Yesterday was a very sad day for families in NSW who can’t have children naturally.
The day started well, with everyone pleased that NSW was introducing laws to give parents of children born through surrogacy full legal recognition, meaning they will no longer have to resort to adoption.
But then things quickly turned sour when an amendment was introduced by Community Services Minister Linda Burney to specifically excluded NSW residents from conducting Commercial Surrogacy anywhere in the world. Currently it is only illegal for NSW residents to undertake Commercial Surrogacy in NSW, but this change means residents can no longer undertake Commercial Surrogacy in places like American and India, like we are doing. Although this law only affects NSW residents (and we are in Victoria), those impacted by this across Australia tried to do what we could with the few hours we had to respond, but by the end of the day, the law had passed.
A sad day indeed. I feel sad for the couples going through Commercial Surrogacy at the moment, and I feel sad for the couples to come in the years ahead who will be unable to take this journey to have a family. And just for the record, this is not a gay thing. It impacts everyone, including straight couples, that want a family through surrogacy.
There were two reasons given to outlawing Commercial Surrogacy, being:
1. It’s not in the best interests of the child
2. It’s not in the best interests of Surrogates who have little money
Respectfully, I disagree. It is difficult for people who haven’t gone through this process, who haven’t heard the stories of the Parents to Be, of the Surrogate, of the Egg Donor and most importantly of the Child, to understand what is really happening here.
Lets talk firstly about the interests of the child. Because this is an unborn child, things are slightly different. What we are actually asking is “in what situation is it better for a child not to be born”. For me there are some very obvious situations that are very clear … there is no grey area.
Children Should Not Be Allowed To Be Born If:
* Their parents cannot provide them the basic necessities to survive
* Their parents have a record of child abuse
* The child will not be raised in a loving and supporting environment
I can’t think of any other obvious reasons, not even physical. Society says that a child is still allowed to be born even if the genetic makeup of their parents highly predisposes them to having a genetic deformity such as Cistic Fibrosis or Down Syndrome (aside from inbreeding of course). So that doesn’t even make my above list.
In short, how can a healthy child who is brought into the world by loving parents who have the ability to feed, cloth and love it in a healthy environment not be in the best interests of the child? Is it because there was some money involved, because if that’s the case, lets outlaw Private Schools and Ponies right now.
There are thousands of children across the world born via Commercial Surrogacy that are living wonderfully happy lives, that would be illegal under NSW’s laws. But ironically, there are no laws to prevent people from having children even if they can’t feed a child, have a history of child abuse, and won’t give it a loving environment to grow up in.
Now lets talk about the interests of the Surrogate. In this area, I can understand why people who haven’t talked to women who have been surrogates struggle to understand how a woman can do this. But speak to a Surrogate and you’ll see that they know without a shadow of a doubt that the child is not theirs. There is no misunderstanding or point of clarification. They will have fond memories of the experience and bond with the child during those 9 months, but the contractual nature of the arrangements means that they do so with their eyes wide open. It’s also important, in almost everyone’s opinion, to ensure that the Surrogate is not the Egg Donor, to increase the emotional distance between them and the child.
To be fair, a Surrogate might go through this process just for the money, especially in a country like India. But why is this bad and not in her bests interests? I work just for the money, is that bad? We all have a right to earn money legally and Commercial Surrogacy is legal in many countries, including American and India. So how is an Australian government better placed to make this moral call over what she can do with her body? It seems that Elle McPherson or Lady Gaga can sell their bodies, but a mother of two looking to further the plight of her family cannot. Oh, but if you’re a rich Surrogate, then that’s fine.
If I told my Surrogate that the agreement was cancelled I know she would be devastated. It would mean less opportunity for her children and a much harder life for her. And for me, the kicker in all of this is that once you understand how Altruistic Surrogacy works (where there is no money involved) and how Traditional Surrogacy works (where the ED & the Surrogate are the same woman), you start to realise that the contractual certainty that Commercial Surrogacy offers woman may actually be more in their best interests. But Altruistic and Traditional Surrogacy, which could be less in the interests of a Surrogate, is actually legal. But of course, who am I to say what’s in the best interests of a Surrogate; we should obviously let her decide.
Linda Burnley and the NSW Parliament; Commercial Surrogacy has helped facilitate hundreds upon hundreds of happy and healthy children born to Australian families, and I know of not one example to the contrary. These are not the families that are raising children with little or no hope for their futures. These poor children do exist, but you must look elsewhere for them as you won’t find them here.
UPDATE (Nov 20):
I emailed the above post to all the members of the NSW government, just so they could hear another point of view, and only the Hon Trevor Khan MLC replied (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the NSW Nationals). His great email is below, but what was most surprising is that he’s obviously a progressive thinker but he’s from The National party!? I thought The Nationals were conservative country folk?!? I just don’t know which party to support these days!
Thanks for the copy of your email.
I had an opportunity to speak on the Bill and the Amendment in the Upper House.
I moved a motion in an attempt to defeat the primary Burney amendment introduced in the Lower House, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful.
Could I thank you for your reasoned and thoughtful email.
This was not a battle that we won, but there will be other battles in the future and can I assure you I will keep a watchful eye on developments in this area.