Warnock Report (1984)

Colour photo of Mary Warnock

Coupled with numerous significant cultural changes since its publication, what makes the Warnock Report so significant is its foresightedness. It led to two pieces of legislation and its findings continue to form the basis of future discussions on the way these areas should be regulated.

Kirsty Horsey


In 1984, after two years of consultations and deliberation, the Committee of Inquiry on Human Reproduction and Embryology published its report. Dubbed the ‘Warnock Report’, after the Committee’s chairwoman, philosopher Mary Warnock (now Lady Warnock), the report was influential in the UK and beyond in the way it facilitated permissive regulation of fertility treatments related science. Its recommendations enabled scientific and medical advancement, and allowed the UK to remain at the forefront of the development and delivery of new treatments, and in innovation in the field. In so doing, the report has allowed numerous women to have children biologically related to themselves (and/or their partner) when this once would have been impossible. The report also recognised the value of allowing the use of donated gametes. In this, and other respects, it foretold changing social and legal understandings of family and parenthood.

The regulatory framework around surrogacy – which also stems from the report’s recommendations and another way by which women may have biologically-related children, even when unable to carry them – has lasted over 30 years.

The full version of this landmark is written by Kirsty Horsey.


Learn More

The Guardian News and Media Ltd., ‘The Practical Philosopher’ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/jul/19/society1 

Kirsty Horsey, ‘Surrogacy Law Reform Project’ (University of Kent) https://www.kent.ac.uk/law/research/projects/current/surrogacy/index.html

Kirsty Horsey, Natalie Smith, Sarah Norcross, Louise Ghevaert, and Sarah Jones ‘Surrogacy in the UK: Myth Busting and Reform Report of the Surrogacy UK Working Group on Surrogacy Law Reform’ (University of Kent November 2015) https://www.kent.ac.uk/law/research/projects/current/surrogacy/Surrogacy%20in%20the%20UK%20Report%20FINAL.pdf

Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/49