Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The joys of dealing with the media

On Friday I was contacted by members of the media about a story in which an Australian man had been convicted of offences to do with sexual abuse and child trafficking of twins. He has undertaken surrogacy in an Asian country, according to reports, so that he could have children available to sexually abuse. Disgusting.

When I was asked by a journalist at The Age about this story, I said that because of how our laws were structured, Australia was the greatest exporter of intended parents for surrogacy. I said that I had lost count of the number of clients who had told me that they would rather go to their local IVF clinic for surrogacy than overseas, but that because there were shortages of egg donors and surrogates, and because surrogacy information was readily available via Google on their phone, many intended parents went overseas.

I said that we needed to reform Australia's surrogacy laws. If we paid donors and surrogates, and had caps on both, we should be able to avoid exploitation here, along with a strong legal framework. I said that if surrogacy were more available in Australia, Australians would do it locally than go overseas. I said that despite the mess we had made of surrogacy laws, there were real strengths with how we do surrogacy:

  • pre-signing screening with a counsellor, such as a psychologist
  • pre-signing independent legal advice
  • in some States, post-birth assessment by an independent expert
  • judicial oversight of the whole process.
I said that with surrogacy arrangements that had gone awry, and that I have been called in to fix, judges are sensitive to the needs of all parties: the surrogate, her partner, the intended parents and the child- and strive to make sure that no one is exploited. 

I said that I was concerned that without reforms, Australians were still going to go to developing countries for surrogacy and that these types of scandals were going to continue. I said that I have to stand up before my international peers and tell them (or be questioned about) the latest scandal from Australia- and it is very wearing and shameful. I said that my concern about developing countries is that there weren't the same legal frameworks for surrogacy as elsewhere, and that the potential for everyone to be exploited (the surrogate, intended parents, donor and the child) was there. In fact I had seen cases where everyone except the doctor and the agent had been exploited.

I said that in my submissions to the Parliamentary inquiry I had called for payments to be made to surrogates and donors, for there to be nationally consistent laws, that it should be easier to undertake surrogacy for Australian intended parents going to countries that we think have a good legal framework, such as the US and Canada, but harder in countries that we have concerns about.

I invited the journalist to look at my submissions to the Parliamentary inquiry.

What I did NOT say was that Australia was the greatest exporter of paedophiles for surrogacy. I was furious when I was alerted to that Saturday. I contacted The Age and ask that the story be corrected, which I have been told then occurred. In the meantime, the damage has been done.


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