Japan's Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lower bench's ruling that would have allowed a Japanese couple to register their twin sons - born in the United States to an American surrogate mother - as their own.
The nation's top court struck down a September 2006 Tokyo High Court decision ordering a local government to accept Aki Mukai, a television personality, and her husband Nobuhiko Takada's registration of their two boys, according to a copy of the ruling posted on the Supreme Court's Web page.
The Supreme Court cited in its decision a Japanese law that presumes the woman who gives birth to a child is its mother.
Surrogate births involve removing an egg for fertilization and implanting it in another woman who carries the baby to birth. Mukai can no longer have children of her own after undergoing a hysterectomy because of cancer.
Friday's ruling upheld a November 2005 Tokyo Family Court verdict that found in favor of the local government's decision to reject their registration request. Local authorities had refused to register the twins because the Justice Ministry said Mukai could not be recognized as the boys' mother.
In a message on her Internet home page, Mukai said she had "expected the Supreme Court to hand down a conservative ruling," but added she wanted to reserve further comment until she had a chance to study it more closely.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the case highlighted the need for discussion and debate.
"How we should think about the parent-child relationship is a fundamental problem for us as human beings," Abe told reporters Friday evening, reports AP.
Determining the citizenship of children born to foreign surrogate mothers has long been an issue in Japan, although Japanese parents have the right to legally adopt the children then apply for their citizenship through immigration authorities.