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Surrogate's Offspring Denied Citizenship

Childless Japanese couple had hired an American woman to carry babies to term.

October 24, 2003|From Associated Press

TOKYO — Japan has refused to grant citizenship to a Japanese couple's twins because an American surrogate mother gave birth to them, officials said Thursday.

The Justice Ministry's decision could discourage Japanese couples who are unable to have their own children from seeking surrogate mothers overseas. Surrogate births are virtually nonexistent in Japan, where the practice is frowned upon and the government wants to outlaw it.

Ministry official Yoshikazu Nemura said the two boys can't be given citizenship because Japanese law requires that the biological mother be a Japanese citizen.

According to media reports, the twins were conceived from the father's sperm with eggs donated by an Asian American woman.

The boys were born last October at a hospital in California, which makes them U.S. citizens, a status Japan recognizes, Nemura said.

The Japanese couple, who are in their 50s, reportedly tried fertility treatments in Japan before turning to a company that offered surrogate birth.

Surrogate births involve removing an egg for fertilization and implanting it into another woman, who carries the baby until its birth.

The Japanese Health Ministry is opposed to surrogate births. Officials are developing legislation that would outlaw the practice and impose stiff penalties on violators.

Ethical standards set by the Japanese Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology already restrict in-vitro insemination to married couples.

As a result, few doctors will perform a surrogate birth, and many childless couples have turned to fertility clinics in the United States.

Without citizenship, the children would be excluded from most schools.

The couple have several options. They could challenge the decision in court or ask immigration authorities to grant a change of citizenship.

The couple can also legally adopt the children. To do so, they must resubmit the birth certificates with the surrogate listed as the infants' mother, offer proof that the children were conceived with the father's sperm and provide immigration paperwork showing that the children are in Japan, said Nemura.

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