Surrogacy is always an emotive subject. Being childless is, for many couples, a very painful road to travel. Surrogacy if often held up as the “solution”.
WA passed its first surrogacy laws in 2008 which did not allow for commercial surrogacy. This is in line with the National Health & Medical Research Council guidelines.
But the push is on in WA to undermine the rights of the children in surrogacy law, by allowing, for example, same sex couples to procure children.
In mid-January the WA government announced that an independent review of the Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 and the Surrogacy Act 2008 would be undertaken by Associate Professor Sonia Allan. In early March, the ACL addressed the Review. In addition, it wrote a submission.
Prof Allan is expected to hand down recommendations by mid-year with the Government expected to introduce legislation in early 2019.
Prof Allan is holding community consultation meetings in Perth on 13 & 14 April, and in Bunbury on 16 April. The ACL encourages people to attend these.
In its submission, the ACL made it clear that commercial surrogacy would effectively create an environment where “wombs are for hire” and “children are for sale”.
The ACL submission included the following recommendations:
- To prohibit offering or providing, direct or indirect inducements for surrogacy services. (This is in keeping with the NHMRC guidelines for ART.)
- To require the relevant authorities to actively enforce the laws surrounding the prohibition of commercial surrogacy.
- That Federal legislation, which allows for officials to readily give citizenship to children produced by commercial surrogacy, needs to be updated to reflect the serious nature of this trade in persons and contracting of ‘uterine indentured slavery’. Such legislation should cross-reference to State penalties for obtaining international surrogacy services.
Another issue addressed by the review were in regards to mitochondrial donation which enables the creation of a child with three genetic parents. The ovum of one woman, where there is a risk of genetic disorders along the matrilineal line may be spliced with material from the ovum of a second woman who does not carry the genetic disease. This may also lead to the creation of designer babies or the method may be used by lesbians who wish the child to have genetic material from both women.
The ACL recommended that:
- Children and embryos are not a commodity and it is never acceptable to genetically engineer ‘undesirable’ traits from future children.
- Mitochondrial donation tampers with genetic lineage and there is little conclusive scientific knowledge about long term consequences.
- Genetic testing of embryos, mitochondrial donation and the creation of saviour siblings should not be permitted as they are eugenic practices that contribute to the commodification of children.
The submission made additional recommendations that a child born of artificial reproductive technologies ought to have the right to access information about all genetic donors including the surrogate mother.