Surrogacy: the process of giving birth on behalf of another person or couple
For such a seemingly unambiguous definition, the concept of surrogacy in Australia is often a tangled web of legal, medical, social, and emotional realities, complexities, and obligations.
For an individual or couple arriving at surrogacy as their only option, it is likely that a difficult journey has already been traversed, with the strong possibility of more twists in the road ahead.
WHO IS SURROGACY FOR?
Surrogacy laws vary from state to state in Australia, but generally surrogacy in Australia is only an option for the parents-to-be who cannot carry a baby (women who do not have a uterus or same-sex male couples, for example) or should not carry a pregnancy to term due to a medical risk to the mother or child.
For women struggling with infertility, surrogacy is only likely to be considered an option once all other avenues have been exhausted. This includes the use of donor eggs and/or sperm.
Beyond the individual or couple seeking a surrogate, other involved parties in the surrogate relationship will include the potential surrogate mother, the surrogate mother’s partner and child(ren), the baby itself, and any other child(ren) of the intended parent(s). All of these individuals need to be considered in the decision to pursue surrogacy.
SURROGACY REGULATIONS IN AUSTRALIA
As noted, different Australian states have different laws governing surrogacy. The overarching legislation is that commercial surrogacy is banned in Australia. Commercial surrogacy is when the birth mother receives payment or material benefit.
The alternative – altruistic surrogacy – may allow for reasonable reimbursement of the surrogate mother’s medical and legal expenses in most states. Different states also have restrictions on whether potential surrogates and intended parents can advertise their desire to act as or need for a surrogate.
Before conception, surrogate mothers and the intended parent(s) must forge a formal surrogacy agreement. It is important to note that the surrogacy agreement, while obligatory, is not enforceable by law. This fact often heightens the anxieties of both parents-to-be and surrogates.
Here in Victoria, further regulations state that the surrogate mother must be at least 25 years old and must have previously carried at least one pregnancy and given birth to a live child.
PRACTICAL AND EMOTIONAL RAMIFICATIONS OF SURROGACY
Surrogacy counselling is a required component of a surrogacy agreement in Australia. Beyond the legalities, though, it is a method for both sides of the surrogacy equation, birth mothers and intended parents. It helps them to navigate both the practical and psychological significance of embarking on a surrogacy journey.
Society has numerous assumptions when it comes to motherhood. For many, embracing surrogacy as an option is stepping beyond the bounds of those societal expectations. This comes with all of the emotional implications this entails.
There are a huge number of pragmatic questions that need to be raised and satisfactorily answered. Doing this helps the process go as smoothly as possible. From potential difficulties that may arise with conception right through to ideas regarding future relationships between the birth mother, intended parents, and any existing or future children. Talking through these questions with an experienced counsellor can help to forge a valuable, trusting, and constructive relationship between the parties involved.
SEEKING SURROGACY COUNCELLING AND INFORMATION
At Happy Minds Psychology we are passionate advocates for surrogacy in Australia. Our supportive and caring counsellors can assist with an independent pre-surrogacy psychological assessment or with surrogacy support counselling. Our counselling can assist you to build resilience and work through the complicated emotions and anxieties that surrogacy may engender.
You are welcome to fill outour contact form today. Choose from face-to-face consultations in our warm and inviting Ocean Grove office, or remotely via Telehealth.
If you are considering surrogacy as an option but wish to find out further details you can contact respected family creation (surrogacy and donor-conception) lawyer Sarah Jefford. Sarah has a wealth of information available through her website and podcast.