• Kyodo

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A family court in Hyogo Prefecture has rejected a couple’s request to register twin babies they had via an American surrogate mother, the husband said Saturday.

The husband, whose name is being withheld to protect the couple’s privacy, said the court dismissed the request on the grounds that his wife did not provide eggs or give birth to the twins. The court ruled that this makes it “impossible” for her to be recognized as their legal mother, he said.

The husband and wife, both in their 50s, had asked the court to nullify a local government decision to reject a birth report they submitted in January to register the twins as their children.

The couple plans to appeal to the Osaka High Court, the husband said.

The surrogate mother gave birth to the twins in October 2002 in California after doctors conducted in vitro fertilization using ova from another American woman and the Japanese husband’s sperm.

Soon after the birth, the couple attempted to submit a birth report to a Japanese consulate in the United States. But the consulate refused to accept the report, citing instructions from the Justice Ministry to confirm details of childbirth when the mother is 50 or older.

About one year later, the ministry formally rejected the birth report on the basis of a 1962 Supreme Court ruling saying a woman who gives birth to a child can be legally acknowledged as the child’s mother.

In filing the request with the family court, the couple said they have a birth certificate issued in the United States, which stipulates that they are the twins’ parents.

But the court said the case must be judged under domestic law and ruled that only the woman who gives birth to a child should be legally recognized as the mother. The case should be resolved by adopting the twins, the court added.

“The American woman who gave birth is not seeking to become the mother,” the husband said. “The person who has the will to raise the children should be acknowledged as their mother.”

The twins currently do not have Japanese nationality because they are not registered.

More than 50 Japanese couples are said to have succeeded in having children via surrogate mothers overseas. There are no laws to prohibit the practice in Japan, but a Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry panel has recommended that the practice should be made illegal.

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