Anthony and I started chatting on msn messenger as we had fallen out over the adoption papers a few weeks previously although we have been sending the occasional email.  We could both be stubborn at the best of times but I was relieved we talking again.  The fall out with Anthony at that time was due to Anthony wanting to ask questions about the adoption papers but as I had never seen them I couldn’t answer him. When I tried to talk to him about the papers he kicked off so I sent him an email stating why certain things had been crossed out and replaced with other words. I also let him know what was true and what wasn’t.

*This was a period when life was good with the occasional hiccup.  I was getting used to the occasional bad times from my son and was just letting it go over my head.  At times I would be bewildered why he would suddenly be angry.  I also knew I wouldn’t get a reasonable response back if I asked as I was expected to be psychic and just know.  Eventually I found out he had been as bad with my family although by 2006 I saw it as understandable with my mum as she had lied to him.  Me knowing my parents could have been honest to both of us since late 2001 contributed to this.  My dad was forgiven much quicker as he knew exactly what my mum was like so it was easier than dealing with her wrath.

At this time I couldn’t stop thinking about why I couldn’t remember signing the Consent to Relinquish form.  A friend from an online group, Empty Arms, seemed to think we possibly signed the form at a magistrate’s home rather than at court but I was sure I hadn’t done either. If I did go to a magistrate’s home or court then I certainly had a big whole in my memory – it was almost scary.

*As it turned out I didn’t get the Consent to Relinquish form and eventually I just gave up.  I kept trying periodically but was constantly given the run around so in the end I got tired and fed up of the stress it was causing.

Family Tree

Rick and I had started doing our family trees back in 2004 which is how I found my son without actively searching for him.  It immediately gave us something to talk about but it also was the start of finding out some of my relatives names had been shortened or middle names used intead of first names.  This was quite challenging and interesting at the same time.

Being on Genes Reunited proved to be handy in other ways including getting back in touch with one of my cousins.  The last time I had spoken to him had been nine years previously at our Nanna’s funeral.  Contact has been sporadic since then but of course it’s easier through Facebook.  We met up again at my sister’s 60th birthday four years ago along with another of our cousins and one of his brothers whom I hadn’t seen since our Nanna’s funeral.  Sadly that cousin passed on last year aged 59 years and almost 2 months younger than me.  At least my last memory of him was being hugged so tightly I could hardly breath at my sister’s birthday party.

During the early months of contact with my son was a bit up and down as he was charming one minute then nasty whenever he was in a bad mood.  It was quite stressful at times and sometimes I wonder how I coped.



I first started a journal back in September 2004 and several weeks after finding my son.  I had stated posting on an adoption forums and someone suggested doing so as a way to help myself cope.  Up until I found my son I had been silent, not even talking to my husband about him.  It had been a family member who had told my husband about my son about six months after we had married.

My adoption journey had started back in 1981 when my son was born on the 3rd August.  I had split from his father soon after I fell pregnant and didn’t tell him when I found out.  It was wrong not to.  I was angry and didn’t want him to have anything to do with my baby nor did I think he would believe that the baby was his.  However I wanted to raise my son so kept quiet long enough not to be pressured into aborting by my parents.

When my parents found out they were so angry and decided my baby was to be adopted.  My mother arranged everything despite me not agreeing to it and refusing to talk about it.  The first time I saw a social worker from the adoption agency was after my son was born.  I told her how I felt and she told me she would put a halt to the adoption.  This didn’t happen and between her and my mother they constantly lied to me.  I believed the lies, didn’t know my rights, didn’t see any paperwork and it is questionable I signed anything so I was a complete walkover.

I was expected to get on with my life, never talk about my son and to forget about him.  I got on with my life, didn’t talk about my son but I never forgot about him.  Subsequently I suffer with depression to the point of being suicidal at times and self harmed.

