Surrogacy: A Personal Perspective

Chapter 2
Surrogacy: A Personal Perspective

Anthony Wood*

Surrogacy stories – or other stories about gay parenting, sex selection, multiple pregnancies, selective reduction or, more generally, IVF advances – evoke interest. Every other week it seems there are stories about various aspects of surrogacy. In particular, curiosity tends to pique in relation to offshore commercial surrogacy. There have been countless stories about Indian and Thai surrogacy – perhaps because it seems to highlight some community concerns about outsourcing (‘where will it stop?’) and exploitation. Or for some, perhaps some moralising dressed up in more objective clothing. When the ‘news’ of my surrogacy experiences broke a decade ago, the Sydney Sun-Herald published a full-page banner promoting their story: REVEALED: THE BABY WITH TWO GAY DADS.1 As I prepared this chapter, the Australian media reported the story2 of Justice Ryan of the Family Court, requiring an Australian couple who had applied for parental recognition, to travel back to India to prove that their twins’ surrogate mother, an illiterate Indian woman, was competent to provide an informed consent to the surrogacy arrangements entered into in that country. The media reported that the Hindi-speaking woman, who cannot read and does not understand English, used a thumb print to sign a 29-page contract written in English. Who doesn’t react with curiosity when alerted to facts like that? Or feel uneasy about the baby Gammy story which highlighted numerous concerns about the ethics of Thai surrogacy and the Australians who fuel the demand for international surrogacy.

When my partner and I commenced our journey in 2000, commercial surrogacy was a fledgling industry in the United States only. There were no local trailblazers for us to follow and the Australian legal framework was either barren or mostly untested. Although as a gay couple we were suitable to be entrusted with fostering local special-needs kids, we were not eligible for adoption of local or overseas children. Remember, this was more than a decade ago. Permitting same-sex couples to marry was barely on the horizon as a political issue. Our local member of state Parliament couldn’t shunt us out of his office quickly enough when we wanted to discuss adoption reform for gay couples. He seemed to think we’d be happy that the Government considered us as fit for foster care.

The desire or trigger for parenting strikes people in different ways. Approaching 40, I had watched most of my school and university friends get married and have kids. My partner, Lee, and I were missing out. Sure, we had friends and family, but we wanted to make a difference. And I suppose we were just the same as most couples: we wanted the joys and love of becoming parents. We were drawn to the United States. In California, a surrogacy ‘industry’ had developed, supported by a sympathetic legal framework which recognised the legal rights of the intended parents (or IPs). Contracts governed by Californian law were recognised as binding throughout the nation, although some US states still continued to outlaw commercial surrogacy.

We engaged a US agency, ‘Growing Generations’, which was run by a lesbian and a gay man who had felt shut out of the industry and had established their own agency to cater for prospective gay IPs. Soon, Growing Generations became the largest surrogacy agency in the US. The deal was fairly simple. The agency engaged surrogates and egg donors and matched them with IPs: sort of like matchmaking. The agency also coordinated physicians and IVF specialists to facilitate the process, as well as brokering any necessary insurance arrangements. Because we were international clients, the immigration and legal advice was fairly crude at the time, but effective nonetheless. In short, any child born in the US is automatically a US citizen and eligible for a US passport. But a child with at least one Australian parent is also eligible for Australian citizenship by descent. (The question that arose before the Family Court in Re Mark,3 as to whether an Australian sperm donor in an international surrogacy arrangement was a ‘parent’, had not yet arisen.)

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