How many babies are born via surrogacy in Australia each year?
It’s a question often asked, and a difficult one to answer. There are very few reliable records of exactly how many surrogacy arrangements there are, and how many babies born via surrogacy, and how many Parentage Orders granted. This is because there is no centralised database of surrogacy arrangements and each state and territory has its own process for granting parentage orders.
According to the Australia and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database, there were 86 surrogacy births in Australia and New Zealand in 2018, where conception occurred in an IVF clinic. This does not include the number of traditional surrogacy births where the parties conceived via home-insemination. The 86 represents 31.3% of surrogacy embryo transfers that year – that means 31.3% of embryo transfers resulted in a live birth.
I believe that traditional surrogacy arrangements account for about 1 in 10 of surrogacy arrangements in Australia. So, we might estimate that there were another 8 traditional surrogacy births in 2018, bringing the total number that year to 94. This might even be a conservative figure, as I am aware of four traditional surrogacy births in Victoria alone that year, including my own.
What about babies born overseas?
According to the Department of Home Affairs, Australian passports were issued to over 240 babies born via overseas surrogacy. The estimated breakdown of where those babies were born includes:
According to those figures, well over double the number of babies are born via international surrogacy than are born in Australia each year. There are a few reasons for this. Intended parents far outnumber the women willing to be surrogates in Australia. It is illegal to advertise for a surrogate in most parts of Australia, making it difficult for intended parents to get the word out. Many people still think surrogacy is illegal in Australia, adding to the stigma and misunderstanding about how it works. And, while I’m an advocate for altruistic surrogacy, it is perhaps easier to find a surrogate where commercial surrogacy is available than it is where we don’t get paid.
My own opinion on Australians pursuing international surrogacy is that it would be better for everyone – the surrogate and her family, the child and the intended parents – if it can be done here at home. We have access to excellent healthcare, a supportive legal framework and robust processes to ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved, and to protect the rights and welfare of the child and the surrogate. Rather than simply being critical of commercial surrogacy overseas, we need to encourage and support altruistic surrogacy within Australia where we can regulate it and take care of everyone.
Sarah has published a book, More Than Just a Baby: A Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents and Surrogates, the only guide to surrogacy in Australia.