Speaking in the Tasmanian Legislative Council on Tuesday March 27, upper house independent Adriana Taylor has highlighted some of the wider issues surrounding the current Surrogacy Bill.
Ms Taylor said surrogacy wasn't a stand-alone issue and in her speech suggested that the plight of childless couples could be addressed through a different approach to abortion and adoption: "This issue is about people who have no children wanting to have one or more children, that is, at the starting point there are no children involved."
She went on to say "This is very different... from adoption in that always there is a child there involved. So we say the interests of the child are paramount. In surrogacy, the interests of the child also have to be paramount but the child is not there yet, so you can actually make provision for that child to have the best possible start in life, if you like."
Ms Taylor makes a valid point about how the needs of the child must come before the desires of adults in considering surrogacy legislation.
She brought some considerable understanding and empathy to the issue when she spoke of her own journey of not being able to naturally have children and adopting two sons.
During her address she raised awareness about the number of children that are aborted in Tasmania each year - 1800 - and how these babies could be adopted to loving parents: "Why on earth would we not use the same agency, the same adoption and permanency agency for both of those because you might well find, and particularly if the conditions were the same for both groups, that there are babies who might well come to full term and be adopted and in fact potentially surrogate parents might not have to go through the enormous process that we are talking about them going through, and the long time and the regulations as we are trying to put in, if there were babies available we know that many of those people would adopt."
You can read more of Ms Taylor's speech in the hansard
from Tuesday, March 27 or see below.[5.40 p.m.]Mrs TAYLOR (Elwick) - Madam President, I will not go through all the clauses exhaustively as the honourable Leader has done but I am glad that you did because you addressed a number of issues that are really very important issues and I am really pleased to have them both on record and Mr Parkinson - It is now on Hansard for people to read.Mrs TAYLOR - Indeed, exactly, which is why I am very pleased. You probably could have tabled it I suppose but it is actually very good to have you reading it out. I am very pleased that you did.First of all, I thank the honourable member for Murchison for bringing this forward and asking for a committee to be set up, and Committee A for conducting their inquiry into this bill and coming back with this report because it shows very clearly the many pitfalls and the many shortfalls in the original legislation, in this legislation, that either have not been recognised or worse still, been dismissed as not being important.I am not going to go through the bill in detail but I just want to make a few comments.My biggest issue with this bill, as it stands, is that it deals with surrogacy as a stand-alone issue and it is not. It is as though this can be just like any commercial contract and it is not. I think the honourable member for Murchison, in her contribution today, talked very much about the emotions and the feelings and the actual process because this is not a process like 'Will I buy a car?' or 'Will I buy a house?' - there are people involved here. This is a social issue; this is not just a legal contract type of issue. This issue is about people who have no children wanting to have one or more children, that is, at the starting point there are no children involved. This is very different, as the honourable Leader has said, from adoption in that always there is a child there involved. So we say the interests of the child are paramount. In surrogacy, the interests of the child also have to be paramount but the child is not there yet, so you can actually make provision for that child to have the best possible start in life, if you like. In adoption, in a sense, there is already a child so you still need to make the best possible regulations for the future -Mr Dean - That is already an issue in relation to the child.Mrs TAYLOR - in relation to the child. But it is obviously easy to make that paramount, whereas, with surrogacy, you can stop the process, if you like, or not start the process, whereas with adoption you already have a child that you have to deal with. So, having children is not one of the basic human rights. It is a desire, it is a human need but children are paramount in that they have a right to life and to being cared for and to being nurtured. Adults having children, in a sense, is not a right; they do not necessarily have a right to go out and manufacture or buy a child. Naturally you do, but if you do not have children naturally then I think it is really important that we legislate as well as we can and make the conditions as favourable as we can for any child that might be conceived through that process because the child is not already there, so we have the opportunity.I was interested in the honourable Leader talking about adoption and surrogacy being very different, in that it is an unwanted child versus the desperation of people wanting to have a child. But there is actually a congruence here. They are not that different. I speak from personal experience. I have some personal experience in this field that I can talk about. Our two sons are adopted so we have been through the process of being a couple that could not naturally have children so, in a sense, I suppose we might be in that market for surrogacy. We were able to adopt two children, which was good, but I have therefore gone through those prerequisites of adoption where the