General Info on Overseas Surrogacy

The word surrogate just means appointed to act in the place of. Surrogacy refers to an arrangement whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant for the purpose of gestating and giving birth to a child for a couple or single person with the intention of giving that child to that person/people once the child is born (also called surrogate pregnancy).

Types of Surrogacy

Complete/ Gestational/ Gestational contracted surrogacy

The surrogate mother is implanted with an already fertilized embryo which may produced using in vitro fertilisation (IVF), via the Intended Parents egg and sperm or using a donated or purchased egg (in the case of gay males) or sperm. In this case the pregnant woman makes no genetic contribution to the child. This type of surrogacy is far more common amongst Australians, and is viewed as providing a greater distance between the surrogate mother and the child.

Traditional/ Partial/ genetic contracted surrogacy

The gestational surrogate provides the egg for the child and is impregnated with the sperm of the commissioning father (usually through artificial insemination). In these cases, the gestational surrogate is genetically linked to the child but she relinquishes any legal rights of parentage over the child to the commissioning parents.

Types of surrogacy agreements

Altruistic contracted surrogacy arrangements are those where the surrogate agrees to receive no payment or reward, although it is rare that a total non-commercial agreement is ever made as it is expected that the commissioning party will pay the pregnant woman’s medical bills. It is important to note that you are not “buying” a baby. The payments made to the surrogate are by way of compensation.

Altruistic surrogacy is legal, albeit tightly regulated in some Australian states. Legally, it needs to be carried out under the auspices of an accredited Australian IVF clinic. Intending parents are not permitted to advertise for a surrogate and most commonly utilize a family member or close friend. In all cases, gestational surrogacy arrangements are implemented.

All parties need to agree to psychological testing and counseling. The surrogate mother must already have had children of her own. She is permitted to change her mind within 6 months of the birth and keep the child. The commissioning parent(s) are to pay all reasonable medical and associated expenses associated with the pregnancy of birth.

However most of the involuntarily childless are not able to locate such a surrogate or willing to enter into such an arrangement, So instead most choose to engage with (commercial) surrogacy agencies overseas.

Commercial contracted surrogacy arrangements are those in which the party seeking a child agree to pay a fee to the surrogate beyond the cost of her medical needs.

Who acts as a surrogate?

Lisa Banfield's surrogate Krissy and her twins

Contrary to popular belief, surrogates are not all poor women being exploited for their fertility. Many are middle-class women who want to help make families. They come from all walks of life. Some are done having children of their own, while some want more children in the future.

The emotions involved in surrogacy are very strong on both sides. Surrogates need to make sure they have appropriate support before choosing surrogacy. Support organizations exist for those choosing this option.

How Do Surrogates Feel About Relinquishing a Child?

Research carried out by the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre at City University, London, UK in 2002 and 2006 showed surrogates rarely have difficulty relinquishing rights to a surrogate child.

Most stories (especially movie dramas) about the subject focus on the problems of the practice, and on the conflicts that may arise from it, but this is rare in reality. Most surrogate arrangements end without problems, with both the intending parents and the surrogate coming away satisfied.

What sort of Australians use surrogacy?

In some cases it is the only available option for a couple who wish to have a child that is genetically related to at least one of them. People who choose surrogacy may be:

  • heterosexual women who are unable to carry a child due to a range of factors (eg infertility, hysterectomy, absent or poorly functioning ovaries, an absent or malformed uterus, a maternal disease which precludes pregnancy, recurrent pregnancy loss, or repeated IVF implantation failures)
  • single women or lesbian couples who can’t or don’t want to go through pregnancy or artificial insemination
  • single or same-sex partnered men

It has been suggested that one of the major motivations for turning to this method of reproduction is the difficulties associated with adoption in contemporary Australian society. These include the fact that changes in social attitudes and legislation have led to fewer women placing their children up for adoption, and couples may wish to avoid being asked to adopt a child of a different race or having to go through the difficulties of international adoption. Adoption in Australia, with the exceptions of certain states, is currently not an option available to gay male couples.