Surrogacy is when a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple. In Australia, gestational surrogacy is the most common form. This means that the surrogate's egg is not used in conception, and so she is not the biological mother. The embryo may be created using the sperm and egg of the intended parents, or donor embryos may be used.
Surrogacy can be a timely and emotional process, and is not a decision that should be entered lightly. However, many parents have found happiness by creating a family through surrogacy.
Why Choose Surrogacy?
People choose surrogacy for a variety of reasons, including:
- Health conditions that make pregnancy or birth dangerous
- Recurrent miscarriages
- Abnormal or absent uterus
- Failed IVF
- Being in a same-sex relationship
The Law Surrounding Surrogacy In Australia
In Australia, commercial surrogacy is illegal. Although technically legal in the Northern Territory, it is not a process that occurs due to the governing of fertility centres in the area.
Altruistic surrogacy, which occurs without financial benefit to the surrogate, is legal in Australia. In Western Australia and South Australia, altruistic surrogacy is legal only for straight couples. In both these areas, surrogacy is not legal for single people or same sex couples.
In Tasmania, the law states that the surrogate must be at least 25 years old and it cannot be her first pregnancy.
It is illegal to pay a surrogate in Australia. You will be expected to cover medical bills and any other out of pocket expenses, but you cannot enter into a financial agreement above and beyond this.
How Long Will Surrogacy Take?
Surrogacy is not a quick and easy way of having a child. Finding a surrogate can take a long time. You may be asking friends and family if they will be a surrogate for you, and it is a big decision that people will want to mill over. It is illegal to advertise for a surrogate, or for a surrogate to advertise her services. Once you've found your surrogate, it could still take months for her to fall pregnant.
Health Risks Of Surrogacy
There are a number of risks involved with surrogacy, mostly connected to the assisted reproductive methods used to achieve the pregnancy. The risks include:
- Multiple pregnancies
- General pregnancy risks – these increase with the age of the surrogate
- Reactions to the fertility drugs
Some couples worry that the surrogate will struggle to relinquish the baby after the birth. However, studies have found that this is a very rare occurrence. Surrogates are encouraged to attend counselling throughout the pregnancy and after the birth, and this helps to prepare them for handing over the baby. Research suggests that most surrogates leave the agreement feeling positive.
Surrogacy contracts are not legally binding. The birth mother is legally considered to be the mother of the child, even if they do not share genetics. Depending on where in the country you live, you will need to take out a parenting order or adopt the baby to become their legal parent.
Is Surrogacy Worth It?
Surrogacy is not a simple solution to having a child. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly, however it may offer you the best chance to have a child that is genetically related to you or your partner.
More Information On Surrogacy
Due to the differing surrogacy laws across Australia, you should seek legal advice from a family lawyer before you begin your research into surrogacy. A specialist lawyer will be able to advise you of how the laws affect your individual situation.
You could also contact your local IVF facility to request further information about surrogacy.