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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Parents of Tasmania's first surrogate baby call for more support to navigate the system

A Devonport couple has become the first in Tasmania to use a surrogate to have a baby, but it is a dream that remains out of reach for many.

Two and a half years since altruistic surrogacy was legalised in Tasmania, Holly Gleeson and her partner are the only couple to navigate the complex legal framework to enable their first child to be born.

"I knew from a really young age that I wouldn't be able to carry my own baby and I always wanted a baby so it was our only option," Ms Gleeson said.

"She's genetically our child so we did the normal IVF procedure and just implanted the embryo into the surrogate instead of into myself and then once she was born we had to go through court to transfer all the parental rights and we've just completed that process."

None of Ms Gleeson's sisters met the criteria to be a surrogate so a family friend offered.

Under Tasmania's legislation the woman must be at least 25 years old and have already given birth.

A contract is entered into by both parties preventing money changing hands except to cover the medical expenses.

Both couples must also undergo specialised counselling.

But when Ms Gleeson and her partner were going through the process there were no professionals in Tasmania with experience in altruistic surrogacy.

"They knew nothing about it, so we were their guinea pigs," Ms Gleeson said.

The extra research required added significantly to the legal and counselling fees, while Medicare does not cover any of the medical treatment.

Ms Gleeson puts the total cost at $75,000.

"That does include 11 embryos, it took quite a few attempts to get her, we have actually tried outside of Australia before it was legal here," she said.

Having successfully completed the process the couple hope it will be easier for others to go through and experience the joy of their first baby being handed to them.

"After we've waited so long to get her it was absolutely amazing, was just pure joy, it was the most amazing experience."

Hope fades for other couples
Time is running out for Old Beach couple Juanita and Nigel Barrett.

"We really started trying about a year after we got married and we've just celebrated our 17th anniversary," Ms Barrett said.

After nine unsuccessful IVF transfers, the passage of the altruistic surrogacy legislation renewed their hope of one day starting a family.

"I've always wanted kids, ever since I was little, I just want to be a mum," she said.

But having already come close to losing their Old Beach home three times due to the cost of unsuccessful IVF treatment, the legal fees present an insurmountable hurdle.

"The only thing that's stopping us from doing it right this instant is the money," she said.

"We just don't have it."

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the inclusion of same-sex couples in the legislation was a symbolic step forward for equal rights.

But none have pursued altruistic surrogacy.

"They have had problems with some of the hurdles they might face and also there's very little information available for couples like that about what's involved," he said.

Mr Croome called for more promotion of the option and questioned the requirements for surrogates to be aged at least 25 and have already given birth.


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