Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Joe Donor" on this Sunday's 60 Minutes

This Sunday's 60 Minutes features the extraordinary tale of "Joe Donor", an American with a mission. He believes that he can conceive up to 2,500 kids. He has been on a tour of Australia- and engages in sperm donation or sex to women up to 5 times a day, but has few health checks. I was interviewed for the story.

For a preview, click here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

US surrogacy family building options for Australians- couples/singles/LGBTIQ

Surrogacy Seminars Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane

In 2011 in Vegas of all places, I had an extraordinary conversation with a man I had just met.  He was Steve Snyder.  Steve was and is the owner of a surrogacy agency, International Assisted Reproduction Center in Minneapolis, a long time ART attorney and then the chair of the ART Committee of the American Bar Association.  

Steve had just organised the world’s first international surrogacy conference which was held by the American Bar Association Family Law Section, in Vegas.  I was speaking at the conference, about Australian surrogacy law.  

Steve told me in a quiet conversation that there was a proposal from the Hague Permanent Bureau, the body responsible for writing Hague Conventions, of which Australia is a party, about a proposed convention on international surrogacy arrangements.  He then told me a model that was proposed about the convention.  My reaction was to spit chips.  I won’t repeat the words here.  They were simply too rude.  Like most Americans, Steve was amazingly polite and stood there while I ranted.  His mouth was agape.  I then realised on the first substantive meeting with him I had probably greatly insulted him.  Instead he said he appreciated my candour and agreed with me entirely!

I then found myself after a little while in charge of a project by the American Bar Association to put together a policy in dealing with that proposal at The Hague.  Eventually in February 2016 after hundreds or thousands of hours of work with a team of others, but particularly my esteemed co-author Bruce Hale from Boston, that policy became a reality.

Steve is one of the most extraordinary knowledgeable men I have ever met who knows about surrogacy inside and out - and always operates from an ethical framework.  He has probably forgotten more about surrogacy than most people will ever know. 

He has a wealth of knowledge about surrogacy that is unparalleled.  

I am privileged to be joining him and Dr John Hesla to talk about US surrogacy for Australians:

·         in Melbourne on Saturday, 2 March;

·         in Sydney on Sunday, 3 March;

·         in Brisbane on Tuesday, 5 March.

And let me give Dr Hesla a plug.  I had the privilege last year of going to Portland on what I was told was one of the few sunny days of the year, and visited ORM Fertility.  It is an excellent IVF clinic with high standards.  Dr Hesla is a pioneer in his field who has an extraordinary personable nature – what used to be called a doctor’s bedside manner.  He is one of those people who just makes me feel comfortable.  My clients love him and the quality of IVF from his clinic is excellent.

And about me…

My first surrogacy case was in 1988.  I have acted for between 1,500 and 3,000 surrogacy clients since then.  I have also acted for IVF clinics, sperm banks, proposed egg bank, egg, sperm and embryo donors and recipients.  I have also acted for widows who want to use their late husband’s sperm in order for them to become parents.  

My clients have been from every part of Australia from remote parts of every State and also from the capital cities.

I have also acted for clients who have come from 30 other countries ranging from Russia to Brazil, United States, China and Solomon Islands to just give a few.

I have lost count of the number of clients I have acted for from Queensland, New South Wales or Victoria who have undertaken US surrogacy journeys.


There are offences for those who live in some parts of Australia in undertaking egg donation overseas.  These journeys should be taken with particular care.  They apply to people living in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT, for example.  

An inadvertent breach of these laws could result in prosecution.  The offences have a maximum jail time of 15 years imprisonment.

It is an offence in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT to engage in commercial surrogacy overseas (including the United States).  The maximum penalty varies from one year’s imprisonment in the ACT to 3 in Queensland.  In New South Wales the penalty is up to $110,000 fine and 2 years’ imprisonment.

No-one has yet been prosecuted, but authorities have been quite clear in saying that the laws remain on the books and can be enforced as a deterrent for people to undergo commercial surrogacy overseas.

It is possible to engage in non-commercial surrogacy in the United States even for people from Queensland, New South Wales or the ACT, if extreme care is taken.  Expert legal advice needs to be obtained so that there isn’t an accidental commission of a very serious offence.

And finally…

I have suffered infertility.  I have two adult sons.  My husband Mitchell and I are currently undertaking a domestic surrogacy journey. 


Now the deets...

The seminars are free.

Melbourne:  Saturday 2nd March
State Library of Victoria 328 Swanston Street 2-3.30pm 

Sydney: Sunday 3rd March 2-3.30pm
Aerial UTS Function Centre, Building 10, Floor 7, 235 Jones Street UTS

Brisbane- Tuesday 5th March 6.30-8pm Blue Room Cinebar, 151 Baroona Road, Rosalie

To register for the seminars RSVP to

Friday, February 8, 2019

Upcoming surrogacy seminars: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane

I'm proudly taking part in the Independent Parents Advisory Network seminar in Sydney on 23 February. The seminar involves reputable clinics and lawyers talking about surrogacy options in the US, Canada and Australia.

