Seeking a substitute for the mother of all laws
Are surrogacy laws unfair and in need of revision? Zach Workman-Brown reports.
The debate over surrogacy laws will continue to prosper if we take note of Kim Bergman, who at a recent press conference said that Australia’s surrogacy system is unfair to Australians struggling with fertility issues.
Dr. Bergman is a psychologist and co-owner of one of the world’s oldest and largest surrogacy clinics, Growing Generations. Dr Bergman discussed the practice of ethical surrogacy in the United States and how Australia should aim to adopt a similar model.
Three speakers addressed the press at New South Wales Parliament House in September, including Dr Bergman, American surrogate mother Kelly Rummelhart and an Australian lawyer specialising in the issue, Stephen Page.
The statements were aimed at legalising commercial surrogacy within Australia and effectively within New South Wales, which has the strictest of laws on the matter.
Currently in Australia, the surrogacy laws, whether altruistic surrogacy or commercial surrogacy are not nationally similar, and differ between the states and territories.
In the United States when potential mothers or fathers are infertile, or older mothers who are unable to reproduce due to fertility issues become desperate, surrogacy is consulted as a last resort, yet with altruistic surrogacy the only option in Australia, the ability to turn to surrogacy is minimised.
Altruistic surrogacy is legal within Australia and the US, and allows you to locate a willing surrogate, yet no form of compensation can be made other than that of medical fees.
Commercial surrogacy is legal in the US and involves using an agency to locate a surrogate mother who will develop and deliver the baby for a particular fee, where families who are unable to conceive a baby themselves can turn to IVF treatment and let this process occur.
Surrogacy Australia states on their website that Commercial Surrogacy within Australia is banned “because MPs have generally taken the view that commercial surrogacy involves the exploitation of women and also involves the treatment of children as commodities, it is illegal to engage in a commercial surrogacy arrangement within Australia, except for the Northern Territory.”
While commercial surrogacy is banned within Australia, it allows Australians to engage in commercial surrogacy overseas, as each state has difference laws in this respect. To engage in overseas commercial surrogacy within Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia is considered legal, though in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland, criminal sanctions are imposed, forcing many intending parents to continue discretely or as Stephen Page has recommended to some of his clients, to move interstate.
Despite the potential of commercial surrogacy within the Northern Territory, it is effectively banned as the doctors who provide the IVF treatment are from Adelaide, and are subject to South Australian licensing laws.
As surrogacy laws in Australia are evidently an extremely complex yet sensitive issue, Stephen Page believes Australia needs to engage in a “national conversation”, so the public can voice their opinion and become more educated in the issue.