Researching commercial surrogacy has introduced me to some pretty remarkable people and families. Sam and his partner Phil have been through more than most people could bear and come out the other end accomplishing so much more than the average person would. Sam saw the need for a support network for all Australians who become or plan to become families through surrogacy and formed the organisation ‘Families Through Gestational Surrogacy’, now known as ‘Surrogacy Australia’. It is an excellent initiative providing information, networking, support and information for families through surrogacy as well as working to progress the rights, social and legal status of Australians using surrogacy overseas and within Australia. I asked Sam to write about how Surrogacy Australia came about and the aims of the organisation:
My partner Phil and I first started on the surrogacy journey in mid 2009.
After talking to a range of couples who had gone down this path, we chose an
Indian agency to work with in New Delhi. Like many couples before us, it was
a long and hard road to parenthood. We experienced the agonies of a very pre-term delivery (26 weeks) in Delhi in July 2010 – an event which culminated in our return to Australia in late August 2010 with the ashes of our babies Ben & Zac. In amidst the grief of this loss, I realised there was no structured support in place in Australia for families engaging in surrogacy journeys. Against a political climate in which my home state of NSW passed an amendment criminalizing parents who dared to engage with an
overseas surrogate, there was clearly a need for families like ours through surrogacy to have some support as well as a political voice. I threw myself into researching all I could about the wider climate of surrogacy globally – outcomes, risks, countries where it was legal and illegal – I found a university student who would set up a website cheaply for me and a group of parents around Australia who also agreed an organisation was needed.
By December 2010, we had a name – Australian Families Through Gestational Surrogacy, reps in five states and rapidly built up a media profile. Our aims are:
• To progress the rights, social and legal status of Australians using surrogacy overseas and within Australia
• To improve understanding within the Australian community of why families access surrogacy and the measures in place to protect all parties.
• To provide and encourage social forums for Australians using
surrogacy and their children
• To provide an information and support network for prospective and existing Australians considering or using surrogacy arrangements
• To provide a central repository and access point for international research in relation to surrogates, commissioning parents and children
Since then, our name has changed to Surrogacy Australia
(www.surrogacyaustralia.org), taking in those families using traditional surrogacy also.
As of late February 2012, we have 153 families as financial members, spread throughout Australia, New Zealand and around the world. We have built connections with supportive politicians and lobbyists, have seven website sponsors and are hosting Australia’s first conference on Surrogacy in Melbourne in late May 2012, at which we will have delegates and speakers from not only Australia but India, USA & Georgia.
*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.