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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why you need to think twice about being a surrogate

It's illegal in Australia to pay someone to have your baby.  You have to find a relative or a woman kind enough to go through the ordeal for free.  

The only stipulation is that the intended parents must pay "all reasonable expenses" which include health costs, travel and separate legal representation for the surrogate mother. And in this particular case, those expenses amounted to $8,300.

But the parents refused to pay, so last week, when the baby boy was born, the mother was left with a huge bill and a baby who was the product of someone else's egg and sperm.

However, she held the trump card - the baby - and she wasn't giving him up until they did what they promised, and the problem has now been resolved - the parents took their baby home and the bill has been paid.

This case highlights that fact that Australia's surrogacy laws need revising because relying on goodwill doesn't always work.

Alexa (whose last name cannot be used) was understandably upset when her relationship with the intended parents, to whom she was related, broke down.

"It started out for love....with me wanting to do something for them" she said.  "And then without support, without gratitude or any thanks, it just got worse."

Things started to go wrong in the first trimester when the fertility clinic put her on a very high dose of progesterone to help maintain the pregnancy.  But the high hormones made her very sick and some days, she couldn't get out of bed.

The clinic refused to lower her dose so after seeking another opinion, she lowered the dose herself, without telling the clinic.

Both the intended parents and Alexa only had about three hours of compulsory counselling before the IVF clinic went ahead and transferred the embryo.  Had the counselling been longer and more intense, perhaps problems might have been discovered and dealt with before going ahead.

Alexa's lawyer Stephen Page has extensive experience in surrogacy arrangements.

"I can't say whether there was enough preparation" he said.  "What I can say is that preparation is absolutely essential with any surrogacy arrangement - prevention is better than cure."

Relations did not improve even after the 12 week scan showed a healthy baby boy.

It seems the intended mother believed her baby would be stillborn and she refused to prepare for it. Throughout the pregnancy, she rarely called Alexa and only occasionally attended ante-natal appointments, something she promised to do.

"When we went into it, they promised to be there, we're going to support you, we are going to help you with my three year old son Jaxon, and it never started" Alexa said.  She felt so alone and unhappy at the 16 week mark she asked for an abortion but was told it was too late.

Just weeks before the birth, the parents said they would only pay two thirds of her expenses and refused to pay $3,000 in legal fees for Stephen Page, saying she had adequate legal representation from the solicitor they had previously hired for her.

So there is another glaring error that needs fixing - surrogates need their own solicitor.

Alexa refused to give them the baby until the full amount was paid and four days after he was born, the baby went home with his parents.

Alexa still feels a lack of appreciation.  "It's just sad, he will never know where he came from, he will never know what I did for him."

Asked if she had held the parents to ransom she said "I have every right - it's a business deal isn't it? It's not a friendship."