Australians and Americans share a language, a similar legal tradition with roots in English common law, a federal government system, and many cultural norms.
When it comes to the issue of surrogacy and surrogacy laws, however, we’ve taken vastly different paths.
In both countries, surrogacy is generally a matter left to the states or territories rather than regulated by the federal government. Despite this, a pattern of divergence has evolved between the U.S. states and Australian states and territories.
In the United States, compensated (commercial) surrogacy is possible nearly everywhere. In Australia, commercial surrogacy is outlawed nearly everywhere, and several states restrict their residents from pursuing commercial surrogacy abroad.
Neither country has a perfect system, but here are 5 things we think Australian lawmakers can learn about surrogacy from the United States:
1. Surrogacy is positive, beautiful, and inspiring. Surrogacy has grown tremendously over the years, as more people have spoken about their experiences, IVF has become more common and accessible, and attitudes about gay parenting have shifted. As surrogates and parents have shared their surrogacy stories, Americans have come to appreciate the joy of surrogacy. Greater exposure to surrogacy would allow Australians to share this joy.
2. Uncompensated surrogacy is rare. Restricting surrogacy to “altruistic” arrangements, as most of Australia does, makes it virtually impossible to become a parent through surrogacy. While responsible surrogacy agencies screen surrogate applicants to ensure they are educated and are interested in surrogacy for the right reasons and not for financial gain, any woman who gives the gift of life to a couples or individual who cannot have family deserves to be rewarded for the time and difficulties of carrying a child.
3. Surrogacy helps LGBT couples build families. Surrogacy helps gay couples become parents. It advances gay rights and shapes hearts and minds. It teaches people that families come in all forms. And, in countries where adoption can be difficult and subject to bureaucratic and legal hurdles, surrogacy provides a means for them to fulfill their dreams of becoming parents. On a related note, a slew of recent gay parenting studies have revealed that children raised in LGBT households fare just as well as other children.
4. Intended parents should be able to pursue surrogacy where it is legal. In the United States, the law that holds is the generally the law of the state where the surrogate lives and delivers the baby. This allows intended parents from states with unfavorable surrogacy law, like New York, to pursue surrogacy with surrogates who live elsewhere. This is not the model in much of Australia, where some states have begun restricting their residents from pursuing commercial surrogacy abroad, even if it is legal in the territory where the surrogate lives.
5. Surrogacy deserves transparency and openness. When parents are unable to speak openly about their experiences with surrogacy for fear of legal trouble, there is a lack of information about what it truly is—a life-changing, positive experience that helps build families for those who need help becoming parents.
Circle Surrogacy is hosting group and private surrogacy information sessions in Australia this April. Our Melbourne surrogacy information sessions will be on April 5 and April 8, 2013. Our Sydney surrogacy information sessions will be on April 10, 2013. To register, click here or on the image above!