It was a shock when I found my son in 2004 days after his 23rd birthday on Genes Reunited.  It turned out he had been searching for me for five years and had found my family quite quickly.  They never told me nor did they ever tell him where I was.  I was so angry at the time although I didn’t let him know that.  It was a few weeks before I let my parents know I had found my son.  Their excuse for not telling me about contact was that they didn’t know if my husband knew about him.  All I could assume was either they were telling the truth or they did know what a family member had done.  I didn’t want this to get the better of me so left it at that.

However with reunion my emotions exploded to the surface and I found it hard to cope.  So when the suggestion of keeping a journal was given I jumped at it.  I had been silent for 23 years and now it was my time to talk even if it was by the written word.  I started a journal on the forums I belonged to at that time as I wanted to share my feelings.


I had very good intentions of getting my story written here but life has a habit of getting in the way.  Different projects/hobbies have started up again such as writing knitting and having pets who are life savers.

My first 18 years on this planet were very average and I was very good girl not getting into trouble apart from the usual of maybe getting home late, fighting with my sister and so on.  This changed after getting into a relationship then splitting up around my 19th birthday.  It devastated me at the time as the  lad believed a lie told by his cousin and refused to listen to the truth.

Eventually I knew I was pregnant but didn’t tell the father as I was angry and hurting.  I kept quiet long enough not to be pressured into having an abortion although certain people who can’t defend themselves now would have disputed that.  My mother was furious, my father didn’t say much, and she was determined my baby would be adopted.  I refused to agree to that and wouldn’t discuss it.  My baby needed me not strangers, I already loved my unborn baby.

I still have moments when memories creep up on me suddenly that I force myself not to cry over.  My mother was so cruel yet I couldn’t talk to anybody as I didn’t think they would believe me.  Fear of my mother finding out scared me too much to talk to anybody as she would make me suffer emotionally and verbally behind closed doors.  I loved her but we just seemed to bring out the worst of each other yet in public it was the opposite.  It’s sad as we did have so much in common such as reading the same types of book, knitting, music, films, television and so on.  I lived for the happy times when we were all happy.

Mother Denied Justice Campaigns to Transform the Family Courts

Mother Denied Justice Campaigns to Transform the Family Courts

By Victoria Hudson, Founder of #JusticeForFCchildren #GetMHome and campaigner for the Redress/Justice For Family Court Children.

Victoria Hudson has been campaigning for several years to increase the protection of domestic abuse survivors and children who become entangled in the family court system. Tragically, Victoria and her daughter have themselves experienced untold suffering, trauma, and harm at the hands of the family courts.

Victoria, who campaigns under the banner #JusticeforFCchildren, worked alongside other campaigners to successfully lobby the Government to review unsafe contact orders and the removal of children by the family courts. A report, published by the Ministry of Justice in June 2020 laid bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, including harming children by placing them in danger by “enabling the continued control of children and adult victims of domestic abuse by alleged abusers, as well as the continued abuse of victims and children.”[1]

Victoria is now passionately driven to bring about the radical changes necessary to protect domestic abuse survivors and their children from harmful and unjust state systems and structures, by making the family courts and their proceedings more transparent.

Like too many other women experiencing domestic violence and abuse, instead of protecting them, the state colluded with Victoria’s abuser in the most punishing way possible by severing mother and child. In September 2018, Victoria’s daughter (then aged 2) was physically and forcibly removed from her family home and placed under a Care Order with her ex-partner, who is not biologically related to her. Many other children in domestic abuse cases are severed from their mothers by adoption; the mother being blamed for the abuse rather than protected, and their right to family life permanently erased.

For Victoria and other mothers in her position, it is ironic that the Joint Committee on Human Rights, is conducting an inquiry into hundreds of forced adoptions that severed babies from unmarried mothers during the 1950s to 1970s, when mothers experiencing domestic abuse are currently facing similar infringements of human rights in the family courts.

Victoria is requesting the Ministry of Justice immediately review of her case in the family courts and is requesting the Joint Committee on Human Rights conduct an inquiry into whether family court decisions are breaching rights to family life.

