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Surrogacy and Reproductive Right: Navigating the Legal and Ethical Dimensions of Assisted Reproduction

Surrogacy and Reproductive Right: Navigating the Legal and Ethical Dimensions of Assisted Reproduction

Surrogacy and Reproductive Right: Navigating the Legal and Ethical Dimensions of Assisted Reproduction

By Oguichen Gwungmijana Festus


Are children not the greatest gift of nature? what should be the fate of couples where nature fails? should the dreams of millions of infertile couples all over the world Who wish to have a child genetically related to them be left unfulfilled?  No, Assisted Reproduction will be their panacea. In this piece, I shall consider the legal and ethical dimensions of Assisted reproduction. However, before I go into crux of the work, It would be proper if not necessary to shed some light on the key words like assisted reproduction, Surrogacy, reproductive right and ethical. Assisted Reproduction as the name implies is the process where individuals are assisted to conceive through the use of technology. There are many types of assisted reproductive technology or methods including in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy. Surrogacy is simply defined by Bryan and Garner Black’s Law Dictionary, pg 1582 as the process of carrying and delivering baby for another person. It usually involves arrangements between the couple, another woman and an agency or a medical facility. The couple are referred to as the “intended parents”  while the third woman is known as the “surrogate or surrogate mother” . There generally two types of surrogacy; the traditional and gestational surrogacy. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother provides the egg and is therefore genetically connected to the child while in gestational surrogacy the egg and sperm is provided by the intended parents or another different party. The surrogate mother only Carry the fetus and give birth to the child. she is therefore not genetically connected to the child. Surrogacy can also be ‘altruistic”, where the surrogate mother does not receive any financial compensation or “commercial” where the surrogate mother is compensated  .Then reproductive right is basically the rights of couples to determine the basic issues relating to there reproductive life without government or societal obstacles. finally, ethical means to be in conformity with moral norms, morally approvable, right or  what good . It also has to with standards of right and wrong of an organization.


One fundamental  legal aspect of assisted reproduction , worth considering here is issue of legal framework for assisted reproduction. Despite the increasing resort to assisted reproduction, there is yet to be adequate legislative framework for its regulation All over the world. Only a few countries like England , USA, South Africa, Greece, Russia, India etc.have legal provisions for the regulation of assisted reproduction.  Even in the aforementioned jurisdictions the laws regulating assisted reproduction is inadequate as there are still some legal gray areas or lacunas.

I would love to use Nigeria as case study in  that regard. In Nigeria the law is almost practically silent on assisted reproduction, “surrogacy”  in particular. Despite the fact that resort to surrogacy is  is gaining momentum in Nigeria , Nigerian legislators have never dreamt about providing legislative relief for the unsuspecting parties . The only legislation which is often linked to surrogacy in Nigeria is Section 30 of the Child Rights Act which provides that: “No person shall buy, sell, hire, let on hire, dispose of or obtain possession of or otherwise deal in a child”. In my view it can not be savely concluded that the intention of markers of that section was to outlaw surrogacy or other assisted reproductive methods. It is therefore save to say that surrogacy and the use of other assisted reproductive technology is not a crime in Nigeria since it not expressly prohibited in any written law. The position in Nigeria is same in most countries more especially African countries which have no legislations regulating surrogacy and other assisted reproductive methods.

The consequence of the absence of legislative from work for the regulation of assisted reproduction including surrogacy contract is that parties involved in the surrogacy contracts are left in the wilderness with any legal protection and remedy where any of the parties failed to honor his part of the agreement. In this world of uncertainties, there many unimaginable and unthinkable issues that may arise between the parties in surrogate contract or other assisted reproduction arrangements. Some of such issues that may arise are where the intended parents divorce  before the child is delivered Who will claim paternity and custody of the child, what if the intended parents failed to complete the charges demanded by the surrogacy agency or medical facility, what if the surrogacy agency or medical facility were negligent in there operation, what if the surrogate mother dies due to complications from the pregnancy, what if the intended parents abandoned the surrogate mother during the period of pregnancy, can she deny the intended parents the child. Infact these issues are not unimaginable as early stated they are actually reality.

For instance, in  April 8,2022, it was reported by Premium Times newspaper as follows: A U.S.-based Nigerian couple has narrated how a surrogate mother absconded with their twins shortly after birth.The surrogate mother, Gift Solomon, had in a statement by her lawyer on Monday alleged that the couple, Shullam and Gamaliel Onyemaobi, abandoned their twins with her without financial support. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the legal issues that may arise in such arrangements. In truth a lot has been happening,but the parties have been dying in silence due to legal uncertainty.

Another problem that may arise in surrogacy contract is with respect to the citizenship of the child more especially in cross-border or inter terittorial surrogacy contract. For instance, where the surrogate mother  gives birth to the child in Nigeria to foreign couple. By virtue of Nigerian law, although the child is born in Nigeria he is not a citizen of Nigeria since non of parents or grand parents is a Nigerian. Acquiring citizenship might become a problem to the child for instance where the country of his intended parents does not confer citizenship on a child born outside the country or if surrogacy is prohibited in such country. At this point I shall now proceed to consider the ethical dimensions of assisted reproduction .


As, earlier stated, ethical is that which is in conformity with morality, what approvable or what is right or wrong. The question now is “is assisted reproduction particularly surrogacy in conformity with morality?” The above question might receive different answers by different persons base on their perspective of morality . Some might say that it is ethical, some might say that it is unethical while some would not love to consider the ethical aspect of it and may argue that the act should be separated from morality. However, if you ask those categories of people who find no fault with assisted reproduction whether they would have wished to born through assisted reproduction or whether would love to get their children through that technology, the answer might hang   on their lips.

Assisted reproduction is an artificial method of reproduction because it is performed through either artificial insemination or IVF, It is therefore unnatural. The human capacity and dignity of a child born through that means is thereby impaired. When nature has set a method or process of doing a particular thing there is no better way of doing it.For instance the parents of  such child will not be willing to disclose to the child how he came into existence. Also, children who are products of assisted reproduction maybe subjected to descrimination or ridicule . For instance a child gotten through IVR is refferd to as testube child.

Furthermore, assisted reproduction encourages immorality as someone may turn their body to commercial commodities. In addition it encourages gay practices and marriage since gay couples will often resort to it as their means of reproduction.


There many dimensions of assisted reproduction which cannot be mentioned here due to word limitations. However, I believe some of the fundamental legal and ethical aspects of assisted reproduction had been considered in this work. It my proposal that countries should provide adequate legislative framework for the regulation of assisted reproduction within and across border.

Photo Credit: Prime IVF Centre

About the Author

Oguichen Gwungmijana Festus is a 400 Level law student of Ambrose Ali University


Bryan and Garner Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition

Legal Framework For Surrogacy In Nigeria, by Miracle Eme, online @, Accessed Wednesday 14th February.

The ethics of assisted reproduction, online at,  Assessed on Wednesday 13th.


This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation ( funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International ( The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.


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