What the Law Says About Surrogacy

For many years surrogacy was legal only in the Australian Capital Territory. In the last few years other states and territories have changed their laws and regulations to allow altruistic surrogacy and this is now legal in most parts of Australia. However, commercial surrogacy, where a woman is paid to carry a pregnancy, is banned throughout the country.

When a child is born a birth certificate is issued showing the names of the birth mother and her male partner, if she has one. In the case of surrogacy this causes a bit of a headache for legislators. However, in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia parentage can be transferred to the commissioning couple, and by the end of 2010 this will also be the case in South Australia. While parentage orders are being developed in a number of states, this is a complex area with many parties involved, so it's important to obtain legal advice in relation to your particular situation.

In most states only heterosexual couples can use a surrogate, but in Victoria same-sex couples and single people (regardless of sex) are able to commission a surrogate.

Surrogacy in the media

The story of the first Australian baby born as a result of IVF and surrogacy made big headlines. Alice Kirkman was born in Melbourne in 1988. Her mother Maggie didn't have a uterus and her father Zev didn't have sperm, so Alice was conceived from one of her mother's eggs and donor sperm, and her aunt Linda carried the pregnancy and gave birth. After Alice's birth, surrogacy became illegal in Victoria, in spite of intense lobbying to allow altruistic surrogacy arrangements by Dr John Leeton, the doctor who made Alice's birth possible. So, when Mr Stephen Conroy, a Labor Senator, and his wife Paula Benson who are from Victoria needed a surrogate, they had to go to New South Wales to go through the process. Ms Benson had suffered ovarian cancer and couldn't conceive or carry a pregnancy. One of her friends donated an egg, which was fertilised with Senator Conroy's sperm. Another friend carried the pregnancy and baby Isabella was born in 2006. Since then the Victorian law has changed and altruistic surrogacy is now legal.

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