[1] “Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases” (Ministry of Justice, June 2020)

If you want to support Victoria’s campaign, you can do three things:

  1. First and foremost, email a letter to Lord David Wolfson MP, Minister for Family Courts to request that he instigates an immediate review of Victoria’s own case in the family courts. If successful, this will provide a test case for the campaign and lead to further reviews. Use this letter to draft your own. His email is

  2. You can also email a letter to Ms Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, requesting that alongside the current review into historic forced adoptions, she also orchestrates a review of family court decisions in relation to their impact upon the rights of children and birth mothers to family life. Use this letter to draft your own. Her email is

  3. Help Victoria to get more supporters and allies by following and sharing #JusticeforFCchildren on Twitter @Victoria_Hudson and Facebook

[1] “Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases” (Ministry of Justice, June 2020)


Recently I made a new friend connection on Facebook who is an adoptee and has written Your Secret My Story.  I do want to get the book as from the little I know about it has helped me to talk a bit more to my sister.

Back in September we went down south to see family and give one of my sister’s granddaughters, our great niece, her birthday present.  Before we came back my sister and I went through some crates that had come from our Dad’s home after he passed on.  We came home with two crates of photographs and a few pieces of paperwork as my sister knows we are into family history/genealogy.  Anything we didn’t want she said to chuck.

While we were going through the paperwork there were a couple of photographs of my son there so we talked about him.  She feels bad because she feels she should love him as he is her nephew but doesn’t like him.  I can understand where my sister is coming from as he can be very charming one minute then be angry when he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear.  I told her not to feel bad about it as we had the same attitude and whilst I love him because he is my son and always will, I struggle to like him at times.  We are so much alike with likes and dislike, even mannersisms, but adoption wrecked any chance of a happy reunion.

When we went back down south in November for my birthday the subject came up again.  This time my sister mentioned that she and my parents refused to give my son any information as I was the one whom he needed to talk to.  At the time when my son found my family I wasn’t talking to them due to an argument but two years of not talking to my parents I got back in touch with them.  Instead of being honest with my son they continued to tell him they didn’t know where I was.  My sister didn’t know where I was so she was honest.  She told me that our parents told him the same and if they found out where I was they would let me know he wanted contact.  I told my sister they never said a word to me so delayed contact for three years.  It would have continued if I hadn’t found him.

I also told my sister of a conversation I had with our Mum over the phone back in 2006.  She was visibly upset when I told her our Mum had said she couldn’t understand why my son wanted to know me as I was nothing to him and his only family was his adoptive one.  My sister said it was cruel of our Mum to say that.  I haven’t told her of the letter our Mum wrote to my son telling him to accept that I didn’t want to be found.

My sister needed to be told of both as she believed our parents would be honest with me about what actually happened.  She has a better idea why I was so angry at that period in my life.

Anne Silke: Fostered to a Fianna Fáil TD, beaten and abused

Anne Silke: Fostered to a Fianna Fáil TD, beaten and abused

Caelainn Hogan, the author of Republic of Shame, examines the story of Anne Silke and her experience in Tuam mother and baby institution following a new documentary, Untold Secrets

AS A CHILD, Anne Silke ate moss off the walls of the Tuam mother and baby institution.  It was delicious, she would laugh, because she was starving. Before she died earlier this year, she would say with a wry smile that she would never eat batch bread, because of how the nuns threw it at her and the other “home” children, as if they were animals.  That ability to crack jokes at the cruelty she experienced when young and the life she carved out for herself as a mother of eight children drew people to her, finding hope in her resilience and warmth in her company.  But there was a silence Silke never managed to break before she died, about the influential political family who fostered her.  Teresa Lavina, a Galway-based documentary maker, first met Silke in 2019 through another Tuam survivor, PJ Haverty, who was close friends with Silke and had always voted for the family who fostered her.  The feature-length documentary, Untold Secrets, that Lavina directed and produced was shown for the first time yesterday at the Galway Film Fleadh, shedding light on Silke’s unspoken experiences and the disturbing allegations that are part of her testimony.  Silke gave testimony to the commission of investigation and saw it released just before she died last February, with a few lines referencing her own testimony about eating moss. But she was deeply hurt by the result and felt she still had not been heard.  “I feel angry to a certain extent that we’re not getting justice or anything,” Silke said to camera, not long before she died. “Everything is left just hanging on until we pass away.”

