Radio Interview on Mix 94.5 – Surrogacy and Baby Gammy
In July 2014, many West Australians were drawn in and shocked by the controversial case of Baby Gammy, one of two children born to a surrogate mother in Thailand.
The biological parents from South Bunbury returned to WA with one fully healthy child, leaving baby Gammy who had down syndrome and heart problems with the birth mother in Thailand.
Milos, one thing that this case has highlighted for us is how little we understand about surrogacy. Just what kind of surrogacy deal was being undertaken in Thailand?
As I understand it, in this case the mother was paid a sum of money under a commercial surrogacy arrangement to carry a child on behalf of the couple from Bunbury.
In Western Australia, we have the ‘Surrogacy Act’ which was introduced in 2008 and is quite different compared to other international countries.
To strip it right back, is surrogacy always a case of someone carrying the biological child of the parents she is carrying it for, as in using the sperm and egg of the intended parents?
Usually yes, but there can be occasions where they use somebody else’s egg.
Here in Western Australia, what’s the current legal standing on surrogacy?
We have what they call an altruistic surrogacy regime as opposed to a commercial one.
So, not paid?
Exactly right. People who are unable to conceive, or are able to conceive, but it’s likely that there might be a risk to the mother’s or the baby’s health. Those people are eligible.
Who is eligible comes down to a person and/or a couple. The person would be a single woman of 25 years of age or older who has had difficulty having a child. In respect of a couple, they can only be two people of the opposite sex who are in the same situation.
How common is it for people in Western Australia to set up a surrogacy arrangement?
It’s not that common, because a lot of people try the IVF route, which can be quite expensive and heart-breaking for a lot of couples.
However, with respect to surrogacy, whilst it’s not common, we do have quite a regulated regime in the state. The reason why a lot of people don’t know about it is probably because it’s not something that people talk about on a daily basis.
I also think it does bring to bear the whole debate about whether we should have commercial surrogacy arrangements introduced in Australia.
The problem here is that each state has its own legislation with respect to surrogacy. So people are turning overseas to enter into these arrangements and of course the regulations in places like Thailand or India are extremely problematic.
I do love the point you make about looking at things back here so that people don’t have to run this risk overseas.
That’s right, I think one of the main issues is the uncertainty over the parental status of the intended parents and the process that goes from transferring the parental status from a surrogate to an intended parent.
It does create a huge issue and a bit of a minefield for the acknowledgement of these couples who desperately want a child and might have issues into the future as to whether they are the legal parents of a child of this arrangement or otherwise.
It would be a shame if this case ruined it for everyone, as they say.
It does raise some issues. However, according to our Prime Minister the federal parliament is reluctant to do anything about it at the moment.
But I think there may come a time where they might legislate federally and it would make things a lot better, a bit easier and the whole process more transparent.
It’s a complicated issue and we’ll probably be hearing about Baby Gammy for a while.
I believe so. The story does illustrate the need for a better regime in Australia which would provide more protection for people in such a situation.
Please consult our page “Surrogacy in WA” for a comprehensive legal guide on this complex area of law.
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