On SBS Insight on Thursday, March 22, audience members got their chance to confront the NSW Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney, on her amendment to the NSW surrogacy legislation that makes overseas commercial surrogacy a crime in NSW.
Extra territorial laws such as this are at present only in place for terrorist activities and child sexual abuse.
Burney introduced the amendment in an effort to protect women overseas she considers to be exploited by Australian parents seeking a surrogate.
It is a little on the grandiose side to imagine that any NSW law will have any impact at all on commercial surrogacy in, say, India.
But Burney’s agenda is punitive – she has admitted that it is intended to “punish” couples who seek overseas surrogates. It will do nothing to prevent couples using overseas surrogates, as she also admitted in the program.
Parents are unable to apply for the orders without disclosing the circumstances of their child’s birth. If in an effort to avoid prosecution the parents don’t apply for parentage orders, their children are cast into a legal limbo that leaves them disadvantaged and discriminated against.
Ms Burney was supported by Dr Renate Klein, a “pro life” or anti choice feminist, depending on your point of view. Dr Klein steadfastly refused to acknowledge the right of adult couples to make responsible choices about commercial surrogacy. She stated that we cannot all have what we want, and when couples can’t have children, they must learn to live with it.
There has been much discontent around Burney’s amendment, and widespread agreement that it was passed without anything like the amount of public discussion and consultation it should have had.
It was clear from the couples in the studio who’d used surrogates that they are decent, fair people who went to great lengths to ensure the women who carried their babies were decently treated.
A father told the story of how his twin boys were born prematurely, and he’d lost them both. Klein immediately demanded to know if the surrogate got paid anyway.
The father broke down, and haltingly responded that of course she did, and that he thought it was disgraceful that Klein had had asked that question. I have to say I agree with him.
While there are of course incidences of exploitation, constructing all surrogacy arrangements as exploitative is extremely dishonest. This is what Burney and Klein have done, in order to further their personal agendas.
The topic is too vast, and too important to be left to the agendas of two women whose primary purpose is punitive and who’s moral position, in the case of Klein, extremely narrow.
Lastly we crossed to a short interview with twin boys carried by an American surrogate, whose parents were in the studio audience. The boys know all about their gestation, and are looking forward to a trip to the States where they’ll to go to Disneyland and spend time with the woman “who borned us.”
It seems unlikely that Burney will be a Minister after this weekend. She might be out of a job as well. She leaves a mean-spirited, dishonest and disempowering legacy to couples and their children. It is probably too much to expect that this amendment will be revoked. This means there will probably be babies in NSW who have no legal status and no legal protection, and no legal identity.
Another disgraceful legacy from NSW Labor.