International Surrogacy Options for Australians
When you are considering surrogacy in Australia or overseas, you may become overwhelmed with the options and processes and getting to grips with the laws surrounding international surrogacy. I cannot recommend a particular option or country, but there are organisations around that can help.
You can read about the number of babies born via surrogacy in Australia and overseas.
If you are new to surrogacy, you can read about how to find a surrogate, or how to become a surrogate yourself. You can also download the free Surrogacy Handbook which explains the processes and options.
Looking for a surrogate and not sure where to start? We Need a Surrogate – What’s Next? And if you have a surrogate or intended parents, you can get started on the surrogacy process.
You can read a broad overview for surrogacy in Australia and how it works.
Nothing in this post or anywhere else on this website should be taken as an endorsement of a particular option. I advocate for best practice surrogacy which includes promoting the best interests of children and welfare of the women who are surrogates. I also want to make sure that intended parents are not exploited by agencies, clinics, brokers or consultants.
What I do recommend is that you do your research and work out what your ethical and moral values are, and satisfy yourself that the surrogate and baby are well cared for and that you are not being exploited.
You may have heard that surrogacy used to be available to Australians in Thailand, India, Cambodia and Laos. These options are generally closed to international visitors now.
Current options include:
- The United States of America has well-regulated and established surrogacy options in most States. Commercial surrogacy is legal across most of America – this means that the surrogate is paid a fee on top of having her expenses covered. Couples, singles, gay and straight are welcome to pursue surrogacy in America. Getting into and out of the US is usually smooth for intended parents. There are many clinics and agencies willing to assist you to find a surrogate and donor/s if you need.
- Canada has an altruistic model of surrogacy, similar to Australia but less limited in options for finding a surrogate. Surrogates are not paid to carry a baby, but they are reimbursed for expenses. There are agencies and clinics in Canada who can recruit surrogates and match them with intended parents. Intended parents travelling to Canada can expect a smooth journey in and out of the country. Canada is also gay-friendly, and open to couples and singles.
- Ukraine is another option for commercial surrogacy. Intended parents should be cautious not to accept at face-value any guarantees or options that seem ‘too good to be true.’ Surrogates and intended parents are not encouraged to have an ongoing relationship, and there may be language barriers that you need to overcome. Recent media suggests that surrogates and children may be exploited. Intended parents travelling to Ukraine can expect to be there 5-12 weeks post-birth whilst you wait for travel documents. Ukraine surrogacy is only open to heterosexual couples.
- I have many clients asking about other options like Kenya, Greece, Georgia, Mexico and Colombia. I cannot say anything definitive about any of those options but advise you to exercise caution and consider the following:
- Many countries have little or no regulation or laws about surrogacy. This means that agencies can say “it’s not illegal here” – but that doesn’t make it a good option. Good, robust legal frameworks supporting surrogacy are what you should be seeking. A lack of surrogacy laws means you take significant risks when rely on it not being illegal. As was seen in Thailand and India, laws can change, even when you have a surrogate half way through a pregnancy.
- Anyone can create a glossy website promising you a cheap and easy way to have a baby. It’s not hard to create a nice website with cute baby photos. If you dig behind the promises, you may find that there’s very little factual evidence to support their claims.
- You need to satisfy yourself that you can travel in and out of the country and leave with your baby in good time. I’ve heard many stories of intended parents being stuck in their destination country for weeks and months, unable to leave because they cannot obtain papers to travel to Australia with their baby. This is rarely the fault of the Australian authorities. If you are seeking to save money by going to an unregulated country, you may find that you spend more money trying to return home, and having to support yourself and your baby whilst trying to leave.
- Surrogates should be not be primarily enticed by financial reward. Unfortunately when there is little to no regulation, surrogates can be exploited by carrying a baby for intended parents they may never meet, for very little money. Surrogates are also the first to be punished when the laws change or authorities become involved. My post on best practice surrogacy should be read before you consider options that leave the surrogate’s rights last.
- Some agencies will ask that you pretend to be heterosexual or coupled to tick the right boxes for surrogacy. You should consider whether this is something you are willing to do, if it means lying on legal paperwork and undermining your integrity.
- Some international surrogacy options involve placing the surrogate on the birth certificate, with no mechanism to have it changed later. Some arrangements require the baby to have the surrogate’s surname listed as the baby’s surname. You need to ask questions about this before entering the arrangement – because in many cases, the agency will omit this information.
If you are looking for resources to help you learn about the options overseas, you can read about the experiences of donor conceived people and their rights to information about their donor heritage, as well as this post about surrogacy consultants receiving kickbacks.
You can also find other intended parents stories on the Podcast, including:
- Felicity travelled to the United States;
- Costa, Brett and Stuart and Hillary all travelled to Canada;
- Sara is a Canadian surrogate who carried for Australian intended parents;
- Ella is a Sydney woman who has worked with an American IVF clinic;
- Kim travelled to Ukraine;
- Liz travelled to Tblisi, Georgia
- Mike and Glenn considered various options overseas before pursuing surrogacy in Australia.
You might also like to consider joining Facebook groups dedicated to Australians travelling overseas – note that I’m not endorsing the groups or any advice that you might receive in them, but you should find other intended parents who are at different stages of the journey:
- US Surrogacy for Australasian IPs
- Surrogacy Canada for Australians
- IP Surrogacy Support Ukraine
- IP Surrogacy Support Georgia and Georgia Surrogacy Support
Sarah is a surrogate and a surrogacy lawyer, and has written a comprehensive surrogacy guide, More Than Just a Baby: A Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents and Surrogates, which you can purchase in digital or hard copy.
Before travelling overseas to pursue any options, you should get legal advice about your rights and responsibilities and the processes overseas and returning to Australia with baby. If you want to discuss the options in more details, you can book in a consult with me below.
You can find more information in the free Surrogacy Handbook, reading articles in the Blog, by listening to more episodes of the Surrogacy Podcast. You can also book in for a consult with me below, and check out the legal services I provide.