In the documentary, Silke described deprivation and cruelty within the Tuam institution but also speaks of her experience of being fostered out to a man who she says was a TD in the Dáil and his wife, who had six of their own children who were already reared.  She alleges she was treated like a “slave” in their home.  Documentation provided by the state agency Tusla shows that Silke was fostered in 1958 by a “Mr and Mrs Killealea [sic]” and the documentary draws together testimony that the man who fostered Silke was Mark Killilea Sr, a founding member of Fianna Fáil who represented Galway constituencies within the Dáil for nearly three decades, from the 1930s to 1961.  In 2014, after the story about the deaths of hundreds of children in Tuam broke around the world, Silke came to Catherine Corless hoping to find more answers and speak out. Corless remembers her as a woman who had “the heartiest laugh” and got on with everyone.  “Anne was one of those people who wanted to tell her story because she was born in the Home in Tuam and she had a very tough childhood,” Corless said.

“She was fostered out to a woman in the early stages but that didn’t work out and Anne was sent back to the home again, so Anne is one of the few people that remembers life in the Tuam home.”

At the burial site on the former grounds of the Bon Secours institution, grass grown over the area above the sewage system where the remains of infants and children were found during a test excavation years before, Silke stood in a black and white check coat, a black scarf around her neck, speaking of how she remembered children being brought outside, kept in pens and bottles of milk made by Bina Rabitte, a woman working for the nuns at the institution whose name is a witness on many birth certs, being thrown into them.

Silke described a child being kicked by one of the nuns and never seeing that child again. “We all tried to survive, we used to be starving,” she said.

Her mother, who she was separated from in the institution but managed to make some contact with later in life, told her they were kept separate even while inside the walls.  “She wasn’t allowed to hold me, cuddle me or feed me or do nothing for me, it was other mothers,” Silke said.

Catherine Corless saw the pile of records that Anne had been able to get from the State, detailing her time in the institution and her fostering.  Since she died, family members have not been able to access the cache of documents she left behind and while Tusla recently released a document to Silke’s relatives detailing a timeline of her experiences within the institutions and confirming the time she spent fostered, Silke’s family could now wait months for copies of the documents to be provided.  Before she died, Anne Silke stated to Lavina and others that she was abused and exploited as a child while fostered within the Belclare household of Mark Killilea Sr, a founding member of Fianna Fáil and an influential local politician in Tuam.  Silke describes in the documentary how she was exploited for labour, made to milk cows morning and evening, brought home from school early to clean and polish the house, and never allowed to eat at the same table with the family.  Silke said she was beaten if she did not complete her work or if she defended herself.  Silke described being physically assaulted by one of the older adult sons in the house, who she said took over after the foster father died, and that she was sexually abused by another adult son.  She was a child at the time of this sexual assault.  According to statements made by family members and details from Silke’s testimony, as well as multiple sources who knew Silke and saw her file, the documentary points to Mark Killilea Jr as responsible for physically assaulting Silke. The ‘Golfgate’ event last year in Galway was a dinner in honour of the late TD and MEP. The documentary points to Jarlath Killilea as having sexually abused her. He was a former head of the Department of Tourism and Catering at Cork Institute of Technology. Both men are deceased.  Silke describes how Killilea Jr “gave me awful beatings with the horses whip and that, the mother was hitting me and I was protecting myself so I went to hit her and he said you’ll never do that to my mother again, that’s what it was, and he stripped me from the waist down put me across the chair and belted me, and the blood pouring out of me, [I] couldn’t sit”.

Silke says she was told to tell anyone who asked that she fell.

“And the other brother sexually abused me, the first time he did it was in the mother and father’s own bed,” she states.

