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Monday, September 21, 2015

NSW considers allowing couples to advertise for surrogates

NSW couples would be able to advertise for surrogates, and have legal parentage of any child born from a surrogacy arrangement transferred to them more quickly, under law changes being considered by the Attorney-General.

The Department of Justice is reviewing the NSW Surrogacy Act 2010. Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton is determined to improve the act, and told Fairfax Media the review was particularly considering "potential reform around time limits for applying for a parentage order and the advertising of altruistic surrogacy arrangements".

Under current laws, altruistic surrogacy is the only kind permitted in Australia. Surrogates can't be paid for carrying a baby, and commissioning parents aren't allowed to advertise for a surrogate.

The intended parents of a child born through surrogacy can apply to the NSW Supreme Court for a parentage order 30 days after the child is born. A parentage order grants them full parenting rights and their names go on the child's birth certificate.

"Surrogacy helps people for a variety of reasons have a child," Ms Upton said. "I am determined to ensure our laws makes surrogacy easy, and most importantly put the interests of the child front and centre."

Surrogacy experts said the number of people becoming parents via altruistic surrogacy is gradually increasing as it becomes more acceptable, and more couples are able to find strangers via internet forums to carry their child.

"We'll continue to see an increase in domestic surrogacy as more and more people talk about it," surrogacy lawyer Stephen Page said. It costs $25,000 to $60,000 to have a baby via altruistic surrogacy in Australia. A commercial surrogacy arrangement can cost up to $80,000 in India and as much as $250,000 in the US.

Surrogacy advocates are pushing for Australian women to be "compensated" for carrying another couple's baby, arguing it recognises the value of what they're doing, would prompt more women locally to offer to be surrogates, and would stop couples going to uncertain overseas jurisdictions to find a surrogate.

The House of Representatives standing committee on social policy and legal affairs recommended in March this year that there be an official inquiry into the legal and regulatory aspects of surrogacy arrangements here and overseas. Attorney-General George Brandis has yet to respond.

Mr Page said Mexico and Nepal had become the new international surrogacy frontiers for Australians. Thailand has closed its borders to Australians after the Baby Gammy case, while India will permit  only married couples from states other than NSW, QLD and the ACT (which have explicitly banned commercial surrogacy) to engage a surrogate there.

In Australia potential altruistic surrogates must be over 25, and fertility clinics prefer them to have already given birth to a live baby and to have completed their own family.

It was a "surreal" moment when Katrina's newborn daughter Isabelle was laid on her chest for the first time. "I never thought I'd be a mum."

Having severe endometriosis, Katrina had been told she would never be able to carry her own child to term. She and her husband had frozen embryos and investigated commercial surrogacy overseas, before a close friend volunteered to carry their baby for them.

Katrina and her husband were present for the birth of Isabelle, and she was the one who first held Isabelle. Katrina stayed overnight in the hospital with Isabelle and her surrogate, before both women went home to their respective families.

Melbourne IVF medical director Dr Lyndon Hale said altruistic surrogacy worked best when the commissioning parents and the surrogate lived close to each other, and had a good interpersonal relationship.

Melbourne IVF has had 17 babies born via altruistic surrogacy since 2010, and there are another five on the way. About three-quarters of surrogacy arrangements involve family or friends.


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