A COUPLE who have been unable to conceive their own child want WA’s surrogacy laws overhauled, saying they are archaic and could even be putting people at risk.
The couple, who the Voice is naming Tim and Heather to protect their privacy, say travel bans under the Covid pandemic have highlighted the uncertainty they and others face trying to start a family.
Having recently moved to WA for work, Tim and Heather don’t yet have a wide social network and have found it difficult to find a surrogate willing to carry a child for love (and out-of-pocket expenses) as legally required.
But they can’t enter a commercial surrogacy arrangement, or even to advertise for one in WA, as it’s illegal under the Surrogacy Act 2008.
Tim says they’ve considered a work-around used by around 200 Australian couples each year – heading overseas to countries where commercial surrogacy is legal (the US and Ukraine are the most popular).
Apart from the difficulties caused by Covid travel bans, he says they’re also nervous about the costs and risks, having discovered it could set them back around $50,000.
“Women might be trafficked or treated unfairly in these other countries, the people could be fraudsters or dubious,” he said, adding it was difficult to know who to trust.
“There are risks of birth certificate issues or birthing costs in the event the child needs other care,” Tim said.
“People like us who have been dealt a bad hand just want a child like everyone else and it is virtually impossible. Ask anyone who can’t have children or have lost children, and seeing people with families is like a dagger in the chest every time.”
Tim says the money being raised overseas could stay in Australia if the commercial surrogacy ban were overturned.
But the McGowan government recently announced that while it was overhauling the state’s reproductive technology and surrogacy laws to improve access to altruistic surrogacy, the ban on commercial arrangements would remain.
Clinics would be allowed to recruit altruistic surrogates under the revamp, while the range of people allowed to apply would be expanded to include women facing impending infertility, single men, people in same-sex relationship, transgender people and intersex people.
A spokesperson from health minister Roger Cook’s office said there was a long-standing principle in Australia in not paying for human products, likening it to free blood or organ donations.
“Commercial surrogacy often exploits women overseas from lower socio-economic backgrounds and children born from overseas commercial surrogacy often do not have access to important information about their biological heritage,” the spokesperson said.
“No states or territories in Australia allow domestic commercial surrogacy.”
by STEVE GRANT