Tuesday, July 1, 2008

News Limited - "Gay Aussies using Rent-a-Womb Women" by Tamara McLean

MORE than 100 gay Australian couples have paid $80,000 to create a baby using rent-a-womb women in the United States, a fertility clinic says.

The controversial scheme, branded as "one-stop baby shopping", is becoming increasingly popular among professional gay men in Sydney and Melbourne, according to The Fertility Institutes based in Los Angeles.

"We've seen more than 125 gay couples from Australia who have gone home with a baby," said the clinic's medical director, Dr Jeffrey Steinberg.

"We're up to six to eight a month now, which is a four-fold increase over two years ago.

"That makes Australia one of our biggest markets, neck-and-neck with Britain."

The specialist program, the first dedicated to two-father families, allows gay men to pay for surrogate children, a practice which is illegal in Australia.

Couples pick a donor from a list of 400 university students and her eggs are then implanted in a different woman who bears the child.

The process allows sex selection and complete anonymity between the male parents and the donor.

"They are almost all professional, working men who obviously have a bit of money and desperately want a child," Dr Steinberg said.

"They've got busy lives and obviously a lot of restrictions on them down in Australia so it's something we can sort out for them for between $US75,000 and US$80,000."

Surrogacy laws in Australia vary from state to state, with altruistic surrogacy, in which the woman who carries the child is not paid, allowed in some jurisdictions.

State and federal governments are moving to consider nationally consistent law on the practice, however, this is unlikely to be extended to gay couples.

Britain, Canada and many Asian nations are similar, while the US has legalised paid surrogacy for all couples.

One Melbourne couple going through the process, Simon and Tony, say the US situation offered "huge hope" for their wish to be parents.

"We were simply unable to do that here unless we wanted to take the turkey baster option, and that wasn't available to us," said Simon, who requested anonymity.

The couple, whose surrogate is yet to conceive, know of six other Australian couples who have baby through the scheme.

Rod Goodbun, a spokesman for Action Reform Change Queensland, said it was important gay couples had such options available to them in Australia, ideally under an altruistic arrangement.

But Professor Michael Chapman from Sydney IVF said the nation was not ready for such a step, especially if those involved were paid.

"If a service is provided overseas then so be it but community norms at this point in time would not support it here."

[Link: Original Article]

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