The illegal way desperate Aussie couples are becoming parents

Australian couples desperate for children now make up one of the largest surrogacy markets internationally and India is their country of choice.

An Australian study has now found that hetrosexual couples have overtaken gay men as the biggest users of the service. Often these hetrosexual couples have been through several unsuccessful IVF attempts before turning to overseas surrogates to become parents.

Commercial surrogacy - when a woman is paid to carry a couple's child - is illegal in NSW and other states however this isn't stopping the tidal wave of Australian couples hiring overseas women to carry their babies to term.

The number of citizenship requests for children born in India has risen sharply, by more than 300 per cent over the past year.

So what's the big deal? If Australian couples want to have children but can't for whatever reason, why shouldn't we support them in any way they choose?

Because commercial surrogacy isn't properly regulated and as a result it's feared poor Indian women are being taken advantage of. Some of the women used for surrogacy are uneducated and don't understand their rights throughout the process. Earlier this year a gay couple were forced to defend their commercial surrogacy arrangement after it was found the Indian surrogate they hired was deaf and blind. The couple had to return to India to prove to authorities the woman understood the arrangement she was entering.

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Majority of the time it is well worth the surrogates while and they are more than willing to do it. But this doesn't protect those women who don't understand the arrangement fully and what about the rights of the Australian couple? What legal recourse do they have if the woman ultimately decides not to hand over the child?

In NSW the penalty for participating in a commercial surrogacy arrangement is two years in prison and fines totaling $275,000. Because it has been deemed illegal many Australian, IVF specialists refuse to advise couples of the process for fear of repercussions.

UTS professor Jenni Millbank told the the Herald, "Patients are going in blind, with no information from their doctors about how many embryos to transfer and the risks of those sorts of things. People don't want to go to a poor country and behave harmfully but they work with the information they have."

Indian fertility providers say some surrogacy arrangements result in multiple pregnancies which puts both the surrogate and the babies at risk.

Australian IVF clinics now implant less embryos to avoid this risk.

Other countries couples are traveling to in order to access commercial surrogacy arrangements include Thailand and the Ukraine.

Professor Millbank would like Australian to create an 'ethical framework' for commercial surrogacy.

Altruistic surrogacy - when the surrogate isn't paid beyond the cost of their medical expenses - is now legal in Victoria, Queensland, NSW, the ACT, WA and SA. However Surrogacy Australian warns the process is complex and lengthy.

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