Dozens of gay men are turning to an American IVF programme for two-father families to get around British laws that prevent surrogacy.

As reported by PinkNews.co.uk earlier this month, The Fertility Institute, a clinic in Los Angeles, has started running a programme where male couples pay for eggs from a university student to be implanted in another woman, often from a working-class background, who carries the child.

The sperm comes from one of the gay men.

It is illegal to pay both surrogate mothers and egg donors in Britain.

The Fertility Institute also enables couples to choose the sex of the child, which is also illegal in the UK and nearly every other Western nation.

So far, around three-quarters of couples have opted for male babies.

The programme is the first surrogacy scheme that accommodates two-father families.

The Sun and The Times have seized on the story, claiming that nearly 20 male couples from the UK have participated in the scheme, paying around £33,000 to create a baby.

The programme has come under criticism for contributing to the normalisation of the “bio-family.”

Josephine Quintavalle, founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, an anti-IVF campaign group, told The Times: “This programme shows we have reached the ultimate in the manufacture of the bio-baby.

“There always seems to be a new way of reconstructing the traditional family.

“On the one hand in the United Kingdom we are saying that a child doesn’t need a father, but in America we are saying that two fathers is a good idea.”

But according to The Times, the clinic maintains that it is simply meeting a demand from gay men who are unable to start a family in Britain because of the shortage of donor eggs and surrogate mothers.

Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institute, said: “In the past two years we have probably treated 20 British gay couples and in the past four days, since launching the dedicated programme for gay couples, we have had about 25 e-mails from gay British couples. There is a pent-up demand for this.”

Of the £33,000 that the gay couple pay to the clinic, about £13,000 to £18,000 goes to paying for the surrogate mother.

Last year Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, made it easier for lesbian couples to start a family by introducing legislation that would enable single women and lesbian couples to receive IVF without having to legally register a father for the child.

As PinkNews.co.uk reported earlier this month, while other centres have made headway into providing gay couples with biological children, The Fertility Institute is the first with a comprehensive programme covering each stage of the process.

This includes psychological, legal, medical and surrogate issues, as well as care for both donor and patient.

Before the programme was established, gay couples who wanted biological children had to go to several different agencies to find mothers, egg donors, lawyers and medical treatment.

70 couples in total have been treated so far, 40% of them from the US and the rest from Germany, China, Canada, Italy, Brazil, South Africa and the UK.