Thursday, May 9, 2019

Northern Territory moves towards having surrogacy laws: surrogacy forum TOMORROW

At long last, the Northern Territory is moving forward to having local laws about surrogacy.

Tomorrow at 1pm the NT Government is holding a public forum in Darwin to obtain public feedback about having laws in the Territory regulating altruistic surrogacy. Details of the forum are here. All are welcome.

For people in the Red Centre, the Government is holding another forum, this time in Alice Springs on Monday. Details of the forum are here. All are welcome.

A big gap in Australian law is that all the Australian States and the Australian Capital Territory regulate surrogacy, but the Northern Territory does  not. At least in theory, this means that anyone can undertake surrogacy there- and it could be commercial.

In reality, any surrogacy occurring in the NT is happening at home or overseas. I have acted for a number of Territory clients over the years who have gone overseas for surrogacy because they can't do surrogacy at home. They contemplated doing surorgacy interstate, but this meant leaving their jobs and homes. It was too hard. It was much easier to pay some money and travel overseas for surrogacy. Earlier this year there was an advertisement in the NT News by a couple advertising for a surrogate.

Because there aren't any laws in the Territory, the only IVF clinic in the Top End, Repromed, years ago made a policy decision not to do surrogacy. The reason why is obvious: because there is no lawful means to transfer parentage from the surrogate and her partner ot the intended parents. Imagine being a patient of Repromed and getting all the IVF, having a child being born through surrogacy, but then finding out you cannot ever be recognised as the parent! Who are you likely to blame?

Even worse, the failure to have laws in the Territory means that if someone in the Territory wants to be a surrogate for intended parents living interstate, she cannot give birth in the Territory. She will need to travel interstate- either by air very early in her pregnancy, or later in the pregnancy a potentially deadly trip over either the seemingly endless Stuart or Barkly Highways to get to somewhere else to give birth. Imagine a surrogate giving birth in the middle of the Outback, hours from any hospital,  at the side of the road in 40+ Celsius!

The sooner the Territory has laws regulating surrogacy, the better. Hopefully those laws will be consistent with interstate laws- as the House of Representatives inquiry recommended back in 2016 for all Australian States and Territories.

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