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Canberra Family Law – Commercial surrogacy reform firmly back on agenda

By September 29, 2015No Comments

The issue of reforming our surrogacy laws is back in the news, with the Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton announcing that the NSW Surrogacy Act of 2010 is under review by the Department of Justice. (Note that each State and Territory presently has its own laws).

Currently, only “altruistic” surrogacy is permitted. Commissioning parents aren’t allowed to advertise for a surrogate, and surrogates aren’t able to be compensated for carrying the baby. This type of surrogacy is usually found when say, a woman who for medical reasons is unable to carry a child full term, has her sister or even mother or friend carry the child for her. The sperm could be from the woman’s husband, a sperm donor, and the egg could be harvested from the woman, be from the sister or an egg donor.

Commercial surrogacy is not legal in Australia, leading to parents travelling overseas to the US, India or Thailand, for example.

Surrogacy advocates have naturally welcomed the proposal to regulate the outsourcing of pregnancy, which has been a controversial subject for many years. It is argued that apart from practical considerations, compensating women for surrogacy rewards and values their contribution. In practical terms, legalising commercial surrogacy would also allow for better support services for the surrogate mothers. It could reduce the hidden, secret element to surrogacy, but could also leave babies being labelled as ‘commodities’ or victims of human trafficking.

The aguments for allowing regulated commercial surrogacy in Australia would ensure would-be parents do not have to seek expensive overseas arrangements, with potentially distressing outcomes, as we have seen with the recent Baby Gammy case in Thailand. Surrogacy Australia founder Sam Everingham says:

“It’s forced hundreds of people every year in NSW to look for surrogates in online forums, some of which are dodgy,” he said.

The NSW Department of Justice is aiming to improve the speed at which children are transferred in surrogate arrangements, with reform planned around application times for legal parentage orders (currently, full parenting rights can only be applied for 30 days after birth).

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