Hi, I’m Sam Everingham, Convenor of Surrogacy Australia, a not-for-profit association set up to represent the interests of Australian intended parents, surrogates and the children born via surrogacy. My partner and I have two girls, Zoe & Ruby, born via surrogacy in Delhi in June 2011.
Surrogacy Australia represents the many hundreds of Australians considering or engaged in surrogacy. In the eighteen months since Surrogacy Australia formed, we have grown to over 370 member families. Forty five percent of our members are gay men, the remainder are ‘involuntarily infertile’ heterosexual couples or singles. Many of this latter group have medical histories which mean they cannot carry a child of their own. Many have experienced years of failed assisted reproductive techniques.
Our activities include:
• conducting research.
• hosting a website which provides detailed guidelines on how to access surrogacy, legal, psychological and financial considerations and recommendations on Australian and overseas service providers.
• lobbying state & federal governments and policy makers to improve access to surrogacy for intended parents who have no other means of having a child.
• a closed Facebook forum in which our members can support each others often taxing journeys to parenthood, share information and advice. We currently have close to 300 group members.
• Our newest initiative is a private Facebook group for Australian altruistic surrogates, where these wonderful women support each other on their journeys carrying for friends, relatives and strangers in need. Already this group has over 30 experienced and new surrogates.
Our latest research with surrogacy agencies and the Australian Department of Immigration & Citizenship suggests that over 400 infants will be born via surrogacy to Australian intended parents in the year ending December 2012.
Less than 5% of this number are via regulated arrangements through Australian IVF clinics. Locating a surrogate to carry is one of the key barriers preventing Australians from accessing surrogacy at home. For it is currently illegal in every Australian state to pay a surrogate anything above out-of-pocket costs; to advertise that you are willing to carry; or to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate.
Australians engaging in surrogacy in India or Thailand report an average total spend of around $70,000 compared to $165,000 in the US and $45,000 amongst those using Australia.
The stresses involved in overseas surrogacy are high, with no access to medical insurance should there be complications during pregnancy or after birth. Unfamiliar medical systems, vastly different cultures and thousands of kilometres distance between surrogates and intended parents only add to the stresses.
On top of this, three Australian jurisdictions - NSW, the ACT and Queensland – concerned about the risk of overseas surrogates potentially being exploited - currently have laws making it a criminal act for their residents to work with paid surrogates or agencies overseas. However for most intended parents, research shows such penalties have failed to deter them.
Psychologically being able to give up a child you carried to another person or couple - despite the infant having no genetic connection to the surrogate - is a rare gift. US psychologist Kim Bergman reports that the rigorous screening processes her agency employs mean that only 1% of surrogates who apply are accepted. In Australia by comparison, given the tight restrictions on promoting and locating a surrogate, most surrogates who meet that state’s eligibility criteria as well as the ART clinic’s criteria tend to be waved through, regardless of psychological counselling that might sound warning bells. (As an aside, Australian ART clinic’s tend to set their own criteria on who can be a surrogate to reduce the chances of things going wrong. For example some clinics will only accept surrogates who have been known to the intended parents for at least two years, despite their being no evidence this makes any difference to outcomes).
One of Surrogacy Australia’s aims is to make surrogacy within Australia a far easier pathway for intended parents, by seeking to dispel the myths that surrogates ‘change their mind’. If properly screened and counselling they don’t. And we will lobby to change laws to allow potential surrogates to advertise that fact. Such changes can only mean better screening and more psychologically suitable surrogates available in Australia.
Visit Surrogacy Australia.
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