Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sir Humphrey would be proud. Want a child via surrogacy in WA? Try 24 to 1

Yesterday the WA Lower House, on a conscience vote,  passed laws to amend that State's surrogacy laws to allow since men and gay couples to have access to surrogacy. The laws now make their way to the Upper House. This is a good thing. It is something that I called for last year.

An alarming statistic is that in the last 10 years a total of 10 babies- that's right- 10 babies or 1 a year have been born in WA via surrogacy. By contrast,  up to 250 babies have been born overseas through surrogacy to Australians in some years. If WA parents to be go overseas at the same rate as everyone else, then that means for every child born through surrogacy in WA up to 23 or 24 have been born overseas.

This reminds me of the old TV series Yes Minister, which ridiculed how governments were run. In one episode, the Empty Hospital, the Minister was appalled to know that a hospital was empty of doctors and patients- save that it was 15 months old, had a staff of over 500, and was up for  the Florence Nightingale Award for Hygiene:

When the Surrogacy Act 2008 (WA) passed, it allowed single women, heterosexual couples, and lesbian couples to undertake surrogacy, but actively discriminated against single men and gay couples.

That discrimination continued unabated.

In 2015, Australia copped a shellacking at the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva and as a result vowed to remove exemptions under the federal Sex Discrimination Act that allowed the States to discriminate against LGBTI people in the provision of assisted reproductive treatment and surrogacy. The federal government said it would end those exemptions by 1 August 2016. And indeed it did- except for Western Australia. For some reason, the exemption was continued for Western Australia until 1 August 2017.

In May 2017 I wrote to the WA Deputy Premier and Health Minister calling for the removal of this exemption. The response was that this would be considered by the Health Department. The next step was the holding of a review of ART and surrogacy laws in Western Australia. And now we have the bill- which will remove that discrimination if passed.

When the debate occurred yesterday, all the usual tired arguments in opposition as to the rights of the child were trotted out. Similarly, a gay MP and a lesbian MP spoke passionately in favour of the change.

The leader of the Nationals, Mia Davies, spoke passionately in favour of the change.

If the change is made, then it is likely that WA single men and gay couples will be able to access surorgacy at home rather than go abroad.

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