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Surrogacy in Australia

Written by Karli Steenkamp

Many couples struggle to have a baby of their own for various reasons. Adoption might not be something you want to pursue. Surrogacy is a beautiful phenomenon helping people have a baby when no other means are possible. It is the process where a female carries a baby on behalf of someone else. There are two types of surrogacy: Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate not only carries the baby, but her eggs are also used. In Gestational surrogacy, the baby is not genetically link to the surrogate. The surrogate will undergo IVF treatment to conceive. Either type of surrogacy gives you the result you want: a baby. Every state has its own laws regarding surrogacy. It is a complicated process and it is advised that you get all your facts before you start this worthwhile process.  

Your first step in this process is to find out what Surrogacy options are available in Australia. It all depends on your state or territory, however most states and territories only have the Altruistic surrogacy. This entails that the surrogate gets no financial gain out of the surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy, where you pay someone to carry the baby for you, is illegal in some states or territories. 

How do you find a surrogate? If you don’t have a family member or friend that can carry a baby for you then you need other means to find a surrogate. Many couples look for a surrogate overseas where the laws might be different. This is a risk you take as some of those laws might not be accepted by the Australian government. You will need to seek independent legal advice in each country to see what the laws are and how to get your baby citizenship by descent or permanent residency.  

To find a surrogate in Australia might be an easier option. In some states or territories, you are not allowed to advertise for a surrogate. You have to rely on word of mouth or social media. IVF clinics also offer surrogacy services. When choosing a surrogate, your state or territory will decide the age the surrogate needs to be. Other factors to consider is that the surrogate needs to be financially stable, have a good support structure at home and have a family of her own, with easy pregnancies. This will make the journey easier. 

It is very important that you find a fertility counsellor to work with. They work with many people going through the exact same process and they prepare you for each step of the way for you and the surrogate.    

There are a few things to consider before you make this big decision. The good versus the bad:   

There are no Medicare rebates for IVF in surrogacy. It can cost between AUS $12,000 – 18,000. You will have to pay the medical expenses, any loss of income that the surrogate might experience, prenatal classes and other expenses. The pregnancy is in the hands of the surrogate and the intended parents don’t have much say. 

The surrogacy agreement is not legally binding. The surrogate is considered the baby’s mother at birth and she will have to register the baby. The baby must be in your care for 28 days before you can apply for a parentage order. This parentage order is when the court will name you as the legal parents of the baby. This process must take place before the baby is 6 months old. 

This agreement between the intended parents and surrogate is not an enforced arrangement. In other words, both parties can change their minds before the court date, however, this is does not occur often. Both parties receive counselling to prepare them for the process. 

Here is a step-by-step guide: 

  1. The surrogate and intended parents need to find legal advice. It must be someone who knows the laws of your state or territory. A contract needs to be drawn up and signed with witnesses. It is important to prove what everyone’s intentions are with this process. 
  2. Get counselling for the surrogate and yourselves. It is not an easy journey and you will need the guidance of an objective professional. 
  3. When you get a positive pregnancy result, you are one step closer to having a baby of your own. This step is what reassures you why you are doing this. 
  4. The birth mother will register the baby once the baby is born. She is currently considered the mother of the child, in some states and territories. 
  5. Both parties will need to get a Surrogacy guidance report. The intended parents and surrogate can’t have the same one and it can’t be with the same counsellor you had before birth. This is to support both parties with this emotional transition. 
  6. Intended parents can apply for parental order.  
  7. The court will make its decision and grant you as legal parents of the baby, meaning the surrogate mother has no more legal rights over them. 
  8. You can now register the baby in your name. 

This information can be very overwhelming. You will have all the support you need to get you through this process. There are counsellors and agencies to help you along the way. On social media, there are support groups that you can join, Facebook has an FTS Facebook group and there is an Altruistic Surrogacy Australia Forum that you can join. Luckily, surrogates are screened before the process to see if they are emotionally ready to be a surrogate and because of the advances in the medical field relating to IVF, there is a high pregnancy rate.  

It won’t be long before you have a baby of your own.    

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