Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has issued advice on surrogacy, the practice by which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby in order to give it to someone who cannot have children.
Often, the baby is born to a woman in a third-world country and adopted by people in a richer nation, such as Australia. India has now banned the practice for foreigners, saying it exposes women from poor backgrounds to exploitation.
In a case earlier this year, an Australian couple abandoned a baby boy born through a surrogacy arrangement in India. They returned to Australia with a baby girl while leaving her healthy twin brother behind.
Engaging in international commercial surrogacy arrangements is illegal in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. The law in other states and territories varies,
Earlier this month the Government of India issued advice that surrogacy was no longer available for foreigners.
DFAT warns: “International surrogacy is a complex and evolving area which raises significant legal and social considerations. Surrogacy is poorly regulated in many countries, which gives rise to a range of concerns for the welfare of the parties involved.
“Concerns include both the potential exploitation of women and differing approaches among countries to the legal rights of children who are born as a result of surrogacy.
“We strongly caution Australians to consider all legal and other risks involved in pursuing international surrogacy, and to seek independent legal advice on Australian and foreign laws. You should be aware that the regulatory environment in a host country may change without warning. The absence of rules and regulations governing surrogacy in some countries should not be seen as condoning commercial surrogacy. The risks of entering into such arrangements in less regulated markets are high.”
DFAT notes that earlier this year, the Thai Parliament passed legislation banning commercial surrogacy. The legislation was published in the Royal Gazette on 1 May 2015 and came into effect on 30 July 2015.
“Australians are advised not to visit Thailand for the purpose of engaging in commercial surrogacy arrangements,” DFAT states.
On 28 October 2015, the Nepal Government approved the issue of exit visas for children born through surrogacy arrangements in Nepal – but the exit visa approval applies only to children conceived on or before 25 August 2015.
“We understand however that surrogate children of Nepali surrogate mothers may have to await a full decision by the Supreme Court,” DFAT adds.
Cambodian authorities have advised the Australian Government that the act of commercial surrogacy, or commissioning commercial surrogacy, is illegal in Cambodia with penalties including imprisonment and fines.
For more details see: www.smartraveller.gov.au/bulletins/surrogacy
Written by Peter Needham