Celebrating 30 years since I first advised about surrogacy
I remember that first case very well. My new client came into my office in suburban Brisbane and told me:
- she had been paid $10,000 by a couple to have a baby
- she had had the baby
- she wanted to know could she keep the money and the child?
After I picked up my jaw, I looked up the law. These days it is a few clicks on the computer, but back then it was looking up the statute book. I recalled that legislation had passed in Queensland shortly before that which criminalised all surrogacy, near or far, commercial or altruistic- wherever it was in the world, if it involved Queenslanders.
And what happened?
I told her she could keep the money and the child because:
- the contract was illegal- therefore the money lay where it fell, i.e. with her.
- she had a 50/50 chance or better of success in the Family Court, if it ever got there, as she was the mother ( this is what is now known as traditional surrogacy).
- chances are that it would never go to court, because there was a risk of referral to police for prosecution.
As far as I am aware, it never went to court. She won. That baby has for many years been an adult, and probably has his own children. I wonder if he has been told of his story?
Since then I have helped over a thousand clients have children through surrogacy, gone on to advise about egg, sperm and embryo donation, and regulatory issues for the IVF industry. I have had clients in every State and Territory of Australia- from downtown Sydney and Melbourne, to the Pilbara and coal mines of Queensland. My overseas clients have come from 28 countries- from as far afield as Solomon Islands, China, Russia, Dubai, US and Switzerland. My clients have considered or undertaken surrogacy in places I would not have dreamed of (and at times have recommended against): Iran, Bangladesh, Nigeria, US, Canada and Greece, for example.
But the greatest joy for me has been to assist intended parents achieve their dreams and become parents, and to represent the extraordinary women – egg donors and surrogates- help the intended parents in bringing love and new life into the world.