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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Top judge warns Australians are middlemen in commercial surrogacy markets

ONE of the country’s top judges has sounded alarm that Australians are playing “highly questionable” roles as middlemen in Asian commercial surrogacy markets.

The warnings came as authorities confirmed Australian parents who travel overseas to commission underprivileged women as surrogates are still not required to undergo criminal background checks before they obtain passports for their babies.

Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe has appeared before a parliamentary committee in a private capacity to express his concerns about the continued operation of commercial surrogacy markets in developing countries.

Justice Pascoe said overseas baby markets were like the “Wild West” and we should find it “deeply disturbing that Australians are so heavily involved in what amounts to the production and sale of newly-born children”.

“My concern is the number of Australians involved in middlemen and often in activities that are highly questionable at the very least,” Justice Pascoe told the committee.
The judge singled out Thailand, which earlier this year passed laws all but shutting down the commercial surrogacy industry, as a country where Australians continue to advocate for commercial surrogacy arrangements.

“I am very concerned, and anecdotally I am told, that there are Australians very much involved in the surrogacy clinics,” he said.

“One of them is now both recruiting potential surrogate mothers and looking for commissioning parents in Australia and telling them, ‘Don’t worry about it; the law will change”.

The Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee, which delivered its report to parliament yesterday, found that Australian parents are still not required to undergo criminal background checks before they obtain passports for their surrogate babies, despite the scandal that erupted over Thai-born baby Gammy who’s Australian father was a convicted paedophile.

An official from the Department of Immigration confirmed to the committee that when parents present themselves at an embassy overseas and apply for citizenship, “the provisions in the (Citizenship) Act do not have any scope for character checking of parents.”

The Committee has recommended Attorney-General George Brandis now establish a fully-fledged parliamentary probe into domestic and international surrogacy arrangements to determine whether regulations can be streamlined and tightened.

One in six Australian couples have issues relating to infertility and the committee heard evidence that Australians have become the largest client market for international surrogacy arrangements.


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