Surrogacy is a really good example of how technologies and a shrinking world have gotten way ahead of, I suppose our capacity to regulate and monitor these sorts of developments.
Hi, I’m Doctor Joe.
We hear a lot about surrogacy these days in the paper and there’s a lot of argument about the morals and the rights or wrongs. The purpose of this video is not to enter that but perhaps distil a little bit of mythology and just give us a few facts to work with.
When we talk about surrogacy, we’re essentially saying that another woman will be carrying the baby on behalf of a woman. So this is obviously for women who are not able to get pregnant.
Now there are different forms of surrogacy. There is a type where the woman who wants to get pregnant or the couple who are seeking to get pregnant may have a fertilised egg that they have provided and that will be implanted into the surrogate carrier who will carry the baby to delivery and then obviously hand that baby to the couple.
There is another form of surrogacy where a third party may be involved and that the egg may be provided not by the mother who will bring up the child but by a third party. Again a fertilised egg can be implanted in the uterus of the surrogate who carries the baby as we said before and then at the time of birth passes it across.
You could argue in some respects it’s a form of adoption that occurs before birth. Historically adoption was done after birth; the baby is born and then passed across to another couple to bring up the baby.
In different states in Australia the laws are different. Different jurisdictions have different rules about whether surrogacy is allowed and then separate issues around whether it can be paid for. So in some states it is illegal to be a surrogate mother. In other states it’s legal but no payment is allowed. Now offshore, particularly in some south-east Asian countries and some other countries as well, it is legal, or if it isn’t, rightly or wrongly seems to be a little bit easy for people to work their way around and hence this is where a lot of moral arguments come in and that’s something probably for philosophers to start to solve.
Ultimately this does all come about because we do, in the words of the six million dollar man, we do have the technology. It is possible to implant embryos into surrogate partners, it is possible to fertilise eggs outside the body, all of this can be done, the science has really run away with us, but the laws and how we look at these things probably haven’t kept pace. And as the next so many years go by they will need to because there have been well reported cases where perhaps problems have arisen.
That said, it’s also fair to say that despite the laws, this hasn’t stopped people seeking to get surrogate babies for themselves and this really goes back to the basic human desire to want to have a family and I suppose doing it in a way in the 21st century where it’s possible, where in previous centuries it hasn’t.
So a real conundrum in some respects, scientifically and technically, relatively straight forward. If you like, morally and emotionally everyone will have their own opinions but what we do probably need to do is understand the basics and it really does come from a desire to have children. And that is human nature.