Does the media attention on international surrogacy change things?
You haven’t heard from me for a while, and there’s a good reason for that.
Over the last month or two, we’ve been inundated with calls (especially from journalists) looking for commentary and opinions on the legality of international surrogacy. Coincidentally, the last article that I wrote addressed the issue of international surrogacy out of India. Naturally, that article and this website attracted attention from anyone wanting to know more about the legal issues surrounding ‘Baby Gammy’ from Thailand and international surrogacy (especially commercial surrogacy) in general.
If you don’t know what that case is/was about, you’ll find enough information on the internet – so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say, while those issues are still ongoing for the parties involved, the government, and interest grounds – it appears the media hype has largely subsided and ‘life is back to normal’.
At that the time, I was approached for comments for news, radio and television segments. But I declined all requests – and I haven’t written further posts, not until now.
The prospect of being on television or radio always sounds exciting, but it was difficult to see how that exercise would benefit my clients – without drawing unnecessary attention to their individual challenges. The highly political and emotionally charged topic of surrogacy can be controversial. There’s always going to be opposing views across the community, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a public debate that we should be involved in.
My team and I are solely dedicated to our clients regardless of whether they need legal advice and representation for altruistic surrogacy in New South Wales, or are considering embarking on possibly international surrogacy. We don’t judge. We just advise.
We also don’t promote ourselves as having any more ‘expertise’ in surrogacy matters than our professional colleagues nor do we have any specific authority or right to tell others what they can or can’t do – certainly not that conceited or arrogant. Instead, I really see our role as being solely to help our clients – and that’s it.
Our professional advice is based on knowledge and experience. We offer that advice to our clients so that they can achieve their goals and intended outcomes – which is namely to have a child through surrogacy. We also help our clients navigate the minefield of social and legal issues and reform, much of which is likely to play a bigger part now given the increased public awareness surrounding international commercial surrogacy.
Truth be told, the issues regarding international commercial surrogacy are nothing new. The recent media attention only brought these issues to the forefront of people’s minds and into the public debate. Otherwise, for Australians, travelling overseas for surrogacy (and a range of other medical procedures) has always been an attractive alternative, especially due to the lower relative cost in those countries and if they had no potential surrogate in Australia.
As I have told the journalists, this office receives a large number of enquiries from intended parents and surrogate mothers because that’s the area in which we work. A large percentage of those enquiries also deal with the issue of international surrogacy, and sometimes those enquiries include questions around international commercial surrogacy (part of which I’ve already written about in previous articles).
So what does all of this mean? It obviously means there’s a demand for international surrogacy and there’s a potential demand for international commercial surrogacy. I would probably venture to say that ever since it’s been possible (medically/technologically) it’s been happening, especially in developing countries where there’s the increased likelihood of exploitation of women – which is the whole reason for criminalising commercial surrogacy in New South Wales in the first place.
Also, I’m sure that within all the cases of international surrogacy arrangements (commercial and altruistic) there have been cases similar to ‘Baby Gammy’, where there has been a dispute or disagreement between the intended parents and the surrogate or birth mother (or her family). I presume most of those cases have been resolved in some way or another without attracting widespread attention.
The case of ‘Baby Gammy’ has been a little unusual probably because of the surrogate mother’s ability and willingness to draw the attention of the national and international media. But I might address this further in another article on another day.
My Personal Invitation
Choosing to have a child through surrogacy or agreeing to be a surrogate mother is an important life choice that shouldn't be taken lightly. As the father of two boys, I personally know the joys (and challenges) of being a parent. I also understand why you're going through what you're going through to become a parent yourself. That's the human condition.
By the time you're reading this article, you've probably spent a small fortune on medical expenses and taken a ride on an emotional roller coaster which I'm sure has had a physical and psychological toll on you and your family. But if you're here, then you've come to the right place and you're heading in the right direction.
My team of lawyers and I have been helping intended parents and surrogate mothers (and their partners) understand their rights and obligations arising from surrogacy, as well as the legal process necessary to ensure a successful outcome, even before the Surrogacy Act was introduced. During this time, we've noticed that there's a general lack of reliable information regarding surrogacy in the public space (including the internet) and that's why we're proud to have developed this website. We developed this website to help you in your research, to understand your legal rights and obligations, and to guide you each step of the way in terms of the legal and social issues that you'll face.
Allow us to have privilege of advising you and representing you throughout the surrogacy process and share the joy of your new family.
This website is maintained by Phang Legal, a boutique legal practice in Parramatta that provides legal advice and representation in surrogacy and family law related matters for intended parents and surrogate/birth parents across New South Wales.
Ern Phang is the solicitor director of Phang Legal. Ern regularly writes about his experiences in helping clients with understanding their legal rights and obligations in surrogacy matters.
All information contained in this article is for general purposes only and correct as at the time of publication. You should only rely on information and advice that is specific to your situation and current at the time you wish to rely on it.