The Legislative Council  has agreed to refer the Tasmanian Surrogacy Bill 2011 to a parliamentary committee for closer examination.

This is a positive move as it gives Councillors more time to  work through some of the complex issues/required safeguards relating to the bill and how other jurisdictions have dealt with these.

There have been many amendments proposed by individual members to what has been described by some as a hodgepodge of other surrogacy legislation.

The committee can choose to hear briefs/obtain submissions from interested parties/get expert advice etc. as they further scrutinise the legislation. It is likely that this will take a number of months to complete.

Those members on the committee are Rosemary Armitage, Ruth Forrest (Chair), Vanessa Goodwin, Greg Hall , Paul Harriss and Jim Wilkinson. Please continue to pray for these MLCs as they look further into this legislation over the coming months.

Today’s Hobart Mercury contained an opinion piece by ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown exploring the ethical problems for children which are associated with surrogacy.

The piece is not available online but you can read his article below.

Time to ask hard questions

There needs to be a long, hard look taken at issues surrounding surrogacy, says Mark Brown

The heart-rending story of the first surrogate mother under Queensland’s Surrogacy Act should cause Tasmanian legislators to pause before rushing head-long into legislative social experimentation. The mother of two who was initially confident about her decision to help her gay friends become parents ended up bitterly regretting giving up her baby to the two homosexual men. Although she did not receive counselling prior to her decision, as the law now requires, it is questionable whether this would have prevented the change of heart once the pregnancy was underway. This sad account only reinforces that fact - surrogacy is a fraught practice – ethically, legally, and psychologically – and is not in the best interests of birth mothers or children.

Whilst it is natural and right to empathise with the heartfelt desires of infertile couples to become parents, the welfare of the vulnerable in the process should always be a higher priority.  ACL maintains that the interests of the birth mother, and especially children, who can never give their consent to the practice, should come before those of the intended parent(s) when it comes to surrogacy. The state should continue to discourage surrogacy because it blurs family relationships and disrupts relationship links between conception, gestation, birth and motherhood, which are important factors for human identity. Such issues have been highlighted in a Senate inquiry report on Donor Conception Practices released in March.

Tasmanian legislators have the benefit of the report’s findings, and a recent flood of heart-rending stories only now beginning to be told from people conceived using donor conception and the genetic bewilderment they often experience. Instead of encouraging adults to enter into deeply conflicted parenting agreements, Tasmanian legislators should be dissuading them. If legislators are determined to legalise surrogacy it should only be available as a last resort for medically infertile heterosexual couples in a long-term relationship who have a biological connection with the child. This is the stance taken by the South Australian government when they enacted the Statutes Amendment (Surrogacy) Act 2009. Deliberately denying children the right to be brought up within their biological families and to at least begin life with a mum and a dad, as permitted in the current Tasmanian bill, is clearly not in a child’s best interest.

As one would expect the overwhelming weight of evidence from research highlights the social, educational, psychological and safety benefits of having both a mum and dad in a stable relationship. Obviously not every child gets the best start in life due to tragedies like divorce/desertion and death. However, when there is a choice as to how a child enters the world, surely it is common sense that their best interests should prevail ahead of the interests of adults?  A 2009 Galaxy poll affirmed this with 86 per cent of Australians agreeing that children should be raised by their own mother and father.

Yes this approach does discriminate against singles, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples who cannot supply gametes. Not because they are potentially less loving or worse parents, but because none of these parenting arrangements can offer what is in the child’s best interests – a biologically related mum and dad.  By taking this stance Tasmanian legislators will be exercising discretion (positive discrimination) in favour of our state’s most precious gifts – our children.