Ban on commercial surrogacy continues
A Federal government inquiry has recommended the ban on commercial surrogacy continue, which was one of the key arguments of a submission from the Diocese of Sydney.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs began an inquiry last year into international and domestic surrogacy arrangements, and took more than one hundred submissions from the public, medical and legal organisations, and community groups.
The submission from the Social Issues Committee, written by medical ethics expert, Dr Megan Best and endorsed by Archbishop Glenn Davies, argued that commercial surrogacy could not be justified in any context.
“It commodifies children. Second, it exploits financially needy women, who may engage in surrogacy for profit when they would not do so otherwise.” the submission said. “Such concerns are evident in developing countries involved in the international surrogacy trade. The socio-economic disparity between commissioning parents and surrogates is often great, leading to unequal bargaining power between the two, and reports of unfair and dangerous treatment of vulnerable women in some overseas countries.”
The Social Issues Committee argued that a ‘harm minimisation’ approach in developed countries had not resolved ethical issues, such as disputes arising when a surrogate wanted to withdraw from a commercial contract.
The Parliamentary report agreed that Australia’s ban on commercial surrogacy should remain in place but said State and Federal governments should work together to develop a model national law that facilitates non-commercial or ‘altruistic’ surrogacy in Australia.
It said the law should ensure the best interests of the child should be protected (including the child’s safety and well-being and right to know about their origins), the surrogate mother should make a free and informed decision about whether to act as a surrogate, and that there be legal clarity about the parent-child relationships that result from the arrangement.
The Diocese of Sydney submission began with a major statement on marriage, parenthood and the sanctity of human life.
“Marriage (lifelong commitment between a man and woman) is the ideal foundation for a family, whereby through the act of sexual intercourse, the child is conceived by a mother and begotten by a father, creating continuity between biological and social roles. While the vicissitudes of life can prevent this ideal from being realised, we nonetheless believe this should be the aim in the creation of new families.”
The submission said “We believe that parenthood is a blessing, not a right, and that children are not commodities to be commissioned at will.”
Further, it said, “We believe that human life begins at fertilisation (joining of the male and female gametes) and that it should be respected from that time onwards.”
The Diocese of Sydney submission supported developing the regulatory regime of State and Federal governments in non-commercial surrogacy, as well as legal clarity and the paramount role of the welfare of the child.
“We object to surrogacy arrangements that prioritise the preferences of commissioning parents, as this promotes the model of offspring as commodity.” the diocesan submission said.
“Our view of the value of the human embryo leads us to support the transfer to a uterus of all embryos created through ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). Once a child is conceived, their life should be preserved regardless of a change of preferences by the adults involved."
Reflecting recent controversies over international and third world surrogacy arrangements, the Social Issues Committee urged that “commissioning parents should not be able to withdraw their intention to parent, once a surrogate is pregnant.”
“We believe this should be an absolute responsibility, regardless of any unexpected events such as multiple pregnancy and/or detection of abnormality in the child. The risk of this occurring is real, as illustrated by the much-publicised example of Baby Gammy in 2014.”
The submission said that if the surrogate is unwilling to retain parenthood of the child, the commissioning parents should be legally and financially responsible for the ongoing nurture of any children born until they reach adulthood.