A mother of eight, in a family photo Silke stands with all of her adult children, four daughters and four sons, all of them head and shoulders above her.  Silke told her own children about her experiences and they speak out in the documentary, confirming that their mother had told them of these accounts of abuse and exploitation within the foster household.  One of her daughters, Alice Kelly, speaks about how many families like her own are still affected by the ongoing legacy of the mother and baby home institutions, making it an intergenerational trauma.  The children, like Silke, were robbed of any real affection or love within the Tuam institution and Kelly speaks about how her mother’s way of showing love was making sure they were sent to school, fed, and had clothes on their back.  “I heard the stories growing up and it just became normal, it’s just something I accepted that these things happened to mum,” Kelly says, remembering how she asked her mother when she was a teenager about her experience and whether she had been sexually abused.  I was,” her mother had told her. It was something Kelly then almost normalised, warning “that’s the generational impact it is having on this country”.

Another of Silke’s children, her son Seán Kelly, spoke over Zoom from New York to the director, Teresa Lavina, and named Jarlath Killilea as the man who sexually abused his mother and Mark Killilea Jr as the man who had beaten her.  “[Jarlath] would have assaulted her sexually, physically, he was the one mum was very angry at too, obviously because she was young and didn’t know, she wasn’t even in her teens like.”

There were other witnesses to her exploitation at the hands of the foster family, according to Silke.  “This neighbour, my friend will tell you, she used to collect me after the roll was being called and I’d have to polish the house, they had seven bedrooms,” said Silke.

“I hadn’t the work done and the son came along and he battered my face against the wall and pulled my head and battered me against the wall, and all my teeth destroyed. So [as a] 12-year-old I had four dentures, 12 years old.”

A source familiar with Silke’s file says there are hospital records included.  “I’d say he denied it to the guards too,” she said.

“He battered me against the wall cause I didn’t have the work done.”

As well as domestic work, she was made to milk the cows morning and evening, spending her nights sleeping on a bed that she said was rotten through with urine.  “Their bedroom wasn’t the same as mine,” she said.

“I’m sorry to say I used to wet the bed and I used to sleep in that bed every night.”

Silke remembered a social worker would come every month but she was told not to tell her that was the bedroom she slept in.  Many survivors who were boarded out from Tuam and other institutions as children have spoken about being used for free labour by foster families.  “They were making money on us, they made money on us,” said Silke.

“Even though we were not in the home they still got money for feeding us.”

There were many attempts at escape. Silke said she ran away a lot but guards brought her back, telling her to be good.  “You were put into that situation that you couldn’t get out of,” she said.

“No matter where you went and told your story, you didn’t know who you were talking to then, it was all going back to them.”

Eventually, she told one of the “sisters”, one of the women in charge at her school, that she’d harm herself before going back.  The timeline of Silke’s institutionalisation and fostering provided by Tusla shows that after being “discharged” from the foster family in 1967 Silke was sent to St Teresa’s on Temple Hill, a residential institution run by the Daughters of Charity in Dublin, and a place where there are accounts of another child sent from Tuam who was made to work unpaid in a local shop.  The document from Tusla states that after being fostered, Silke also worked for a time in 1968 for another member of the Killilea family.4 states in Untold Secrets that she was “put working down in Kilkenny” before being put into a Magdalene Laundry and running away after six months there.” After that, she started working in a hospital.  Donagh Killilea, son of the late Mark Killilea Jr, does speak within the documentary about the exploitation of children from the institutions: “We also have to keep in mind the awful conditions in which some survivors worked, they were forced labour on farms a lot of the time, they were forced labour in industry which was big at the time there was a lot of bad but I think there was even more good but it’s just not being looked at.”

Mr Killilea was shown testimony of Anne Silke by Lavina while the documentary was still in production. In response to questions from the Irish Examiner ahead of the broadcast, he described the allegations made by Anne Silke as both “unverified” and “inaccurate” but said “we have nothing to hide”, adding that “everyone involved in this has passed away and I’m very sorry for Anne’s family”.

According to records held by Galway County Council, the minutes of a council meeting show that Mark Killilea Sr opposed the closure of the Tuam institution on the basis that as long as the institution remained in Tuam “the county has the benefit of the money spent there”.

