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Our surrogacy laws in Australia are not keeping up with the Kardashians
By Dr Bronwyn Devine
Kim Kardashian is currently expecting her third child, using a surrogate in the US who will earn a reported $113,000. It’s an eye watering sum, but for the hundreds of Australian women who overcome cancer at the expense of their fertility it’s an option they don’t have, regardless of their financial position. For these women, alongside the thousands of others who simply can’t carry a baby, surrogacy laws in Australia leave them either broke if they can find an altruistic surrogate, or technically a criminal if they head overseas.
Every week I meet or hear from couples like these who are desperate to start a family and surrogacy is their only option. These are couples who would make loving parents and are prepared to give everything they have to make this a reality. After all what price do you put on the opportunity to start a family? Well for the ‘lucky’ ones who have an altruistic surrogate it could be $50,000.
These fortunate few will pay around ten times more than IVF patients because the Government refuses to recognise the infertile couple as the patients. Instead Medicare deems the surrogate to be fertile and therefore not eligible for the rebates on fertility treatment that an ordinary IVF couple would receive. This is tragic for the couple facing the most extreme cases of infertility such as the woman who has overcome the odds of cancer and already endured gruelling adjuvant treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
So what are the options for other less fortunate couples without an altruistic surrogate? I suspect many of these couples will break the law. But these couples will no doubt feel confident that the Government is unlikely to pursue a criminal conviction. To date, no couples have been prosecuted for surrogacy under Australian laws.
Legitimate Australian websites have sprung up recruiting ‘altruistic’ surrogate mothers, and promising parents the opportunity to find a surrogate to carry their child. Gated forums offer parents an opportunity to connect and discuss the challenges they face in their surrogacy journeys. And perhaps other things.
Alternatively, many couples look beyond our shores and will join the Kardashians in reputable clinics in places such as California. Others will be lured by cheaper destinations such as Asia, India and even Ukraine. But often these trips come at a high emotional cost for the parents, with significant risks attached and little regard for the wellbeing of the surrogate. And should they return with their child they risk criminal charges and face a long road to be legally acknowledged as parents.
The system is broken. And it appears that even the Government struggles to see sense in policing surrogacy laws. Compensated surrogacy in a regulated environment is now essential to protect Australian couples and surrogates as well as reduce exploitation of women overseas. Commercial surrogacy is not the same as compensated surrogacy and this is not about the fertility industry making more money; it is about women being adequately compensated for carrying a child on behalf of someone else, not the clinic. Changing the law will give couples safe options to pursue their dreams of having a family. And this is something that everyone should be entitled to pursue, whether you are Kim Kardashian or anyone else.
*This article was originally published on The Daily Telegraph Website.
To learn more about the Monash IVF Surrogacy program, please visit here.
Fertility Specialist & Gynaecologist
MBBS (HONS 1), FRANZCOG, MRMed, Postgrad Cert Public (Sexual) Health
Dr Bronwyn Devine is a gynaecologist and fertility specialist with Monash IVF New South Wales. She is a professional affiliate of the Australian Chapter of Sexual Health Physicians of the Royal Australian College of Physicians. Dr Devine’s other interests include PCOS and Congenital Anomalies of the Female Reproductive Tract. She is passionate about improving access to ART services for members of the LGBTI community.