Mennesson v. France, ECtHR 26.06.2014

I happened to be in France when I heard the news about the ECtHR finding  against France in Menesson v. France, on surrogate motherhood. The Court considered established a violation of Art. 8.1 ECHR as regards the twin daughters of the couple. Here is a resumée of the case (together with a similar one, Labassee v. France) as presented in the Press release issued by the Registrar of the Court. The judgment itself can be found here, but only in French.

The applicants in the first case are Dominique Mennesson and Sylvie Mennesson, a husband and wife, French nationals who were born in 1955 and 1965 respectively, and Valentina Mennesson and Fiorella Mennesson, American nationals, who were born in 2000. They live in Maisons-Alfort (France). The applicants in the second case are Francis Labassee and Monique Labassee, a husband and wife, French nationals who were born in 1950 and 1951 respectively, and Juliette Labassee, an American national who was born in 2001. They live in Toulouse. The French authorities have refused to recognise the family relationship, legally established in the United States, between, on the one hand, the children Valentina Mennesson and Fiorella Mennesson, and Juliette Labassee, children who were born following surrogate pregnancy agreements, and on the other, the intended parents, the Mennesson and Labassee spouses respectively.

 Mr and Mrs Mennesson had recourse to surrogate pregnancy in the United States, in which embryos created from Mr Mennesson’s sperm and donated ova were implanted in the uterus of a third woman. Mr and Mrs Labassee also used this procedure. Judgments delivered respectively in California, in the first case, and Minnesota in the second, indicate that Mr and Mrs Mennesson are the parents of Valentina and Fiorella, and that Mr and Mrs Labassee are the parents of Juliette. In France, the applicants requested that the American birth certificates be entered in the French civil status registers; Mr and Mrs Labassee further applied for a notarial deed to be entered as a marginal note. They were dismissed at final instance by the Court of Cassation on 6 April 2011 on the ground that such entries or marginal notes would give effect to an agreement on surrogate pregnancy, null and void on public-policy grounds under the French Civil Code.

The seven applicants, relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), complain about the fact that, to the detriment of the best interests of the child, they had been unable to obtain recognition in France of a family relationship legally established abroad. The applicants in the Mennesson case, relying on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Article 8, allege that, on account of this refusal by the French authorities, they experience a discriminatory legal situation compared to other children in exercising their right to respect for their family lives. Further relying on Article 12 (right to marriage), they allege a violation of their right to found a family and, under Article 6 (right to a fair hearing), complain about the proceedings at the close of which the French courts refused to recognise the effects of the “American” judgment.

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