care of the child and the interests of the child are absolutely paramount, so that those regulations that apply to being able to adopt a child were adhered to. They are quite strong. They are quite strict. Why would you not do the same thing for people with surrogacy? I cannot understand the Government saying that recommendation H, I think, should not be taken up. Why on earth would you not, when there is not already a child involved, why should you not have the same kind of conditions at least as you would have for adoptive parents when there is already a child and you need to do the best thing you can for the child. I see no reason why there should be a difference at all.Ms Forrest - Through you, Madam President - one of the issues is that we don't do that for people having babies naturally through normal conceptions but I think they are missing the point on that. I think your point is very valid and I support your view that they are different, yes, but there are a lot of similarities.Mrs TAYLOR - Absolutely, and in a sense they are two sides of the same coin. I do not want to turn this into a debate about surrogacy or no surrogacy but it is relevant, I think, to this bill that one of the things that is missing here - and I do not know whether or how we can address it in amendments - is that we have, it is estimated, about 1 800 terminations of pregnancies a year in Tasmania. We have a handful of people who want surrogacy. We probably have a larger number of people who would like to adopt. We know the reason why many of them try for surrogacy is that there are not babies available for adoption, but we have potentially 1 800 Tasmanian babies every year who could be there for adoption. Why on earth would we not use the same agency, the same adoption and permanency agency for both of those because you might well find, and particularly if the conditions were the same for both groups, that there are babies who might well come to full term and be adopted and in fact potentially surrogate parents might not have to go through the enormous process that we are talking about them going through, and the long time and the regulations as we are trying to put in, if there were babies available we know that many of those people would adopt. They have said that surrogacy is the only answer for them because there are not babies available for adoption and why are there not babies available for adoption - and I know I am generalising here and it is not true in every case and I am sure that we can find examples of where this is not true - but we do know that many women, and particularly young women, who choose to terminate because, for either social or economic reasons, they cannot afford to go through with the pregnancy. If you are a schoolgirl or if you are a young woman who is building a career, you cannot afford to take a year off to have a pregnancy and then have the baby adopted out. In many cases we know that women choose to terminate instead.If you applied the same conditions to adoption as you apply to what we are talking about with surrogacy that could make and would make a whole lot of difference to a number of those pregnant women.Ms Forrest - Are you suggesting that a couple who were seeking a surrogacy would pay for the pregnancy costs of a baby who is already growing?Mrs TAYLOR - Absolutely. Why would you not pay the pregnancy costs of a birth mother who is willing to have a child, is already pregnant and willing to carry that child full-term rather than go through the -Mr Dean - Through you, Madam President - are you saying that they do not knowing anything about the sperm donor and the -Mrs TAYLOR - You would know as much as surrogates often do now. Many of them will use sperm donors that they do not know.Mr Dean - It depends. If some surrogacy arrangements -Madam PRESIDENT - We are drifting a little off the report.Mrs TAYLOR - I am just suggesting, Madam President, that there huge similarities which this bill does not address. It addresses surrogacy as though it were a stand-alone issue, when in actual fact I think it is part of a much larger issue and the issue being that there are families, couples, individuals, people who would like to have children but for whom children are not available and, on the other hand, we have many children who are not able to be carried full term.Ms Forrest - Started off.Mrs TAYLOR - Started off, yes, but not continued on. It seems to me that we should somehow in this bill at least make the conditions equal for both of those so there might be women who take the option of carrying the child full term so that it can be adopted out knowing that it is not a great economic disadvantage to them because their medical bills and the same things - I believe that we should at least have the same conditions - so that that gives an option for other people.However, I do agree that the bill needs strengthening in all the ways that have been suggested and I believe that there are going to be more amendments from other members. I do want to say that we should use those agencies like the Adoption and Permanency Services because, although the Leader says that they are not an expert on surrogacy, I can assure you they are an expert on examining whether the people who want to adopt are suitable parents in the same way as you would want the examination of people using surrogacy services to make sure they are suitable parents.Ms Forrest - And the birth mother is well prepared to relinquish the baby, which is the other future aspect of it.Mrs TAYLOR - Absolutely and, as you have said, there are many parties involved here and we already have an agency which deals many of those aspects, perhaps not with the legal contract about having a child or organising for the child to be created, but I am sure that can be added to that rather than set up a whole new system and act as though surrogacy is a stand alone issue. I believe it is not, it is very much tied in with the whole of our social fabric in how we have children, nurture and raise them.