Japan denies couple registry of surrogate-born sons

TOKYO, March 23 (Reuters) - A celebrity couple in Japan who wanted to register twin boys born through an American surrogate mother lost their case in Japan's Supreme Court on Friday, a decision likely to rekindle debate in Japan about such births.

In handing down the decision, the top court said the woman who gives birth, not the biological mother, is the mother of the child, a position taken by the Justice Ministry but which critics say ignores the interests of the child.

A lower court had ruled in September that the children of TV personality Aki Mukai and former professional wrestler Nobuhiko Takada be registered out of consideration for their welfare and as it was clear that the couple were their biological parents.

The boys, now 3, have only U.S. citizenship and are required to carry alien-registration cards.

"We feel a sense of emptiness whenever we have to carry alien-registration cards ... whenever we look at the family registry that only has my name and my husband's name," Mukai said on her Web site after the September ruling.

Japan's obstetricians' association is opposed to births by surrogate mothers, but some doctors have helped couples have children through the technique and have urged the medical community and the government to review their policies.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the issue needed to be debated among ministries and academics, but did not say whether the civil code needed to be revised to allow parents to have children through surrogate mothers.

"Parentage is a fundamental issue for humans," said Abe, who has no children and whose wife has said she underwent fertility treatment in the past.

Most children born through surrogate mothers are first registered as those of the surrogate mother and later adopted by their biological parents.

In October last year, a woman in her 50s gave birth to a child she had carried for her daughter, who was unable to conceive as her womb had been removed because of cancer.