I was excited to travel (for hours upon hours) to Florida last week to attend and present at the Society for Ethics in Egg Donation and Surrogacy (SEEDS). I have wanted to attend this conference for years, and had tickets booked for April 2020 before that little thing called COVID stopped everything.

The conference was held in Orlando, Florida, home to Disney World, the most magical place on earth!  The conference was attended by surrogacy and donor conception professionals , including agency staff, lawyers and fertility specialists. There were sessions on ethical standards in surrogacy and donor conception, managing conflict between intended parents and surrogates, supporting teams through pregnancy loss, and a panel of donor-conceived adults. Australian and US surrogacy arrangements share many common challenges with the costs of surrogacy, managing expectations and educating healthcare providers about surrogacy. We also talked about the ethical challenges of cross-border surrogacy.

I was impressed and inspired by the advocacy and lobbying for law reform by many US lawyers, particularly in the context of homophobic, transphobic and anti-abortion laws in the USA and particularly in Florida. We heard about the power of story-telling in lobbying for law reform.

My presentation was about surrogacy and donor conception in Australia, and Australian intended parents engaging in international surrogacy. I talked about how our surrogacy laws and processes work, and what Australian intended parents should expect when returning home with their children. I also talked about embryo creation and transporting embryos from Australia for surrogacy. And one of my favourite topics – the role of Australian lawyers in international surrogacy arrangements. A few points that I asked the attendees to take away with them:

  1. Australian intended parents should speak to an Australian lawyer about parentage and surrogacy laws in Australia, and returning home with their baby.
  2. Sometimes, intended parents also need to speak to a migration agent if they need specific assistance with citizenship and migration.
  3. Australian lawyers do not need to be involved in negotiating overseas surrogacy contracts, and oftentimes if they are then they are over-servicing and operating outside their jurisdiction and expertise. There is no reason why an Australian lawyer should insert themselves into overseas surrogacy contract negotiations.
  4. Intended parents should rely on the advice of the lawyer in their destination country, who is the expert on surrogacy in their jurisdiction.

If you are exploring international surrogacy, you can find more information about the different options including links to Facebook groups and podcast episodes. If you are concerned about the ethics of cross-border surrogacy, you can read my thoughts about best practice surrogacy.

If you are new to surrogacy in Australia, 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.

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.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford (she/her). I’m a family creation lawyer, practising in surrogacy and donor conception arrangements. I’m an IVF mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for two dads in 2018

I advocate for positive, best practice surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

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