By KAHLA PRESTON
If an Australian woman is using IVF in order to get pregnant, she can access financial assistance from Medicare.
But if she is undertaking IVF as part of a legal surrogacy arrangement, she is not entitled to a medical rebate for her cycles – even if she is medically incapable of carrying a child herself.
Once her child is born through IVF surrogacy, she is eligible for paid parental leave and the baby bonus because the Government recognises her as that child’s mother. But she gets no help with the financially crippling costs of undertaking IVF in the first place.
When Jillian Spears approached her doctor about undertaking IVF surrogacy, using her own eggs rather than donor eggs, she was outraged to learn of this inconsistency. Now, she’s fighting to bring the inequality to the Government’s attention.
Jillian, 40, recently began her first IVF cycle in the hope of having a child with Alex, her partner of almost three years. In 2007 she had a hysterectomy due to an ongoing case of endometriosis, and while she was able to keep her ovaries only one appears to be producing quality eggs.
Having decided against adoption and fostering, the Brisbane couple began researching another option: surrogacy.
Seeking a surrogate abroad is illegal under QLD’s current laws, so they decided to keep the procedure local.
Fortunately, Jillian’s sister – already a mother of four – generously volunteered as surrogate mother.
“Ultimately it’s very, very hard to find a surrogate. So we’re blessed,” Jillian explains, adding that publicly advertising for a surrogate mother is prohibited under local law.
But early visits to the doctor brought two waves of bad news.
Blood tests revealed Jillian’s Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) level was below one, impacting the doctor’s ability to retrieve viable eggs.
Then she learned she was ineligible for Medicare benefits because the IVF was to assist in a legal surrogacy.
“I was devastated. I’m not doing [surrogacy] because I’m afraid to ruin my beautiful body or I don’t have time to be pregnant … I’m doing it because it’s medically necessary,” Jillian says.
Legal surrogacy is a relatively new development in Australian law. Altruistic surrogacy – where no remuneration outside of medical expenses is offered to the surrogate mother – is legal in Australia, although the law differs from one state to the next.