Surrogacy laws have been repealed after a heated debate in State Parliament. After almost 20 hours of bitter, divisive and emotional debate, with parties accusing each other of “social engineering”, the laws were passed in State Parliament on 11 February 2010.
The new Surrogacy Act 2010 takes Queensland laws from the most conservative – it was the only state to criminalise the practice – to some of the most liberal in Australia. Under the reforms, which extend to same-sex couples, legal parentage of a child born in altruistic surrogacy agreements – whereby another woman has a baby for no payment – will transfer from the birth mother to the parent or parents who commissioned the birth. Commercial surrogacy, whereby a woman receives a financial benefit to bear a child, remains illegal in Queensland.
The changes have naturally received mixed responses. Religious and Family groups have slammed the laws, labelling it ‘legislative child abuse’. Allowing gay and single people to use surrogate mothers will “trample on the rights of a child to have at least a chance of a mum and dad in its life” believes Dr David van Gend from the Family Council of Queensland. Dr van Gend claims that people have “no idea” about the impact of the laws, especially the determination it makes that “a man and another man – or just a man on his own – is identical in law to a mother and father”.
On the other hand, gay and lesbian groups have welcomed the laws and are hoping they will smooth the way for more legislation giving equal rights to same sex couples. A gay couple in Brisbane were the first to have a child under altruistic surrogacy laws. They agreed that gay couples are slowly getting more rights.
However, one problem is that the proposed legislation provides that surrogacy agreements are not enforceable. At law, the birth mother is not required to relinquish the child to the intended or biological parents when the child is born. For parents whose last chance to start a family is through a surrogate, this will be very worrying.