Saturday, August 16, 2003

The Age - "Gay couples shop offshore for surrogate mothers" by Farah Farouque

Gay male couples in Victoria are paying overseas women to have babies for them to bypass strict state laws against commercial surrogacy.

Melbourne man Lee Matthews "outed" himself in the gay newspaper MCV as the co-father of eight-month-old Alexander, born to a surrogate mother in the United States in December. Mr Matthews has a longstanding relationship of 13 years with his partner, the child's other father.

In the report, published yesterday, Mr Matthews identified several other cases of homosexual men - singles and couples - who have conceived children with US surrogates. He knew of four other gay male couples and two singles who had also become parents in this way.

Melbourne GP and gay rights activist Ruth McNair confirms the phenomenon of "reproductive tourism" is an emerging trend in gay communities around Australia.

Dr McNair said she was acquainted with three male couples in Melbourne who had become fathers by paying US mothers "tens of thousands of dollars" to have babies with sperm donated by one partner in the relationship.

In her practice, the Carlton Clinic, she had counselled several gay men "desperate to be parents and to have a primary parenting role". Although much rarer, some lesbians are also examining overseas surrogacy as a path to parenthood.

Family lawyer Tim Mulvany said he had provided advice to lesbian couples who wanted to know their legal position if they pursued surrogacy arrangements outside Australia.

The Australian Family Association expressed strong concern.

"Some people have said it's a form of child abuse to bring a child deliberately into the world without a mother and father," said spokesman Bill Muehlenberg. "Every child has a right to its own mother and father, not two dads, not two mothers and not a committee."

Mr Muehlenberg said he feared for Mr Matthews' child. "We wouldn't deliberately bring a child into this world and deliberately lop off its arms and its legs which is what we are doing with these kinds of (surrogacy) arrangements."

A spokesman for the Catholic Church, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, was also critical. "Such ways of procuring offspring are stepping outside the natural order," he said. Depriving a child of a mother and father, he said, could "impair the psychological and emotional growth" of such a child and contribute to dysfunction later.

A patchwork of state and territory laws at present regulate surrogacy in Australia.

In Victoria, commercial surrogacy is banned. "Altruistic surrogacy" - where no money changes hands - is permitted but any private agreements between the parties are not enforceable in the courts. There is also a strict ban on advertising.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls has asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to investigate altruistic surrogacy as part of a broader inquiry into eligibility for assisted reproductive services.

At present, lesbians, other than those who are infertile, are barred from access to fertility services in Victoria. This has resulted in many travelling across the border to NSW, where the laws are more relaxed.

Professor Marcia Neave, chairwoman of the law reform commission, said the inquiry would seek public comment.

Mr Matthews decided to go public with his story after Prime Minister John Howard ruled out marriage for homosexuals.

"Marriage, as we understand it in our society, is about children: having children, raising them, providing for the survival of the species," Mr Howard said. The Prime Minister's office refused to comment on Mr Matthews' case.

[Link: Original Article]

No comments: