Saturday, August 16, 2014

A moving letter about the failure of WA's surrogacy system

I received a moving letter a few days ago from a dad, who I'll call Jim, who had such difficulties undertaking surrogacy in WA that he and his wife went overseas to California. 

The pain that he and his wife went through is underplayed. If the media want to know the reality as to why people go overseas, the letter says it all. Why the WA Health Minister can say, as he did, that there need be no change to that State's surrogacy laws beggars belief. 

In 2013 two surrogacy arrangements were approved in WA. No wonder people from WA go elsewhere. 

I have edited the letter for anonymity. Jim and his wife want privacy, especially to make sure their son is not labelled as a surrogacy baby. 

Dear Stephen, 

I thought I would write to you in relation to your recent comments about the review of surrogacy laws in WA. 

I feel my story may give you a bit more information about surrogacy, instead of the negative news from the Gammy case. 

My wife Kira and I recently had our first child, a healthy baby boy who was born via a surrogate in California earlier this year. 

Our successful surrogacy journey came after seven years of IVF, miscarriages and heartbreak, whilst we clung to the dream that we could one day have a child. 

My wife has an autoimmune condition, the treatments for which, damaged her womb shortly after we were married. 
When it became clear that Kira could not carry a child, we looked into adoption initially, but really wanted a child that was ours genetically. 

So we began our involvement in altruistic surrogacy in WA. 

It should be noted that ‘Altruism’ only applies to the actual surrogate. 
For the fertility centre, medical professionals, embryologists, lawyers and counsellors, ‘Altruistic’ surrogacy in WA is still very much a profitable commercial business. 

Due to the current legal situation it is very difficult to find an ‘altruistic’ surrogate. As well as not being able to be paid, they cannot advertise individually or in a database and neither can the intended parents. 

So unless you happen to have a friend or relative who is prepared to be a surrogate, it is very hard to find one. 

We were lucky and the wife of one of my friends became our surrogate. We then had to pay a nearly $20,000 fee to get approval to begin the process. 

Then it was a year of individual, couple and group counselling and an imposed cooling off period, before we could start any of the medical side. 

We got that far but our surrogate didn’t fall pregnant with our embryo. We tried several times over twelve months with no joy.
 
Finally we ran out of embryos. 

In order to make more embryos and try again, we had to go through the entire year long counselling and cooling off period and basically start from scratch. 
It was a very frustrating, emotional and financially draining exercise. Medicare and medical insurance cover virtually none of it. 

Incidentally, if we had have had a child via our altruistic surrogate in WA, her name and her husband's would be put on the birth certificate as the parents, despite the fact that it is our baby genetically. 

So rather than persevere further in WA with altruistic surrogacy, we turned to commercial surrogacy in California. 
I stress that this decision came after years of trying everything available to us in WA. 

We chose California over Thailand or India because commercial surrogacy has been well established there for 30 years and they have a sound legal system. It also appealed to us that we could remain in contact with the surrogate in the future if we wished. 

The commercial surrogacy system in California is very straight forward and professional. They have databases of potential surrogates, that we could interview to establish their motivation and suitability. 

The legal framework around the surrogacy agreement was very robust. They have lawyers who specialise in surrogacy arrangements. 

The issues and uncertainty we have seen that occurred in the Baby Gammy case were all covered by a detailed contract. 
In terms of cost, the fees that we paid to the fertility clinic, medical professionals and lawyers in the US were no more than we paid to their Australian colleagues under WA's 'Altruistic' surrogacy. 

The only additional cost was a very reasonable fee that we paid to the actual surrogate. Our surrogate was in fact a professional married woman of 31 and was definitely not doing it for the money. 
The money for her was more of a bonus for her time and efforts in doing something that meant a lot to her. 

So our commercial surrogacy in California was successful and we now have our beautiful baby boy. Unlike the situation in WA, our names are on his birth certificate, not the husband and woman who lent us her womb. 

I stress the point, that we did not buy our baby like a commodity. He is ours genetically. We simple ‘rented’ the use of the surrogate's womb. So the child is not the commodity, the womb is. 

I hope my experiences help with your understanding of surrogacy. 

To my mind, the only way to prevent problems with international commercial surrogacy, is to ban it and at the same time make commercial surrogacy legal and regulated within Australia. 

That way couples and the surrogate would be protected by Australian law and there would be some control over who is approved to do surrogacy. 

Couples do not seek to do international commercial surrogacy as a first option and would do it at home if it was available. 

An alternative to legalizing commercial surrogacy in WA might be to make the existing altruistic surrogacy easier to do. 

Removing the bans on advertising and databases, so couples could have a means of finding a willing surrogate. 

Changing the ridiculous way that the surrogate and husband are put on the birth certificate as parents instead of the actual parents. 

Regards, 

Jim

1 comment:

  1. TOTALLY agree. Surrogacy is our last option, and international is the last of the last option. This shouldn't be the case as we personally would have preferred Australia but couldn't find anyone here to carry. I'm sure every other person who has gone the international route would have preferred their child/ren be born at home, and with a legal and medical system we're familiar with. Surrogacy shouldn't be the biggest leap of faith of our lives.

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