In the words of IPAN:

Join us at the upcoming IPAN seminars in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to learn about Surrogacy, Egg Donation and IVF options in Canada, USA and Australia. If you are considering starting a family and need some help doing so, these events are for you.  Whether you are gay or straight, married, partnered or single, there will be options presented that are available to all.  At each event you will hear the latest information from Lawyers and Surrogacy Professionals.

The seminar is part of a series in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. If you are interested in the seminars, click here.

People who live in NSW must take extreme care in undertaking surrogacy overseas so that they do not commit offences in NSW with egg donation or surrogacy. The offences may still apply even if the egg donation or surrogacy occurred overseas. Anyone living in NSW contemplating egg donation or surrogacy overseas should get expert Australian legal advice first.

Friday, January 4, 2019

UK embraces single people as parents for surrogacy- happy to have helped

The UK now allows single people to obtain surrogacy orders so that they can be parents.  Until now, UK law always required two people to apply.  

Matters came to a head in 2015 and 2016 when a single man wanted to be recognised as the father of his child.  The English Court found that it could not do so because the law did not permit that.  

My English colleague, trailblazing Natalie Gamble, helped her client back to Court to challenge the law as being incompatible with the UK Human Rights Act.  To strengthen their case, Natalie asked three colleagues around the world to give expert evidence about surrogacy law and practice in that country, particularly as it effected single intended parents as oppose to couples.  Each of those experts gave evidence by way of a sworn statement or affidavit.  

I was one of those experts.  I gave evidence about the Australian legal system and how it treated these matters.  My American colleague Rich Vaughn gave evidence about the surrogacy system in the United States.  My Canadian colleague Sarah Cohen gave evidence about surrogacy laws and practice in Canada.

The second case in the matter was Z (A Child) (No 2) [2016]. Natalie’s client was successful in challenging the UK law with being incompatible with the UK Human Rights Act.  

Following that change, the UK Parliament enacted laws to give effect to the judgment, namely to allow single people to become parents through surrogacy.

I am proud to have helped my colleague and her client in this matter.

More importantly, I am proud to have helped the child obtain a secure legal parent-child relationship with his father.

Natalie has written the story about the whole process, which can be found here.

Where Australians go overseas for surrogacy

There was a 25% jump in the number of children born overseas via surrogacy compared to the previous year, according to official figures obtained by The Australian.  The Department of Home Affairs figures show that in the 2017 – 2018 year 175 children were born overseas and obtained Australian citizenship by descent.  This compares to the 2016 – 2017 year where only 139 children obtained citizenship by descent from overseas surrogacy arrangements.

That 2016 – 2017 figure was very low compared to previous years when in 2014 – 2015, 242 children obtained citizenship by descent through surrogacy overseas and in 2015 – 2016 the number was 2014.

It seems that the 2016 – 2017 figure was an anomaly.  

Unlike previous years, the Department has not given a breakdown of the number of children born in each country, but merely given the top five countries where Australian children have been born:
·         US
·         Canada
·         Ukraine
·         Thailand
·         Georgia.

The surprising country there is Thailand.  I would speculate that it is unlikely that this is a hangover of babies born before the Baby Gammy saga occurred commencing in August 2014.  You will remember the Baby Gammy saga.  Mr and Mrs Farnell were a couple living in Bunbury who underwent surrogacy in Thailand.  Mr Farnell was a convicted paedophile.  At birth, Mr and Mrs Farnell took Baby Pipah, but not Baby Gammy, who remained in the care of the surrogate Mrs Chanbua in Thailand.  The matter played out in the world’s media, partly resulting in a crackdown on surrogacy in Thailand, and then played out in the Family Court of Western Australia.

More likely the Thailand figure is for children born in Thailand where Australian intended parents have undertaken surrogacy somewhere else in Indochina, such as Cambodia and Laos.  Cambodia cracked down on surrogacy in about October 2016.  There were reports at the time that pregnant surrogates in Cambodia left the country to give birth elsewhere.  One could well imagine that they may have travelled to Thailand, given birth there and subsequently the Australian intended parents obtained citizenship by descent for their children in Thailand.  

The Department of Home Affairs figures do not show two categories of children born overseas via surrogacy:

·         They only show children born to Australians who obtained Australian citizenship.  There are a small number of children who live in Australia where their parents are visa holders (for example permanent residents of Australia) and therefore do not seek Australian citizenship by descent.

·         The other category is the presumably small number of intended parents who are heterosexual couples who falsely claim a pregnancy overseas.  I have seen several cases where those couples of been caught by the Department of Home Affairs.  Presumably there are some couples who get away with it.

I would strongly urge anyone who undertakes surrogacy overseas to comply with the law and to make sure that when they deal with the Department of Home Affairs they do so truthfully.  The figures demonstrate that the Department will properly process citizenship by descent applications.  Their internal guidelines note that the test the departmental officers must follow is that contained in the Australian Citizenship Act, not State or Territory surrogacy legislation.  Anyone in doubt should get competent legal advice about the issue.