Kyle Harris fights to correct baby Paige’s birth certificate in Parliament

Kyle Harris and his daughter Paige, 1. Harris introduces a Private Bill in Parliament to try to have his late wife’s name added to Paige’s birth certificate. Photo / Provided

A father fought to get his late wife’s name registered on his daughter’s birth certificate all the way to parliament with a private bill.

Extreme action is the last hope for Kyle Harris and his young daughter Paige, whose mother Katherine Harris died before she was born through surrogacy.

Katherine’s death from complications of a lung transplant in December 2019 prevented the couple from completing the adoption of Paige after she was born – the only way the intended or biological parents of a baby born via surrogacy can be officially recognized as parents.

Harris said it was her daughter’s birthright to have Katherine recognized as her mother, but because the 1955 Adoption Act was so outdated it did not provide for surrogacy and death. an expectant mother before birth.

Harris, 35, and her supporters last year launched a petition signed by more than 48,000 people to replace the words “Unregistered” under Mother with Katherine’s name on Paige’s birth certificate.

When that didn’t work, they wrote to MPs and even the Prime Minister with his fate, to no avail.

Katherine, who was born with cystic fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant in 2012 before marrying her lover the following year, always wanted children but because of her health she could not carry a pregnancy.

Friends Renee and Josh Johnson offered to carry a baby for the couple and through in vitro fertilization Renee became pregnant during the first cycle of IVF.

Harris said his wife would have been horrified and puzzled by what was happening.

“It’s probably lucky they’re dealing with me and not her,” Harris said. “She was a bit of a firecracker and I don’t think she would have been that patient.”

Kyle and Katherine Harris.  Katherine died at the end of 2019 from complications related to cystic fibrosis before she could adopt her daughter who was born through surrogacy.  Photo / Provided
Kyle and Katherine Harris. Katherine died at the end of 2019 from complications related to cystic fibrosis before she could adopt her daughter who was born through surrogacy. Photo / Provided

Harris, a Te Kauwhata writer, has spent around $18,000 in legal fees trying to resolve the issue, which he wants to do before his baby girl turns 2 on March 25.

“It’s a birthright and I morally object to spending money on something that should have been fixed in the first place.”

Labor MP Louisa Wall has introduced the Paige Harris Birth Registration Bill to parliament, which is due to pass first reading on February 16.

Wall said private bills were rare, but because there was no ability in general law to solve Paige’s birth registration issue, a private bill was the only mechanism to do so. .

“After speaking with Paige’s family, we drafted a bill and they asked me to put it through the parliamentary process.”

The Department of Justice has undertaken a review of adoption law, including a separate review of surrogacy by the Law Commission.

Law Commission senior adviser Nicola Lambie said that under adoption law the person who gives birth is the legal parent and the only way to recognize intended parents such as parents biological, in the case of surrogacy, is through adoption.

When Paige Harris turns 2 on March 25, her father Kyle hopes her mother Katherine's name will finally be on the little girl's birth certificate.  Photo / Provided
When Paige Harris turns 2 on March 25, her father Kyle hopes her mother Katherine’s name will finally be on the little girl’s birth certificate. Photo / Provided

She said this did not reflect the realities of surrogacy and the need for reform was long overdue.

“The problem with baby Paige is that if you’re dead you can’t adopt under adoption law, which really highlighted the problem of trying to enforce adoption law. 1950s adoption to the very modern family-building exercise of surrogacy.”

Lambie said the birth parents found it offensive and demeaning to have to adopt a baby they considered their own, due to the process that involved having to be assessed by an Oranga Tamariki social worker as a suitable parent.

She said the Law Commission explicitly referenced a situation like Paige’s case in its review and would make recommendations to the government regarding retroactive application of the law.

It is hoped that the review will be presented to the government in May.

Judge Frances Eivers, Children’s Commissioner, said it was unimaginable for anyone to consider what Harris had been through: “Grieving for his wife, having to adopt his own genetic child to legalize his parenthood, and then finding out that currently Katherine cannot be named on Paige’s birth certificate.”

Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said her office had submitted surrogacy review that in some cases an intended parent should be recognized from conception.  Photo / Provided
Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said her office had submitted surrogacy review that in some cases an intended parent should be recognized from conception. Photo / Provided

She said the review of the decades-old adoption law had been a long time coming.

“I am very happy that the government has gone even further and now considers surrogacy as a completely separate way of starting a family, not subject to the adoption process.”

Eivers said the Office of the Children’s Commissioner has submitted to the surrogacy review that, in certain circumstances, intended parents should be recognized as legal parents from conception.

“This review will go to the Minister of Justice [Kris Faafoi] this year for consideration, and I urge him to seize the opportunity for change.

“If and when the law is updated to reflect legal parenthood through surrogacy, we hope that provision will be made retrospectively for this family’s rare situation.

“We wish Mr. Harris all the best in advocating for this law to be updated and, more importantly, for Paige to know her whakapapa whānau as well as surrogacy whānau.”

Comments are closed.