When she was in her mid-20s, Silke says, she went to a social worker in Galway to report “the abuse I got when I was a child with them people” but she was told she was no longer in the social worker’s jurisdiction.

In recent years, people close to Silke say that gardaí from Tuam visited her at her home in Leitrim to take her statement before she passed away.  Close family members of Silke say she had been preparing to take Mark Killilea Jr, the alleged perpetrator of her physical assault, to the High Court, but he died before it was possible and she was also dissuaded by fear of losing her house due to legal costs.  “Mum always wanted her story out,” her son Seán said.


*Please note; my views on surrogacy are exactly that my views.*

Firstly I do actually understand why people choose surrogacy over adopton and/or fostering but for me it’s something I couldn’t do.  I’m probably very influenced of being a survivor of forced adoption and not having more children. and,  while it wasn’t impossible to have more children, it was very unlikely my husband and I would.

What people don’t think about is that another woman carries a baby for a couple or single person so automatically the baby(ies) suffer trauma of being taken from the only mother they’ve known.  They carry DNA from the mother as well.  Babies aren’t born as blank slates so have a right to know, like adoptees, who carried them for 9 months.  Not telling them is living a lie the same as sperm donor conceived children deserve the truth although now sperm domors can’t be anonymous now in the UK.

Why are donors no longer automatically anonymous?

Before the law was changed in 2005, we consulted widely with donor-conceived people and donors about how donor anonymity should work. We found there was a strong desire on both sides to leave the door open to potential contact if both parties wanted that.

We recognise that the prospect of being contacted by someone conceived from your donation can give rise to a lot of complex emotions.

We also give donor-conceived people the option of having a support worker on hand to act as an intermediary if they’d like to make contact with you.

The British couples who paid £40,000 for a child from Ukraine’s hellish baby factory: Exposed, the heartbreaking reality of slick promises sold to desperate surrogacy tourists

Bianca, 45, and Vinny Smith, 40, said surrogacy dream turned into a ‘nightmare’
The couple from Cheltenham paid £40k to a surrogacy company in the Ukraine
When they arrived for birth of their sons, Max and Alex, four, they were shocked
They saw women kept on a sweltering maternity ward with no air-con ‘like cattle’

By Tom Kelly and Susie Coen For Daily Mail

Published: 23:29, 23 June 2021 | Updated: 08:55, 24 June 2021

Bianca and Vinny Smith went through their packing checklist one last time. There was the paperwork, of course, all carefully ordered, double-checked and labelled. Foreign currency, phrasebooks and medical kits.  Then, neatly stacked side by side, tiny Babygros and vests, packs of newborn nappies, bottles, teats and tins of powdered baby milk. For tomorrow, they would fly out to the Ukraine as a childless married couple and return a few weeks later as parents, to twin boys, born via a surrogate.  After eight failed rounds of IVF and years of heartbreak plus thousands of pounds spent they’d almost given up on their dream of becoming parents. Now they were buzzing with excitement and nerves that finally their dream was about to be realised.  Bianca heard about the biggest surrogacy company in the Ukraine on a Facebook group. ‘They were offering a take-home baby guarantee,’ she says. ‘You pay around £40,000 and you keep going until you get a baby. They’ll swap out egg donors or surrogates until they get it right. And we thought, well, perfect.’

But author Bianca, 45, claims their surrogacy dream turned into a ‘nightmare’ after they flew into the Ukraine for the birth of their sons, Max and Alex, now nearly four.  There she saw, first hand, the true scale of the country’s shocking surrogate baby trade: women kept on a sweltering maternity ward with no air conditioning ‘like cattle’.  Surrogates forced to wash with bottles of water in filthy toilets, as there were no showers and they were too terrified to complain through fear of reprisals against their families.  The Smiths have since discovered that their surrogate, an unmarried mother-of-two from rural Ukraine, was rushed into emergency surgery for several blood transfusions after giving birth to their twins. They still feel guilty about what the surrogate went through on their behalf.  ‘It’s very difficult for us to find out exactly how the surrogates were treated because of the language barrier,’ says Bianca. ‘But everyone I know who has been through the same firm as us has not been happy.’

