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Vickie Chapman’s surrogacy bill to help gay couples have children

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Attorney-General Vickie Chapman will today introduce a raft of amendments to South Australia’s surrogacy laws into Parliament, with the intent of making it easier for people – including gay couples and single parents – to have surrogate children.

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Chapman’s Bill – which follows her abortion law reform push and support for the decimalisation of sex work – would make South Australia’s surrogacy laws “contemporary” and “enforceable” with amended criteria for individuals to become parents.

Chapman told InDaily she additionally hoped her Bill would make it easier for gay couples to have surrogate children.

“I am of the view that they [gay couples] are lawfully recognised couples and we would be really remissive not to advance that further,” she said.

“We are the Liberal Party – we are the progressive party.

“I’ve been here in 17 years now [and] I’ve waited a long time to make sure that we do advance some of these contemporary issues.”

Under current South Australian law, surrogacy is only permitted for parents who are either legally married, in a registered relationship or who have lived together continuously in a “marriage-like” relationship for a period of three years.

They must also provide at least one piece of human reproductive material for the creation of an embryo.

Gay couples, like hopeful single parents, may find it difficult to meet this criteria.

Chapman’s draft Bill was initially released in November 2018 following an independent review by the South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI), which said the topic of surrogacy “attracts strong and often conflicting views”.

Family Voice Australia claimed surrogacy is “human rights violation of the women and children involved”, while the Australian Christian Lobby also voiced concern.

The SALRI report includes 69 recommendations, some of which she has adopted.

Her Bill stipulations include:

Chapman said because of “voluntary fertility”, legislative blockades and “no adoption [options]” for gay couples in South Australia, some look overseas to “buy” babies in an unregulated industry.

“We want this [Bill] to be contemporary, to be effective; we want agreements to be enforceable,” she said.

“We want them to be affordable in the sense that we don’t want South Australians who want to have a baby – who for whatever reason are infertile or can’t carry a baby – (to) go to the Ukraine and buy one.

“At the moment if they’ve got sufficient money they have to go overseas to get a child.

“It’s not ideal and it’s open to exploitation and abuse so we really don’t see that as appropriate.”

According to the SALRI report, roughly 250 children were born through overseas surrogacy arrangements and brought to Australia each year.

The report stipulates the stereotype of couples who utilised offshore pregnancy were “typically wealthy couples” but “the reality is far more complex”.

To combat issues such as this, some gay couples may have had sexual relationships with proxy mothers to procure babies, said Chapman.

“They’re forced into a situation where they have a surrogate mother who provides a baby, or sometimes historically they’ve had a relationship for the purposes of having a child with a third party,”  Chapman said.

“But all of these things are unregulated and potentially unenforceable.

“The Bill clarifies surrogacy arrangements, and the roles of counsellors in the process, while providing the Youth Court with final decision-making powers.

“Importantly, commercial surrogacy agreements, that is making more income than reasonable for the surrogate, still remain illegal under this new Bill, consistent with the rest of the country.”

The Family Relationships Act (1975) outlines it is an offence to enter a surrogacy contract that does not meet the criteria for a recognised surrogacy agreement or one that has been paid for.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment.

Chapman’s Bill will go to a conscience vote in the Upper House in September.

She said she expected some further pushback from conservative politicians and community members in regards to the “same-sex” facet of her legislation.

“People may say they’re offended by that [same-sex] aspect of this Bill or don’t agree with it,” she said.

“[But] the institute have considered these matters very considerably obviously and in some depth.

“This is not something we have rushed into.”

InDaily asked Opposition leader and Labor Right faction member Peter Malinauskas to comment on Chapman’s Bill. He did not respond.

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