Will the surrogate ask for money?

We know that surrogacy is altruistic in Australia. That means that payment of any type, or a reward or material benefit, is illegal. That includes cash payments as well as large gifts like a new car, or paying for an overseas holiday.

I’ve regularly been offended by the question “how much were you paid?” because I know that I didn’t do it for money, and neither do the surrogates I’ve spent time with and advised over the years. I’ve also been offended when intended parents have asked if they should expect to pay their surrogate ‘under the table.’ I want to uphold the ethics of altruistic surrogacy and the suggestion that money is changing hands is upsetting.

But then I think maybe we should talk about it more openly. And that talking about it might raise the standard that we expect of surrogacy in Australia. Because intended parents need to be reassured that there is no ‘catch’ and that they don’t have to secretly pay their surrogate in order to pursue surrogacy in Australia.

So let’s talk about it.

Sometimes the question, from anxious intended parents and other members of the public, is because they themselves cannot imagine going through pregnancy and childbirth, giving away the baby, and not receiving some sort of payment. I used to think this was just cynicism. But delving deeper – I don’t think this means that the person is suggesting that being kind and selfless is something they can’t imagine. For many people, pregnancy and childbirth is hard. For many intended parents, pregnancy and birth has been traumatic and painful. They can’t imagine doing it for someone else without payment. As a friend recently told me “You couldn’t pay me $100k to carry a baby for someone else.” And when I consider her experience of pregnancy and birth, I understand.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of different strokes for different folks. For surrogates, pregnancy and childbirth are relatively easy and enjoyable, and they don’t expect a negative experience in a surrogacy pregnancy. They like being pregnant, but probably feel that their family is complete and want to give the opportunity of parenthood to someone else. You couldn’t pay me $100k to free rock climb – but as it turns out, there are some people who do that for fun. Surrogacy has been likened to an extreme sport, so I guess the analogy applies.

If I was to give advice to any intended parents who are worried that they may be asked for money or payment of any kind by a potential surrogate, then it would be to back away, fast. If she is asking for money or some sort of generous gift, she is not in it for the right reasons, and you will likely not have a positive journey. If you’re ok with paying for surrogacy, then there are options overseas. Paying a so-called ‘altruistic’ surrogate undermines the standard we have established in Australia and dilutes the generosity of her actions. If you cannot trust her not to ask for money, then I would argue that you should not trust her to carry your baby.

On a positive note, have faith. Whilst there may be a few instances where someone will expect or ask for payment, it is not the norm and the majority of women who are surrogates are not paid and do not expect payment. Trust that this is the case, and hold yourself to that standard. Do not expect other people to behave in an underhanded way and maintain your own integrity throughout. Talk to other intended parents and surrogates about their experiences – the community will hold people accountable if we think anyone is motivated by money or seeking to avoid the legal framework.

You might like to read more about making sure your surrogate isn’t out of pocket and beware that avoiding the legal and counselling processes is risky.

If you have any questions or worries about things you’ve read here, get in touch with me.

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.