The Attorney General of Australia, George Brandis, has announced a parliamentary inquiry into commercial surrogacy arrangements for Australians. This comes following widespread concerns both here in Australia and overseas, that current surrogacy arrangements could, and often do, put mother and/or child at risk, are exploitative, and often do not safeguard the rights of the commissioning parents either.
This inquiry is most welcome. It is important to understand that while couples may need to consider surrogacy as an option in creating a family, the rights of all parties involved need to be considered and safeguarded. This is not always the case when couples seek surrogacy from an international source.
In Australia, it is only legal to have an altruistic surrogacy arrangement. This means that the surrogate mother may not be reimbursed financially for carrying and giving birth to a child. Medical costs and out of pocket expenses are usually covered by the recipients and are not considered financial gain.
Even then this also doesn’t mean that just anyone can become a surrogate. There are still protocols that need to be met and legal arrangements that need to be approved and put into place.
Traditional surrogacy is when a woman uses her own egg/s, which are fertilised either by donor sperm or the recipient’s sperm. This means that the mother is genetically related to the child.
Gestational surrogacy, the most common form of surrogacy, is often considered as this is when the mother is the gestational carrier, that is, IVF is used to create an embryo which is then implanted into the surrogate’s uterus and ideally a live birth results.
It is important to become familiar with the law in your state as not all states have the same legal requirements. For example, not all states allow surrogacy for same sex couples or single women, so check with the law in your state.
It is also important to understand that in Australia the birth mother is considered the mother of the child, regardless of genetics. This therefore legally entitles her to the rights of a mother, regardless of the surrogacy arrangements. Due to altruistic surrogacies often being related to the recipient, it is uncommon that surrogates change their minds and want to keep the child/children, however it is possible. It is advisable to have a surrogacy contract legally drawn up clearly listing your intentions before the process starts.
Also to keep in mind, is that not all IVF clinics will not accept surrogacy cases, so check with your fertility specialist to understand their position.
When it comes down to it, surrogacy takes an enormous amount of courage, heart and love. You need to choose someone who has all these to make this sacrifice for you, and you need to have a heart big enough to appreciate what has been done for you.