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Divorce Lawyer in Canberra – Police checks sought for surrogacy

By September 4, 2014No Comments

 Nicola Berkovic writes in the Australian 4 September 2014

POLICE checks should be conducted on parents who wish to bring babies born via surrogacy into Australia, says former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson.

Mr Nicholson called for an urgent review of surrogacy laws, after it emerged a NSW father had been charged with sexually abusing his twins born via commercial surrogacy in Thailand. His plea for action came as Swedish author Kajsa Ekis Ekman, the founder of Feminists Against Surrogacy, said Australia was effectively giving the green light to such overseas arrangements by failing to enforce domestic laws banning commercial surrogacy.

“If nobody’s prosecuting, then they’re giving the green light,” Ekman said. “The government is also helping people to bring back their babies now that Thailand has put a ban on commercial surrogacy. Does that mean the government actually goes against its own law?”

Ekman, whose book Being and Being Bought explores the parallels between surrogacy and prostitution, said she believed commercial surrogacy was leading to the trafficking of women and children. “All these cases that are emerging now … show the problems that arise when children are something that you can order off the internet,” she said.

In the latest case, the father, aged in his 50s, has been charged with 10 counts of indecently dealing with the children and child-pornography offences.

The children have reportedly been in the custody of the Australian mother. The father and mother divorced in 2008, however The Australian can reveal the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have not made any parenting orders in respect of the children, leaving the mother with no clear legal link to the twins.

Mr Nicholson said greater protections were needed to ensure children were not exposed to abuse. “If you’re coming in from overseas with a child, there should at least be some check on you, as to what your background is and whether there is cause for concern about your capacity to look after a child,” he said.

The former judge said a “proper and urgent examination” was needed of what measures could be taken to protect children.

“I think that we must develop a national approach to this,” he said. “It can’t be done on a state-by-state basis and I think it’s up to the state and federal ministers to look at this urgently and do something about it.”

The Reverend Bill Crews backed calls for police checks and said Australian embassies should be required to register information about would-be parents and surrogate mothers.

Mr Crews, who is on the board of Childline Thailand, which has been liaising with the Thai ­biological mother of the twins ­allegedly abused, urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to convene a meeting with leaders from ­Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam to develop a ­regional ­approach to commercial surrogacy.

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