Surrogacy laws leave twins in legal limbo

Discussion in 'Australian News Reports/other' started by Admin, Oct 21, 2017.

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    Australian commercial surrogacy laws leave
    6mo twins in legal limbo

    As David and Naomi Seddon play with their six-month-old daughters in a makeshift nursery, it is obvious they share an immense bond.

    They're all smiles now, but deep down they have spent sleepless nights worried about the future of their family.

    The twins, Adeline and Savannah, were born through commercial surrogacy in the United States.

    In the US it is legal but in Australia the process is banned, meaning the children are legally parentless in Australia.

    "It's heartbreaking, it really is," Ms Seddon said, describing their complex situation.

    It started in San Francisco, where the pair first met.

    "Dave and I were both living in America and we met at an Australian gala in San Francisco, everything moved quite fast and Dave proposed to me after four months, which was quite a shock," Ms Seddon laughed.

    "Being a bit older we wanted to start a family fairly quickly, so we started trying and we ended up losing four babies — one at four months [into the pregnancy]."

    The couple went to a specialist and underwent 100 tests and three rounds of IVF, only to discover Ms Seddon was unable to give birth.

    "Finding out that I couldn't have children, that was really difficult so we both wanted to move on to the next option as quickly as possible and for us that was surrogacy," she said.

    Twins can come to Australia on 90-day visa

    The Seddons, who were living in Los Angeles, went through an agency who found them an appropriate surrogate.

    After drawing up a legal contract, they received the good news their surrogate was pregnant through the use of their embryos.

    But the process was far from over. The paid surrogate gave birth almost three months prematurely, and the twins needed to be resuscitated.

    "You can't imagine getting a call, especially after everything we've gone through," Ms Seddon said through tears.

    "It was terrible, it was so terrible, but thankfully after five stressful weeks, the doctors amazingly saved them, by some miracle."

    They are now back in Australia with their twins, but they are worried for their children, who are American citizens and not Australian.

    The couple are on non-immigrant E-3 visas in the US, which can be terminated at the whim of their employers, forcing them to leave within weeks.

    The process to make them Australian citizens may take longer than the girls' tourist visa.

    "So if we were to not get our visas renewed we can't stay in US, but the girls can't [stay in] Australia — well they could for 90 days as tourists, because legally we're not their parents," Mr Seddon said.

    "Dave and I desperately want our children to be able to grow up in Australia around their extended family but to do that we need our children's right to have us recognised as their legal parents honoured."

    Families 'living in fear' about their children's future

    In September, the Family Court of Australia made a ruling that the parents of a child, who was born in India to a paid surrogate, could not be recognised as parents under the Family Law Act.

    The court instead made an order of parental responsibility to the couple.

    "I don't think it's an acceptable situation that Dave and I have to live with that fear — ultimately it's the children we are trying to protect," Ms Seddon said.

    The family's lawyer, Stephen Page, said while it was likely the children would be granted Australian citizenship, there were much broader issues at play.

    "There is discrimination, children are not treated the same, a few years ago the Australian Government decided to get rid of the term illegitimate children, now we have hundreds of children who are not recognised as having a parent-child relationship at law," Mr Page said.

    "So, while I have sympathy for the parents, I really have concern for those children."

    Australia 'so far behind the rest of the world'

    Surrogacy advocate Sam Everingham said children born to overseas surrogacy may find it difficult enrolling in schools, being checked into hospitals and included in their parents' wills.

    "It's a ridiculous situation we have here in Australia and it shouldn't be happening, I mean we are so behind the rest of the world on this," he said.

    The Government is planning to alter the 42-year-old Family Law Act, but none of the changes proposed suggest commercial surrogacy will be legalised.

    While commercial surrogacy is illegal, a woman can have a child for another person or couple if she is not paid.

    But the agreement is not binding, meaning the surrogate can change their mind and keep the baby.

    In all states and territories except the Northern Territory, all legal rights can be transferred to the intended parents.

    A spokesperson for the Attorney-General's office said the regulation of surrogacy in Australia was a matter for the states and "any Australian considering international surrogacy should seek independent legal advice".

    "We did not set out to break Australian law. We complied with the laws of the country where we have been living," Ms Seddon said.

    "We understand surrogacy is complex and needs regulation but for me not to be recognised as the parents of my children is just absolutely disgusting."


    ABC