In a busy world of consumerism and individualism, it’s very difficult to resist the very strong demands of people to have their rights and needs fulfilled. This is especially the case when it comes to the very natural and strong desire of adults to become parents.
For those who have, or can have, children, it is perhaps impossible to truly understand the depths of emotion that come with medical infertility. An ABC report today
attempts to capture the strong desire to parent and subsequent pain in not being able to meet that desire, of a Hobart couple.
The couple has welcomed the passing through the Tasmanian lower house of a surrogacy bill, which has given them ‘a final hope of having a baby’ after five failed IVF attempts in the past 10 years. This is the type of heart-wrenching story that characterises many of the debates about surrogacy laws.
But as we’ve seen from recent surrogacy debates in Queensland, New South Wales and now Tasmania, there is much more at stake than simply meeting the strong and legitimate desires of medically infertile couples to become parents.
At stake are the very nature of parenthood itself, and the most fundamental of children’s rights – the right to at least begin life with a mum and a dad. This is because each of these governments believes that we should not discriminate when it comes to who’s eligible to enter into a surrogacy arrangement – a married couple, a same sex couple, even a single man or woman.
In passing the Surrogacy Bill 2011 through the lower house yesterday, the Tasmanian Attorney-General David Bartlett has said
the bill “removes discrimination, and helps many Tasmanians realise the dream of starting their own family”. What it will mean for some children is state-mandated fatherlessness or motherlessness.
Surely governments, which have a solemn duty to always act in the best interests of the child, should consider the removal of discrimination against adults to be secondary to the welfare and wellbeing of children, particularly where legislation directly impacts the entire lives of children, as indeed surrogacy law does.
In his book, ‘Children on demand’, Australian author Tom Frame, himself adopted as a child, says, “The best interests of the child, which remain paramount, cannot be imperilled because of an unrelated desire to remove discriminatory provisions in administrative law or public policy”.
It is no coincidence that surrogacy is sold as the final hope for the medically infertile, but the voice of the homosexual community – sometimes referred to as ‘socially infertile’ in surrogacy laws – is never too far from such debates, because surrogacy is an avenue for all types of couples and singles to source children.
Prominent Australian ethicist Margaret Somerville says that the most fundamental rights of a child are “to be born from natural human origins that have not been tampered with by anyone else”, and “to know their biological parents and, if at all possible, to be reared by them within their immediate and wider biological family”.
While governments continue to favour the desire of adults – any adults – to obtain children, and to adhere to strict non-discrimination principles, surrogacy law will unfortunately continue to trample on these fundamental rights and needs of children, whose best interests should be paramount.