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Should we allow paid surrogacy in Australia?

Babies born via overseas surrogacy are at a high risk of serious health complications due to unregulated practices. So, should we just make it legal to pay surrogates here in Australia?

It’s currently illegal to pay for a surrogate in Australia, but a team of fertility researchers wants this law changed.

The team — from Surrogacy Australia, Melbourne’s Monash University and the Canberra Fertility Centre — has called for commercial surrogacy to be legal in Australia in order to avoid complications experienced by many overseas surrogates and their babies.

There’s been a national focus on commercial surrogacy following the unfortunate case of baby Gammy, who was abandoned by his parents in Thailand.

Gammy was born with Down syndrome, as well as congenital heart defects, and he is now being cared for by his birth mother in Thailand.

Gammy is just one of many babies born via surrogacy who are either born with, or at risk of, serious health concerns as a result of unregulated overseas surrogacy practices.

The research, which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia, surveyed 112 people who had attempted overseas surrogacy (primarily in America and India).

Around 55 per cent of respondents revealed that their surrogate had a multiple pregnancy, while 45 per cent had premature births.

Late miscarriage or perinatal death were unfortunately seen in 10 per cent of cases.

Many of the bad health outcomes experienced by surrogates and their babies would be reduced or avoided if paid surrogacy was legal in Australia, the researchers argue.

The cost of overseas surrogacy

The main reason families turn to surrogates overseas is that, without financial incentive, it’s difficult to find local women who are willing to make the commitment.

“Given it is illegal in Australia to compensate a woman for carrying a child, compensated surrogacy overseas is the route most Australian intended parents via surrogacy take,” wrote the researchers.

Overseas surrogacy is also a cheaper option than local surrogacy. Because Medicare doesn’t cover IVF use through surrogacy, IVF for surrogacy can cost between $12,000 and $18,000, according to Surrogacy Australia.

But with the prime minister rejecting the call for paid surrogacy to be legal in Australia earlier in the month, it doesn’t look like we can expect the practice to be legalised any time soon.

If you’d like to donate to help Baby Gammy, you can do so via the Go Fund Me page here.

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