Surrogacy maternity leave fight

Re-posted from Rutland & Stamford Mercury)

A South Yorkshire teaching assistant whose twin daughters were carried by her cousin is fighting for maternity rights for mothers of children born through surrogacy.

Jane Kassim was born without a womb and her cousin Amy Bellamy, 26, agreed to help her to have children.

Isla Jane and Ivy May, who were conceived through IVF treatment using Mrs Kassim's eggs, were born last month.

Mrs Kassim, 30, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, thanked her cousin, who lives in Rawmarsh, by delivering 12 chocolate chip muffins every two weeks during the pregnancy. She told Take A Break magazine: "I can't stop thanking Amy for what she has done for me. In return for a few hundred muffins, she has given me the most wonderful gift in the world."

Mrs Kassim negotiated time off with the primary school where she works to spend time with her newborn daughters, but was not entitled to any maternity leave. She is now campaigning for better rights for people like her, as current law gives no entitlement to either maternity leave or statutory maternity pay for people who have children through a surrogate.

Local MP John Healey is taking the campaign to Parliament to try to close the "legal loophole". The Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne said: "Maternity rights are to help mothers and their newly born babies through the earliest months of the child's life, when time together is most needed.

"Mums whose babies are born through surrogates need this support just like any other new mother. I want to close the legal loophole that means such mums don't have these rights like those giving birth themselves or adopting automatically have."

A spokesman for Rotherham Borough Council said: "As Mr Healey points out, under the current legislation there is no right to maternity leave or maternity pay for those who have children via a surrogate mother.

"This is in contrast to situations, for example, where people adopt children. Clearly we would welcome any changes to legislation which would benefit families and children."

An online petition backing the campaign has collected more than 1,400 signatures. It can be found on the Government's e-petitions website.