Linda Burney and Jenni Millbank on surrogacy

*I posted this in March on an earlier blog ‘Surrogacy Australia‘ I decided to deactivate the blog because the title was miss leading. The IP information group Families Through Gestational Surrogacy wanted to use the title Surrogacy Australia. I thought it would be useful to re-post this entry here*

Linda Burney and Jenni Millbank edit delete
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Yesterday the ABC Radio program ‘Life Matters’ presented ‘Surrogacy: the case for and against’. The segment ran for about 20 minutes with the NSW minister for community service Linda Burney giving her case against commercial surrogacy and Professor Jenni Millbank of UTS Law giving the case for commercial surrogacy.

It was not as straight forward and “for” and “against” surrogacy more broadly but more of a set of arguments for and against commercial surrogacy specifically. To summarise some of the main points;

According to Linda Burney (who was involved with the recent extension of the ban on commercial surrogacy in NSW to overseas):

1. The NSW ban on commercial surrogacy is more about the tightening up of regulations and rights in relation to the legal status of altruistic surrogacy
2. The reasoning behind the recent legislative ban on commercial surrogacy in NSW both in Australia and abroad is mainly about the rights of the child to have access to their gestational and genetic parentage.
3. The emotional and physiological experience of pregnancy and birth should not be underestimated.
4. There is evidence of the exploitation of both the child and the surrogate mother.
5. concern about the commodification of children and the perception of women as vessels.
6. Concern about a lack of regulations in the case that a child is born disabled or if something happens to (harm the health of) the surrogate mother during the pregnancy or birth.

Jenni Millbank’s main points:

1. Surrogacy “takes a very special kind of woman” and the emotional experience of surrogacy is the same whether the surrogate mother receives compensation for her time or not.
2. The main area requiring attention in terms of law and regulation is that of informed consent and the right of the surrogate mother to makes decisions throughout the pregnancy and after the birth of the child.
3. The involvement of money regarding the latter statement makes this scenario more difficult (but not impossible to regulate).
4. The response of couples who are unable to have children without outside help in cases where the law restricts outside help are more likely to travel overseas in order to have a child of their own.
5. Adoption in Australia is both rare and difficult with a number of exclusions including the exclusion of same sex couples, couples past a specific age, either of a couple being definable as having a disability. And fostering takes a “special kind of person” because the fostering parents must be prepared to allow the child to return to their genetic parents.

I think it is interesting that Linda Burney’s case against commercial surrogacy does not give any reasons specific to commercial surrogacy – her points could apply to any form of surrogacy and perhaps also adoption. It is unclear how her argument relates to commercial surrogacy specifically.

Jenni Millbank’s argument for commercial surrogacy seems much closer to the point as she is specifically comparing some differences and similarities between commercial and altruistic surrogacy.

What is missing from this argument is the lived experience of commercial surrogacy, we are missing the voices of people who have experienced surrogacy first hand: the voices of intended parents who have become parents through commercial surrogacy arrangements, or altruistic surrogacy arrangements and the voices of surrogate mothers commercial or altruistic – and of course the voices of any children born of a surrogate mother.

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Filed under adoption, commercial surrogacy, Jenni Millbank, law, linda burney

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