Pursuing surrogacy as a gay dad.

Are you considering surrogacy as a single or partnered gay dad? Gay dads are growing in numbers around Australia as they pursue surrogacy to grow their families. Last year, the media was buzzing with news that Ian Thorpe and his then-partner Ryan Channing, were planning to have a baby via surrogacy. Channing was quoted as saying that the couple were pursuing surrogacy in the US because ‘the laws in Australia are difficult for same sex males in regards to surrogacy.’

Whilst famous people having babies makes for good headlines, no one bothered to check whether what Channing had said was true. For those of us (including me!) who have carried a baby for a gay couple, his comments were a bit surprising. Gay couples considering surrogacy would be forgiven for assuming that surrogacy is difficult or impossible in Australia, and may head overseas without considering domestic options, or the ramifications of pursuing surrogacy overseas.

Is surrogacy difficult for same sex couples in Australia?

So, a fact check for a start? The truth is that surrogacy is challenging for anyone in Australia – same sex and heterosexual couples. The laws in almost all States apply the same to everyone, regardless of sexuality or marital status. Heterosexual couples face the same hurdles as same sex couples due to prohibitions on advertising for a surrogate, and the availability of surrogates, as well as restrictions on Medicare rebates. The one difference is Western Australia – WA surrogacy laws provide that only heterosexual couples can pursue surrogacy. That excludes same sex couples and singles. At the moment, the WA laws are under review and one criticism of the current law is that it prohibits same sex couples from accessing surrogacy. This pushes all West Australian same sex male couples to pursue surrogacy overseas. Did this apply to Thorpe and Channing? Well, Channing is from Perth, although it is reported that the couple lived in Sydney

Is it difficult to pursue surrogacy in Australia?

Well, that depends on your perception and expectations. Surrogacy in Australia is based on relationships, rather than a transaction. And because it is relational, it can take a lot of time and commitment. There aren’t many women in Australia willing to be surrogates, and it is not normalised here as it might be in some other countries. There is no payment or reward for carrying a baby for someone else – the only reward is seeing them become parents. And as such, it can be quicker to pursue surrogacy overseas. There are enormous benefits for those that are able to pursue surrogacy within Australia, but the statistics are clear – only 60-80 babies are born via surrogacy in Australia every year, compared to 250 or more born overseas to Australian intended parents. But that doesn’t make it impossible – and certainly for those who are able to enter into a surrogacy arrangement within Australia, it’s very much worth the time and effort.

So how does surrogacy work in Australia?

Surrogacy in Australia is governed by State legislation, and each State has slightly different laws. All surrogacy in Australia must be altruistic; commercial surrogacy is illegal. This means the surrogate cannot receive payment or a reward in exchange for having a baby; she can however have her surrogacy-related expenses covered.

Some States take it a step further, criminalising commercial surrogacy overseas – NSW, ACT and Queensland laws provide that residents from those States must not pursue commercial surrogacy overseas.

There are also prohibitions on advertising for a surrogate in most States, which can be challenging for anyone to find a surrogate. There are options tofind a surrogate, and advice about connecting with a surrogate. It is worth reading, researching and understanding the laws and the processes within Australia before considering overseas options. You can hear real stories from intended parents and surrogates, including my story and that of my gay intended parents, on the Surrogacy Podcast.

Same sex male couples face the challenge of needing an egg donor, as well as a surrogate. Egg donation, like surrogacy, is altruistic in Australia, and most often egg donors are found either in family or friends, or via online forums such as Egg Donation Australia.

If you’re an aspiring dad and wondering about how it all works, what options are available to you and how to get started, you might be interested in downloading The Surrogacy Handbook. You’ll find some great support at the Gay Intended Dads Facebook Group.

You can also read more about international surrogacy options. And you can book a consult with Sarah at the link below, when you’re ready to take the next step.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her 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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