Family Relationships (Surrogacy) Amendment Bill 2014

Second Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:33 ): I rise to indicate that the Greens will be supporting the Family Relationships (Surrogacy) Amendment Bill second reading. We look forward to the committee stage where we will have questions and will possibly seek to make amendments. I commend the Hon. John Dawkins for his work in the area of surrogacy. I know he has had constituents over the years, well before my time in this place, who he has fought very long and hard to support, and that is an incredibly admirable thing.

Another incredibly admirable thing is anyone who is willing to be a surrogate, to give other people the ability to have children. I think that is a really noble cause. I do not think it is a modern cause. I do not think it is getting with the times. I think it is something that has happened for a very long time—time immemorial even. There have been surrogate arrangements in our society for millennia. This is not a new thing.

What is perhaps a new thing is the fact that we have legal systems and we have situations such as baby Gammy and international movements where people travel overseas or from far afield. In this day and age, there is the ability for people to go further afield than their own close circles to find somebody to be a surrogate and, certainly, that does raise a range of measures.

Of course, members would be well aware that I will be advocating for a whole range of legal reforms to support same-sex parents and I also support options for single parents, whether somebody is biologically infertile or 'socially infertile', as the terminology goes. No barriers to raising and loving and caring for a child and creating families should be put in people's way if they are good parents and if they create good families. That is the bottom line of what is important here.

I do welcome further moves in this area. I do acknowledge that, well before my time, these issues have been very vexed ones, and while they in fact get an airing and a hearing in this place, the other place can be very slow to debate, and certainly very slow to vote on, these issues. These issues, however, deeply affect some people in our community.

I thank a woman who has written to me and, I imagine, to other members here who has been a surrogate in South Australia. She has shared her story. I know she has also done a story in The Advertiser, so I know she is not too shy to share this. She says in her correspondence with me that she met her IPs—in surrogacy terms, that means 'intending parents', the baby's parents—on a surrogacy forum. Again, the technology. She says:

We chatted [and emailed] for hours every day, not just about surrogacy, but about their views on families, the weather, sport, travel—all of the things we had in common.

She was then referred and had the genetic embryo transferred to her at Repromed late last year and seven days later she used a home pregnancy test and discovered she was pregnant. The morning that she was to have the blood test to confirm that and also to confirm any possible abnormalities with the fetus, those prospective parents had had some reservations, but they came along with her and they were able to be with her at her first obstetric appointment, for which she travelled from regional South Australia to Adelaide.

When her baby was scanned, the intending parent burst into tears, because she had assumed that there would be no heartbeat as happened in the case when she had tried to conceive, and as had happened to her when she had been able to conceive. In fact, the tears were apparently a common occurrence in their prenatal appointments, or antenatal appointments, and the day before the appointment, they had been petrified that something would be wrong.

It is a joyous story. The pregnancy for this particular person was not an easy one and not all pregnancies are. Some people have a delightful and joyous and wonderful experience of being pregnant and some people have much less joy in the morning sickness, the pre-eclampsia and the bloating and the inability to eat, in my case, onions and all sorts of food.

I certainly know with my pregnancies that each one of those experiences has been different. Some have been more difficult than others. This particular surrogate mother gave birth and had complications with haemorrhaging, something she had not experienced with her own children, she notes. But she says:

Despite this, I would do it all again (and again, and again!) To give people joy & hope when they see none, is an honour. To know that they now wake up with a purpose every day, instead of just existing, keeps me feeling enriched. I don't just mean my surrogate babies parents either—when I became a surrogate it was quite common for strangers to open up to me about their own fertility struggles.

She goes on to say in this correspondence:

SA (& Australia for that matter) do not need to hide surrogacy away, or leave the legislation as it is, we need to continually update it and work on it so that it can be a legislation that protects IPs and surrogates alike. At the moment there are some grey areas in the legislation and I would be honoured to assist in discussions on how these could be improved.

I am sure that she is not alone, having had the experience of being a surrogate, in assisting people to have children and raise families. I am sure that there is a wealth of knowledge out there. This parliament should turn its attention to this issue. As I have mentioned before, I will certainly be seeking the views of a wide variety of people who could benefit from more comprehensive laws around surrogacy.

None of us want to see the situation that we have seen in the media of Baby Gammy. But despite Thailand's recent law reforms we do know that people are seeking surrogates from across our borders—and this is the here and now and the reality of what we should be dealing with. So, even on those principles alone, one should be open in this parliament to having a conversation about the legalities around surrogacy and giving those children the protections they deserve.

I know that this bill refers to altruistic surrogacy, but I think that just the act of providing that surrogacy for another person is altruism in itself, and I personally have no problem with someone receiving payment; I do not have any aversion to that. I think that it is a wonderful and joyful thing to do for another human being but, of course, it involves a sacrifice financially and socially that should be recognised, and I guess that is because I am a feminist and I believe that this is a woman's work and that it should be accordingly treated as such.

A woman is often not paid for all sorts of things women do, whether that is housework or, indeed, as in this case, giving hope, life and joy and creating families for others. So, with that, I commend this bill to the second reading, and I look forward to our resuming debate on this bill in the new year.

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