The unavoidable fact is the couple, who are originally from Cheltenham, unwittingly fuelled a scandalous billion-pound international surrogacy trade in the Ukraine.  ‘We adore our boys, but we are always thinking about our surrogate,’ Bianca says. ‘If only we had known about how she was treated, we would have done everything we could to make her experience better.’

While surrogacy is legal in the UK, the only payments allowed are expenses, i.e. those incurred as a result of the pregnancy, such as medical bills and compensation for time off work. Consequently, the number of UK women volunteering as surrogates is small which drives many couples abroad.  The Ukraine is one of the few places in the world where commercial surrogacy is allowed, since Cambodia, India, Nepal and Thailand all banned it in recent years owing to the abusive treatment of women.  Some countries, such as Spain, refuse to register children born from surrogates in the Ukraine because of similar concerns.  With no such restrictions here, dozens of highly organised Ukrainian companies are free to target the UK market. Through slick, promotional events, they use marketing videos featuring happy British couples with their babies. Their surrogates,they assure customers, are treated ‘like diamonds’.  But the brutal reality is that women are frequently kept under ‘surveillance’ during the final weeks of their pregnancies, banned from having contact with partners or other loved ones and forced to live under curfew, facing hefty fines if they break rules.  Some were abandoned while in terrible pain, left with huge medical bills and are unable to have children of their own following complications in pregnancy.  One who had been through open-heart surgery was allowed to bear a child despite the risk and was forcibly separated from her own son. Another woman revealed the clinic had missed her now incurable cervical cancer in pre-pregnancy checks.  While the women are paid around £10,000 to carry babies for foreign couples more than twice the average annual salary the mental and physical cost is painfully high.  Meanwhile, there seems to be no age restriction to couples who want a surrogate child. One agency told of a UK couple who wanted an heir for their property empire so had a child in their late 60s using the father’s sperm and a donor egg. When our undercover reporters posed as an elderly couple, they were told by several agencies it would be ‘no problem’.  Bianca, who lives in Cozumel, Mexico, where Vinny is stationed as a military consultant, says the couple had tried to accept being childless. Then Bianca found out about the Ukrainian ‘guaranteed baby’ VIP programme for £43,000. They flew out in July 2016 for a consultation, and Bianca says: ‘Everything seemed perfect we were excited.’

Three months later, they returned to Kiev for Vinny’s sperm deposit and to choose their egg donor from a database that included pictures and videos of the Ukrainian women, and details such as eye colour, height and weight, education and occupation.  Their surrogate, a 29-year-old baker, was found within a week. ‘I knew she was doing it for the money but that didn’t alarm me. I have a friend in the U.S. who has been a surrogate four times and does it for the money. I didn’t see it as exploitation,’ Bianca says.

They then met the surrogate, signed the paperwork and paid the deposit. The next month, the donor had her egg retrieval and by December the surrogate was pregnant with twins. For the next few months, their only contact with her was via Skype with a translator employed by the clinic.  ‘We found out only her boyfriend and two kids knew about the surrogacy a lot of them do it in secret because it’s frowned upon by the locals,’ Bianca says.

As the babies’ due date approached, in July 2017, ‘everything started unravelling’.  ‘It began with the service we were given when we arrived for the birth,’ says Bianca. ‘We were told we would have a “luxury” apartment but it was filthy absolutely disgusting. It was definitely not an environment for a newborn baby.’

The couple complained to the agency and asked for a cleaner but they did such a ‘terrible’ job they were forced to buy cleaning products and scrub down the apartment themselves.  Bianca and Vinny, 40, had also paid for a private hospital for their surrogate, but were told she was going to the public hospital.  ‘It was filthy and reeked of cigarette smoke,’ Bianca says. ‘The private hospital is used to surrogates, but in the public hospital, we were screamed and shouted at. They didn’t want us there.’