[5.52 p.m.]Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Madam President, I thank members for their contribution to this debate. Obviously there is much more to come. I think it is important to consider the report and I was also grateful to have a much more detailed response from the Government and to have it on Hansard as well.I just want to thank members of the committee because it was a challenging inquiry. It went to the heart of some very sensitive issues and it was quite challenging at times to think what does this really mean, what really is important. I personally had no trouble conceiving and having children, so I cannot really understand the devastation that creates, I can only imagine what it would have been like not to have children. We now see the battle women and families have trying to achieve that. When I was working as a nurse many years ago one the girls I worked with was unable to conceive and she sought an overseas adoption. Whilst that was an option for a while those options are pretty much closed now. There are very good reasons why that may be appropriate - cultural differences and a whole range of things. But there is that desperate yearning for some people to have a family when they are unable to do so. If we are going to deal with that we must do it in the most appropriate way. I particularly thank the member for Elwick for her contribution. It did shed another aspect on this whole debate that is not considered.I also thank the secretary as well because it was a very tough job. I accept, as the Leader pointed out in his response, there was error in referencing with the South Australian legislation. He is right, but it was tricky at times to make sure that we got every section of every piece of legislation referred to completely accurate. Thank you for correcting us and identifying the appropriate clauses in the South Australian legislation. My question now is to the Government and whether this bill can be amended as it stands to reflect these recommendations. It is my expectation, and I am pretty confident it is with the other members of the committee, that the amendments are prepared to reflect all of the recommendations. There may be others from other members as well, and they could then be debated on the floor. I think it is probably only Parliamentary Counsel that could provide advice as to whether that could be achieved through an amending process or whether the bill needs to be rewritten. That is up to the Government to consider and I assume that we will be notified in due course as to how we are going to be proceeding with this bill at a later time. It would be helpful for members, and particularly myself, to have some indication before the bill is dropped suddenly so we can have a chance to look at amendments. I do not want to see amendments arrive one at a time on the Chair as we are going through the bill. It would be good to have them a bit beforehand because it is a complex area. If it is amendments that we are going to be getting and not a rewritten bill it is going to be a bit of a work of art proceeding through that so having the amendments with time to consider them would be really the preferable outcome and make it muc
easier for everybody. That is my request to the Government.The demand is not great for the surrogacy journey. That was the evidence of the committee and the demand for adoption is not either. We will have to work through that fundamental recommendation and find some common ground.Donor registers and that sort of thing is an issue that sits outside of the surrogacy issue because it relates to adoption, it relates to surrogacy, it relates to any form of artificial reproductive technology and effectively it relates to some natural conceptions as well, potentially, but you cannot always have that information. What the committee was looking at was a basic review of how birth records are recorded, not just for babies born through surrogacy and/or adoption, but however they are born whether through natural conception where the two parents are known, and there is no further information to add, but where there has been other genetic material provided to facilitate the birth of any child and that information should be available in a document that sits behind the available birth certificate so they can apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages. Currently in the adoption service the information on birth parents sits with Adoption Services so any child conceived with a donor gamete of either sperm or egg or ovum or a surrogacy arrangement has access to their genetic heritage at a time when it is appropriate.That issue does not just apply to surrogacy and so it does sit slightly outside the surrogacy area, but it is a really important issue that fits with a donor register but needs to go that bit further in registering the birth so that that information is available in a legal framework and a process around it to enable anyone to access that information. For a child whose genetic material is the parents they were born to that would appear on their birth certificate there would be no other information and that is fine but where there is other information that should be made available and again it is not just surrogacy we are talking about.The Leader was right in his comments around the donor register and that sort of thing is outside of that, but it does definitely relate to this and I think it is something that needs to be looked at in this process.I thank members for their contribution. Obviously we are going to have a debate on this topic and I am sure it will be an interesting debate. I thank members for the support of the motion.Motion agreed to.