Surrogacy issues in the format of “surrogate” law: a comment on the Advisory Opinion of the European Court of Human Rights of 10 April 2019

Available in Russian

Author: Tatiana Khramova

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2019-3-45-58

Keywords: child’s best interest; margin of appreciation; right to respect for private life; surrogacy; The European Court of Human Rights


On April 10, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its first advisory opinion under Protocol No.16 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The opinion was adopted upon the request of the French Court of Cassation and regarded as yet another attempt to solve the problem of ensuring that a right to respect for private life of children born of transnational surrogacy agreement is secured. The European Court of Human Rights stated that Article 8 of the Convention requires that domestic law provide a possibility of recognition of a legal parent-child relationship between a child and the intended mother, even when they do not share any biological connection. Given the requirements of the child’s best interests and the reduced margin of appreciation of the state, the French government is expected to provide a prompt and effective procedure enabling that relationship to be recognised. The article analyzes both substantial and formal aspects of the advisory opinion. Ultimately, the author aims at defining the role that this ruling might play in developing a civilized approach towards international surrogacy. Additionally, we attempt to evaluate the potential of the new format of advisory opinions for strengthening the horizontal cooperation between the ECHR and national courts and overall advancement of fundamental rights and freedoms in Europe. The article comprises two main parts: one is devoted to the systemic analysis of the arguments substantiating the Court’s findings, the other presents a reflection upon the first instance of applying the new procedure in light of the Protocol’s aims and aspirations. In the end, the author suggests that for those countries that ban surrogacy, the advisory opinion signals that such prohibition is becoming meaningless taking into consideration the evolving interpretation of Article 8 of the Convention. Specifically, the doctrine of a child’s best interests does not allow the states to disregard the legal effects of surrogacy agreements implemented abroad. The nonbinding nature of this rigid opinion incentivizes member states to engage in a fruitful dialogue with the ECHR and eventually reach a consensus on problematic issues of surrogacy. The procedure may also reinforce the implementation of the Convention in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

About the author: Tatiana Khramova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Khramova T. (2019) Problemy surrogatnogo materinstva v formate surrogatnogo prava: kommentariy k konsul'tativnomu zaklyucheniyu ESPCh ot 10 aprelya 2019 goda [Surrogacy Issues in the format of “surrogate” law: a comment on the Advisory Opinion of the European Court of Human Rights of 10 April 2019]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.9, no.3, pp.45–58.


Drankina E. (2018) Deti na zakaz: kak Rossiya stala liderom v oblasti surrogatnogo materinstva [Children to order: how Russia became a leader in surrogacy]. Kommersant, 7 July. Available at: (accessed: 01.09.2019). (In Russian).

Dzehtsiarou K. (2011) European Consensus and the Evolutive Interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights. German Law Journal, vol.12, no.10, pp.1730–1745.

Dzehtsiarou K., O'Meara N. (2014) “Konsul'tativnye zaklyucheniya 2”: reformirovanie kompetentsii Evropeyskogo Suda po pravam cheloveka po vyneseniyu konsul'tativnykh zaklyucheniy [“Advisory opinions 2”: reforming advisory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.4, no.2, pp.71–85. (In Russian).

Fenton-Glynn C. (2019) Surrogacy: Why the World Needs Rules for «Selling» Babies. BBC News, 26 April. Available at: (accessed: 01.09.2019).

Fenton-Glynn C. (2017) International Surrogacy Before the European Court of Human Rights. Journal of Private International Law, vol.13, no.3, pp.546–567.

Iliadou M. (2019) Surrogacy and the ECtHR: Reflections on Paradiso and Campanelli v. Italy. Medical Law Review, vol.27, no.1, pp.144–154.

Kovler A.I. (2016) Evolyutivnoe tolkovanie Evropeyskoy konventsii po pravam cheloveka: vozmozhnosti i predely. Evropeyskiy Sud po pravam cvheloveka kak sub'ekt tolkovaniya prava [Evolutive interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights: possibilities and limitations. European Court of Human Rights as a body interpreting the law]. Zhurnal zarubezhnogo zakonodatel'stva i sravnitel'nogo pravovedeniya, vol.3, no.58, pp.92–100. (In Russian).

Legras C. (2015) Why Has France Banned Surrogate Motherhood? OUPblog, 23 February. Available at: (accessed: 01.09.2019).

Perasso V. (2018) Surrogate Mothers: «I Gave Birth but It's Not My Baby». BBC News, 4 December. Available at: (accessed: 01.09.2019).

Shúilleabháin M.N. (2019) Surrogacy, System Shopping, and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, vol.33, no.1, pp.104–122.

Storrow R.F. (2018) International Surrogacy in the European Court of Human Rights. North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, vol.43, no.4, pp.38–68.

Torres G., Shapiro A., Mackey T.K. (2019) A Review of Surrogate Motherhood Regulation in South American Countries: Pointing to a Need for an International Legal Framework. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, vol.19, no.46.

Voytovich E.P. (2016) Mezhdunarodnoe surrogatnoe materinstvo: problemy pravoprimeneniya [International Surrogacy: Problems of Implementation]. Yuridicheskaya nauka i praktika, vol.12, no.2, pp.104–110. (In Russian).

Voland T., Schiebe B. (2017) Advisory Opinions of the European Court of Human Rights: Unbalancing the System of Human Rights Protection in Europe? Human Rights Law Review, vol.17, no.1, pp.73–95.

Zervogianni E. (2019) Lessons Drawn From the Regulation of Surrogacy in Greece, Cyprus, and Portugal, or a Plea for the Regulation of Commercial Gestational Surrogacy. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, vol.33, no.2, pp.160–180.