They’d also been told their surrogate would live in an apartment in Kiev for the last few weeks of the pregnancy ‘so they could keep an eye on her’ and ensure her pregnancy was going well.


~  Only married heterosexual couples are allowed to use surrogates in the Ukraine and they must have a medical reason why they cannot carry their own children.
~  There has to be some genetic link between the prospective parents and the child, either through the sperm or the egg. The surrogate cannot use her own eggs.
~  For the surrogates in the Ukraine, the rules are much more strict. Women must sign contracts waiving their right to even hold the baby after the birth and are hit with hefty penalties for infringements, as seen by our undercover reporters.
~  The contract states if the surrogate is left infertile due to the pregnancy or childbirth, she is only entitled to £5,700 in compensation from the prospective parents.
~  If the child is born ‘with abnormalities through the fault of the surrogate’ she must pay the parents £11,500 in compensation.
~  She will also have to pay a £17,000 fine for the ‘refusal to issue documents’ confirming the parental rights of the intended parents.
~  She is not permitted to ‘pick up the child(ren) at the hospital and cannot object to the potential parents picking up their child(ren) immediately after birth’.
~  The largest possible fines which can be issued to a surrogate include for a ‘breach of confidentiality’ speaking to the Press, human rights or public organisations which would see a surrogate fined £22,000.
~  The surrogate must reimburse the parents ‘for all medical expenses’ if she refuses to have an abortion ‘if the child(ren) is found to have abnormalities and the potential parents opt to terminate the pregnancy’.
~  The contract also states she must: ‘Strictly follow the diet, lifestyle and regime of work, rest, physical and emotional stress’ that is recommended to her.
~  She cannot even ‘swim or sunbathe’ without the consent of the parents, agency and a physician.

Nanny still looking after couple’s surrogate baby 10 months after birth

Nanny still looking after couple’s surrogate baby 10 months after birth

Kristie Baysinger, a nanny from Texas, took to TikTok to share the heartbreaking story of 10-month-old surrogate baby Alexander in a video that has been viewed almost one million times

By Paige Holland Showbiz Audience Writer

17:14, 17 JUN 2021Updated17:18, 17 JUN 2021

A nanny who was hired to look after a couple’s baby has revealed how she ended up raising him for the first 10 months of his life.  Kristie Baysinger, a nanny from Texas, collected baby Alexander from his surrogate in Oklahoma after his parents were unable to fly from the UK to pick him up due to coronavirus restrictions.  But little did she know she’d still be caring for him almost a year down the line.  She shared the heartbreaking story of how rewarding, yet challenging it has been in a TikTok video that has racked up almost one million views.  In the clip, she explained: “My agency called me and said: ‘Hey, can you come pick up this new surrogate baby from this surrogate who does not want to take him home?’  So, we went to Oklahoma to pick him up.”

However, the process of getting a social security number has been “a struggle,” she admitted.  We’ve been getting no feedback. We’ve called social security administration and they say we’re in the loop just like everybody else is.  We’re just doing our best over here and just raising this little boy and just being as sweet as we can until he can return home to his parents.”

She went on to say how they’re waiting to see whether his parents can get their passports sorted so they can come and pick him up, if not she’ll be travelling to Scotland with Alexander and her family to “help with the transition.”  “They miss him terribly and want to see him, and they talk to him daily,” she said.

“Hopefully his social security gets here soon so that I can apply for his passport and we can get him back home.”

In another video, the nanny, who is a mum of three children, said that she treats Alexander like one of her own kids.  She explained: “We give him all the hugs and love and attention and everything that he needs so that he can grow.  We don’t hold back, he’s spoiled, he’s loved, and played with, and sang to. Just like he was my own kid.”

Since being posted, the original video has racked up more than 113,000 likes and hundreds of comments from people who were heartbroken by the situation.  One person said: “This is the saddest situation ever. Poor baby when he has to go to strangers who are his actual family by no fault of their own.”

Another added: “Poor baby. The trauma he is going to go through once he’s away from you. Breaks my heart just thinking about it.”

While another wrote: “So sad his parents are missing his first year of life.”

May 2024