Commercial surrogacy: Push to make paid pregnancies legal, more accessible in Australia


There is significant support in Australia for commercial surrogacy to be legalised and professional guidelines drawn up to regulate the industry, a study has found.

Currently all states, except the Northern Territory, only allow altruistic surrogacy, where the surrogate is reimbursed costs of the pregnancy.

The study, being published in the December issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found almost 60 per cent of people who had a view found the current ban unjustified.

About half those in support thought the amount paid to a surrogate by would-be parents should be a matter of negotiation with no fixed maximum.

"For those who did specify an amount it was around $15,000 Australian," said study author Kelton Tremellen, professor of reproductive medicine at Flinders University and fertility specialist at an Adelaide IVF clinic.

Professor Tremellen and his co-author Sam Everingham from the Families through Surrogacy group say the findings demonstrate the need for a legal framework.

The release of the research coincides with a crackdown on commercial surrogacy in Cambodia and the arrest of an Australian woman Tammy Davis-Charles in Phnom Penh, leaving dozens of Australians in legal limbo.

"The situation with surrogacy here is not working," said Professor Tremellen.
Professor Tremellen said if legalisation was in place Australians could find a surrogate here "instead of being desperate and going to developing countries".

He said professional guidelines could include age restrictions on surrogates, mental health checks, mandatory cooling off periods and adequate counselling.

'It will always be cheaper' overseas


Dr Patricia Fronek, a senior lecturer in the school of human services and social work at Griffith University, is sceptical about how representative the study is and about its conclusions.

She said introducing commercial surrogacy in Australia would not stop people going overseas.

"Because it will always be cheaper to go to a third-world country," she said.

Dr Fronek also thinks the rights of children born through surrogacy arrangements are not being adequately considered.

"Children really need to be in the forefront of this conversation," she said.
Kryssie from Sydney wants to be a surrogate and would support regulation and increased compensation.

"It would mean that more surrogates might come to the fore if they know that they're not going to be left holding the bank balance," she said.

Kryssie went through several rounds of IVF a few years ago after offering to become a surrogate for a friend, but did not fall pregnant.

She still has not given up on what she calls "the dream" of becoming a surrogate and is considering entering another arrangement.

Like most surrogates in Australia she has no intention of using her own genetic material in a surrogacy arrangement, but would offer to be what is known as a "tummy mummy", the one she said, "who's babysitting for nine months".

What is the cost of a surrogacy?


Kryssie thinks the current compensation is inadequate and thinks a sum of $10,000 to $15,000 would be about right.

"It would be enough for maybe the surrogate to take their family on holiday, to reconnect with them after the toll of pregnancy… without making it unattainable for the intending parents as well," she said.

The mother of four is strongly opposed to higher payments, which she worries would attract "the wrong kind of women who are only doing it for the dollar signs".

Only several dozen babies are born each year through surrogacy in Australia, compared to several hundred overseas.

Melbourne woman Fiona and her husband are about to embark on the search for a surrogate.

"We could find someone tomorrow. We could get two to three years down the track and not have any luck," she said.

"It can give parents a sense of hopelessness at times… just that unknown."

As a result of complications following the birth five years ago of her first child, Fiona has been advised to have a hysterectomy and is currently going through IVF treatment to harvest her eggs before the procedure goes ahead.

She has looked at the possibility of using a surrogate in the US, but said it "didn't sit well" with her.

"We're seeking someone local because we think it's a journey we'd like to go on with them," she said.

"It's very much an emotional journey and having someone half way across the world isn't very permitting of that."

The fact that she is not allowed to pay a surrogate here does not sit well either and she would support commercial surrogacy, but has no firm idea of what adequate payment would be.

"I don't think I can put a price on the gift of a surrogate", she said.