Case law Developments in PIL

Legal Status of a Child Born Through Surrogacy – Latest From Poland

The Supreme Administrative Court in Poland (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny – NSA) issued on 10 September 2020 two judgments concerning the legal status in Poland of a child born by a surrogate mother in the US.

Transcription – No!  

A US birth certificate indicated a Polish national as the father and also contained information that the child was born through surrogacy (without mentioning the surrogate mother’s name).

Two judgments were issued as a result of two separate administrative proceedings instituted by the father. One concerned the application for the transcription of the US birth certificate into Polish civil status registry. The other was resulted from the application for a confirmation that the child acquired Polish nationality by birth.

In both cases administrative authorities had rejected the requests based on grounds of public policy, stating that surrogacy arrangements are against fundamental principles of the legal order in Poland. One of these fundamental principles is that the mother is always a woman, who gave birth to the child, whereas paternity results from a scheme of legal presumptions. This argument is not new, as similar cases were dealt with before by administrative authorities and administrative courts.

This argument was also upheld by the NSA in the first judgement (signature: II OSK 1390/18) where it underlined that a foreign birth certificate, which does not indicate the mother, but only the father may not be transcribed into Polish civil status registry.

Acquisition of Nationality  – Yes!

What shows a slight evolution in the Court’s attitude is the second judgment (signature: II OSK 3362/17), where the NSA stated that a foreign birth certificate is the only proof of an occurrence mentioned in it and its probative force may not be questioned in the course of an administrative proceeding concerning acquisition of the nationality. For a confirmation to be produced, it suffices that the foreign birth certificate indicates a Polish national as a parent.

Here it might be reminded that an opposite view of the NSA with respect to nationality of children born by a surrogate mother resulted in a claim filed to the European Court of Human Rights against Poland in 2015 (communicated in 2019 – see cases nos. 56846/15 and 56849/15: here).

If Not Transcription – What?

The two commented cases show that in NSA’s view surrogacy arrangements are against public order in Poland, but at the same time the fact of being born by a surrogate mother should not impact the legal status in every respect and consequently quality of life of the child in Poland. In the first mentioned judgement, the NSA underlined that even without Polish birth certificate the child should be able to obtain a PESEL number (explained below), a national ID card and a passport. The practical question is whether the above is a wishful thinking of the NSA or this will happen in practice.

It must be explained that for an everyday life and functioning in Poland one should have a PESEL number (which name comes from the first letters of the Powszechny Elektroniczny System Ewidencji Ludności – the General Electronic System of Population Registration).

A PESEL must be provided when one applies for ID card, passport, files a tax return or wants to get a drug prescription. Similarly, a child’s PESEL must be indicated if parents/legal representatives apply for child’s ID card, want the child to be covered by the national social security system or want the child to go to a kindergarten. For children born in Poland (no matter if to Polish parents or foreigners) PESEL is issued in connection with the drafting of a birth certificate. If a Polish child is born abroad, the PESEL is issued in connection with the application for an ID card or a passport.

Hence, if a child does not have a Polish birth certificate or a foreign birth certificate which might be transcribed into Polish civil status registry (and additionally is not perceived as a Polish national), administrative authorities do not have an adequate legal basis for allocating a PESEL to the child and … everyday life might get complicated.

What are the Effects of the Judgments?

The judgments issued by the NSA are binding on the administrative authorities concerned and with respect to the particular cases at issue, but not on other authorities in other proceedings.

Hence, it remains to be seen whether a PESEL number and ID documents will be issued based on a foreign birth certificate as suggested by the NSA or whether another time-consuming proceeding will commence. As one can imagine the commented proceedings lasted for few years counting from the first application to the judgement of the NSA.

The information about the above two cases was published by Polish Ombudsman (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) on its official website (see: here). The ombudsman joined both cases to support the applicant. Usually NSA’s judgements are published in the freely available official database once the justification part of the judgement is prepared (here). The justification is written after the judgement was issued. Hence, it is not yet available.

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