People contemplating surrogacy arrangements have been strongly encouraged, wherever possible, to do so within Australia by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA).
VARTA’s comments come in response to the first episode of the new Channel Nine program, ‘The Embassy’ which aired on Sunday, October 19. The program followed a number of Australians being assisted by the Australian Embassy in Thailand, including Australian Matt, his Canadian partner Wayne, and their newborn sons, Jaxon and Logan, born of a Thai surrogate.
The program highlighted some of the challenges that commissioning parents can experience from international surrogacy arrangements, including potential legal and custodial problems.
“Even with the best of intentions, international surrogacy arrangements are potentially fraught,” said Louise Johnson, CEO of VARTA. “The tension and uncertainty experienced by Matt and Wayne over their ability to take their son Jaxon to Australia with them illustrated that overseas arrangements are rarely straightforward.”
Surrogacy is poorly regulated in many countries, which gives rise to a range of concerns for the welfare of the parties involved. Concerns include the potential exploitation of women, the differing approaches among countries to the legal rights of children who are born as a result, as well as the regulations and practices that govern the safety and control of medical treatment.
For intended parents, the idea of finding a surrogate within Australia may seem impossible, which is why people look abroad. But there are women in Australia willing and happy to help others to become parents through surrogacy.
“The laws in Australia offer much greater protection for all parties involved in a surrogacy arrangement – and particularly for resulting children, which is most important of all,” Ms Johnson said.
“While there was nothing in the episode of ‘The Embassy’ which indicated that the parties involved in this surrogacy arrangement had been treated with anything other than respect, there are all manner of problems which can occur overseas. In the majority of countries currently popular as destinations for surrogacy, there is little legal infrastructure in place to protect the interests of the child, the surrogate or the commissioning parents,” Ms Johnson said.
However, recognising that international surrogacy arrangements do occur, VARTA has collaborated with Kellehers Australia to produce a legal checklist resource for commissioning parents. The resource offers guidance for potential commissioning parents on issues they need to consider.
But VARTA stipulates that the guide should not be considered adequate legal advice.
“Anyone entering into a surrogacy arrangement – whether overseas or in Australia – should seek proper legal advice to protect their interests and as the best way of preventing problems down the track,” said Ms Johnson.
“The surrogacy arrangement featured on ‘The Embassy’ appeared to respect the rights of all parties involved, which is great. We were also delighted at fathers’ Matt and Wayne declaration that their sons would have an ongoing relationship with their birth mother. We wish them all the best of luck in their new family arrangement.”
For more information visit www.varta.org.au
For a direct link to the International Surrogacy Legal Checklist visit www.varta.org.au/ivf-or-surrogacy-overseas.
A legal checklist resource has also been produced for domestic surrogacy arrangements and can be found at www.varta.org.au/finding-a-surrogate-within-australia.
VARTA PR Officer
Phone: 61 3 8601 5250
Direct line: 03 8622 0503
Mobile: 04 52 51 53 02