After surrogacy laws were changed in Nepal, up to 20 Australian families have been caught in a heartbreaking bureaucratic nightmare, leaving more than 100 babies in limbo.
One new Australian dad has spoken out about his struggle to bring his twins, a boy and a girl, home to Australia, after they were born to a surrogate in Nepal just four days after Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled surrogacy be suspended.
The 2-month-old babies have Australian citizenship and Australian passports, but their visas allowing them to leave Nepal have been denied.
“Our ambassador has been really aggressive with his approach on a diplomatic front. But as of this week, through his own admission, I guess, he’s basically said, ‘Look, I’ve tried every option I can through the diplomatic route. You have to engage your own lawyers and fight it locally now because that’s your only option’,” the man told the media.
“The Nepalis just won’t play ball. They won’t release these children on any humanitarian grounds, it’s just — you’re stuck.”
Sam Everingham, director of Families Through Surrogacy, says there are more than 50 families trapped in a similar situation in Kathmandu, with 16-20 of them believed to be Australian.
“That number is likely to grow quickly over the next few months, given there’s about 100 surrogates pregnant,” he says.
My heart goes out to the families stuck in this situation; I can’t imagine how these poor parents are coping, knowing their babies are stuck in another country while they’re helpless to bring them home.
Some believe that parents who turn to uncertain overseas surrogacy programs know what the risks are when they decide to pursue this option to start their family.
To a degree this is true, but I can also fully understand their motivations. They are desperate to become parents and have often exhausted every option in Australia — which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly friendly towards parents who are struggling to conceive.
Our adoption programs are woeful, with adoption rates of Australian-born and foreign-born children falling to record lows.
IVF programs are invasive and expensive, and although Medicare currently covers more than half of the costs involved, patients still typically spend around $4,000 out of pocket for an IVF cycle. Proposed changes to the Medicare Safety Net may force parents-to-be to pay an even higher gap.
And then there’s surrogacy. In Australia, it is illegal to use a surrogate unless the person carrying the baby agrees to be involved on altruistic grounds.
In other words, there can be no payment involved, other than covering medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses, and the legislation discriminates against same-sex couples, with altruistic surrogacy only legal for straight couples in many states.
This makes finding a surrogate in Australia virtually impossible, as would-be parents need to find a woman willing to be poked, prodded, injected with hormones and inseminated with embryos until a successful pregnancy is established — with absolutely no financial benefit for that person.
Is it any wonder that desperate parents are turning overseas to have children?
Until the federal government makes changes to make regulated, commercial surrogacy legal and viable in Australia, parents will continue to resort to these risky overseas practices to have children.
As for the families currently stuck in limbo in Nepal, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs is trying to negotiate a solution.
The father of twins is calling on the offices of DFAT, Julie Bishop and the prime minister to advocate on behalf of Australian families who are anxious to bring their babies home.
“I’m calling on them… to get on the phone, ring their counterparts in Nepal that are way above the people we’ll be dealing with, to allow these poor innocent children that have got Australian passports to leave,” he says.