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Friday, November 28, 2014

Overseas surrogacy needs greater regulation, Western Australian review finds

More regulation of overseas surrogacy arrangements is needed, a long-awaited review of Western Australia's surrogacy laws has found.

The review was already underway when the case of baby Gammy made international headlines earlier this year.

The baby's Thai surrogate mother accused convicted sex offender David Farnell and his wife of abandoning Gammy, who has Down syndrome, and only taking his healthy twin sister.

The case prompted calls for a tightening of the state's surrogacy laws, particularly relating to overseas commercial deals.

WA's Department of Health has been conducting a review of the operation and effectiveness of the state's 2008 Surrogacy Act.

Its report, tabled in State Parliament today, made several recommendations, including that further research on international arrangements be encouraged and facilitated.

It also recommended the Government support the proposal for the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct an inquiry into the issues raised by international surrogacy, and its impact on both national and state legislation.

Among the 17 submissions received was a joint submission from four Liberal MPs, including Nick Goiran and former mental health minister Graham Jacobs.

They had called for the state's laws to be changed to make it illegal for West Australians to pay surrogate mothers overseas to have their children.

But the review instead recommended further research be done on international commercial surrogacy trends, including which countries people were travelling to and the demographic of the parties involved.

Indian surrogacy market worth $450m

The report stated the global surrogacy market was a growth industry, with the Indian market alone estimated at $450 million a year.

The report stated such global marketing undermined domestic regulation.

"The risks of exploitation of participants in international commercial surrogacy arrangements, uncertainty of legal parentage and nationality of the child, and failure to protect their right to a biological and genetic identity, are now a matter of public concern," it found.

But it said a global regulatory response could be born out of work by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, with the organisation tasked with building bridges between legal systems.

Health Minister Kim Hames said a meeting of state and territory leaders in Canberra last month addressed overseas surrogacy arrangements.

"In the very late stage of the review process, COAG gave consideration to international surrogacy arrangements," he said.

"Itnoted the Commonwealth will fund a new service to work with existing state services to assist families and adoptees throughout the overseas adoption process.

"The review I now table finds that the Surrogacy Act generally provides a robust framework for the regulation of surrogacy, but more work is required at a national level on national and international arrangements."

Review examines altruistic surrogacy

The review also examined the eligibility of couples able to access "altruistic surrogacy", an arrangement that involves no financial or material gain, and is permissible in Australia under certain conditions.

It noted that more than one-third of respondents stated access to surrogacy should be restricted to heterosexual couples, including the Liberal MPs who made the joint submission.

However, other respondents stated that current laws unreasonably restrict access to surrogacy for male same-sex couples.

"The nature of the submissions reflects that the interpretation of family life and personal relationships is value-laden," the report stated.

"There are many different traditional and non-traditional family configurations in today's society."

It stated that in Western Australia single men and same sex male couples cannot access surrogacy, because the Act's eligibility requirements state surrogacy can only be conducted for medical reasons.


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