Are you thinking about signing up to a surrogacy support service such as Surrogacy Australia’s Support Service (SASS), or an agency overseas? Whether the support service is in Australia, or overseas, you should do your due diligence and make sure the support service or agency meets your expectations and needs.
If you are new to surrogacy, you can read about how to find a surrogate in Australia, or how to become a surrogate yourself. You can also download the free Surrogacy Handbook which explains the processes and options.
There is no harm in asking questions, especially if the service is able to produce a glossy website but is unwilling or unable to provide evidence of its success. If their response is to be defensive or refuse to provide clear answers to your questions, proceed with caution. I have asked many questions about the Surrogacy Australia Support Service and none of my questions have been answered. I am not willing to endorse the service while so many questions remain unanswered and there are genuine concerns about the legality of the model and the claims of success which the service boasts. In my mind, avoiding or ignoring valid questions from concerned community members is unprofessional and does nothing for the organisation’s reputation.
Regardless of where you go for your surrogacy arrangement, you should consider what best practice surrogacy looks like.
Some questions you should ask, of the service provider, before signing up:
- How many successful surrogate/intended parent matches have they made this past year? How many pregnancies and births have there been in the past 12 months?
- How many surrogates do they have available that are ready to start talking to intended parents? There are always more intended parents than surrogates, but having a sense of what the ratio is can help you manage your expectations.
- What are their screening processes, for surrogates and intended parents? And how are the staff qualified to provide the screening? Are they medically trained professionals or lawyers?
- How does the service find and match surrogates and intended parents? Is it legal for them to do so, and if not will this jeopardise your own arrangement?
- What are the support services along the way, and how are those services capped or limited? Are the staff adequately trained to provide these services?
- Some clinics provide inhouse surrogacy counselling, as part of their package or because it is a legal requirement. This is the case in Victoria and Western Australia. If you are paying a support service for counselling, are you paying for a service that you will need to pay for twice? Does the service tell you that you may need to pay for it twice?
- How does the fee structure work, and are there different points where we can change our minds and receive a refund of parts of the fees?
- What sort of timeframe can we expect to match with surrogates/intended parents?
- What happens if we do not match within a set timeframe? Do we get a refund?
- What happens if a match falls through? Do we go to the end of the queue?
- Surrogacy Australia’s Support Service is known for referring people to other organisations, and suggesting that intended parents go overseas for surrogacy. The conflict of interest between the two organisations is not declared to unsuspecting intended parents. If any organisation is referring you to another organisation, ask whether they receive a commission or referral fee for sending you there. There are concerns that people working for one organisation may work for another, and do not declare the conflict of interest when you are referred between the two.
You may also like to get legal advice, either in Australia or in your destination country. While some agencies will make lots of promises, the legal framework may contradict what they are promising and even place intended parents in a vulnerable position. It is illegal to facilitate a surrogacy arrangement for money, in several states in Australia, and illegal in some to advertise a willingness to do so. You can find out more information about surrogacy laws in Australia.
There are surrogacy consultants and third-party brokers who will happily take your money and may offer services and promises that are unnecessary and may even break laws. Beware consultants who take commissions from agencies and clinics and do not declare the conflict of interest when they take your money and refer you to the agency which is paying them. I have been offered between $2000 and $10,000 to refer people to overseas agencies and clinics – the practice is unethical and illegal.
There are restrictions on facilitating a surrogacy arrangement in several States, and there are also restrictions on advertising a service. You can read more about the surrogacy laws in each State, and get legal advice if you are unsure. In South Australia, for example, it is illegal to facilitate a surrogacy arrangement or introduce intended parents and surrogates to each other.
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.