A review of the timing of contractual surrogacy in Australia is now overdue
Dr David Molloy | 19th Aug 2014
The highly-publicised story of baby Gammy, who is the centre of a failed surrogacy arrangement between an Australian couple and Thai surrogate, has brought to light the difficulties involved in surrogacy.
As Australia’s largest group of Fertility Specialists we see firsthand the patients that need to use surrogacy to have their families, and know that this comes with its own set of difficulties. We are also acutely aware of the need to protect the health and wellbeing of children born as a result of surrogacy.
The Call for Legal Parentage from the Moment of Birth
Given that the spotlight is now on surrogacy in Australia, we would welcome an Australian Government review of the timing of the legal decision-making around surrogacy. At present, the legal arrangements (which differ in each state in Australia) cannot be finalised before the birth of the child. This creates great uncertainty for all participants in the surrogacy process.
When surrogacy laws were introduced, the best outcomes for the child were paramount legally and morally in the Acts. However, baby Gammy could just as easily happen in any State in Australia. Under existing Australian surrogacy laws, commissioning parents can walk away from their babies if they perceive the child as imperfect or even the wrong gender. Similarly the surrogate could decide to keep the child from the biological parents and even change her mind on the steps of the courthouse.
Children deserve to be protected by contractual certainty of parenting and care if they are conceived through a surrogacy arrangement. A change in legislation to ensure that the legal parentage of the child is resolved from the moment of the child’s birth would provide clarity and certainty for the intending parents, surrogate and most importantly the child.
How do we ensure the best outcome from Surrogacy in Australia?
Surrogacy is a highly complex process, which is why you should always use an experienced and credible clinic when undergoing the process.
Within the Virtus Health Group (including Queensland Fertility Group, IVF Australia, Melbourne IVF & Hunter IVF) our surrogacy programs are designed to support intending parents and surrogates throughout the entire process to ensure the child’s best interests are upheld. In doing this, we have a number of pre-conditions that we insist on before we take on a surrogacy case:
- Surrogacy must be necessary. Surrogacy is only a useful intervention where either it is too dangerous for a woman to carry her pregnancy herself; or there is strong evidence that the uterus is unable to successfully bear a pregnancy; or the intending parents are in a same sex male relationship.
- There must be an intense process of joint counselling to consider all the difficulties and risks that can arise. This enables each participant, either intending parent or surrogate to consider with an independent counsellor and plan ahead for any hurdles that lie ahead.
- There must only ever be one embryo inserted at a time to ensure the safety of the mother and the welfare of the child.
- Every case is overseen by an independent ethics committee that reviews each case to ensure that all necessary steps have been taken to protect the interests of the participants and the welfare of the child.
- Finally, there must be a strong relationship between the intending parents and the surrogate. Strong and loving relationships between the participants enable families to take mutually-agreed decisions about any problems that arise. Surrogacy done in a spirit of love and giving, not cash reward or exploitation, allows many potential difficulties to be overcome.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s crucial to remember the bright side of surrogacy. Over the years, through our Australian clinics, altruistic surrogacy has given hope to couples that couldn’t dream of starting their families otherwise. While, no doubt, there is room for improvement in the current surrogacy laws in Australia and internationally, it remains an important solution for infertility worldwide.
Surrogacy in Queensland , Surrogacy in NSW , Surrogacy in Victoria .