There’s no denying that the latest surrogacy scandal to hit the media is an abomination. No matter which way you spin it, this real life story is horrendous for everyone involved – poor little Gammy, born through surrogacy with Downs Syndrome and ditched by his intended parents; his twin sister Pippah, ripped apart from her other half; and the incredible surrogate Pattaramon Chanbua who is now raising Gammy as her own. It doesn’t stop there. The entire international surrogacy community is deeply wounded and wondering if it will ever recover from the backlash following this one mortifying act. And nobody’s helping – each day, the articles, news spots and calls for new legislation are making it worse. It’s like throwing sticks into a fire that’s already out of control.
There’s no need for me to recap the story so far… or is there? There are multiple new articles popping up every day as new pieces of information are revealed and the ‘truth’ continues to unfold and change. Both news and non-news sources are featuring it regularly. As a nation we have been baffled and angered by this terrible scenario – and rightly so. It seems almost inhuman in nature. The recent 60 minutes interview with intended parents the Farnell’s has enraged the Australian public, sending shockwaves through their hearts and their fingertips; seeing social media discussion rise to an all-time high.
However the story has become more than a human interest piece; raising questions of politics and foreign affairs, its depth and breadth now threatening an entire movement. Many sources, both political and private, are calling for consequences for the parents and bringing surrogacy legislation under fire. At the more heinous and provocative end of the media scale, surrogacy is being compared to prostitution and ‘organ tourism’ . It feels like this story has been the catalyst for a war on surrogacy.
While I am not an expert on surrogacy, I do have personal experience in the area. Our dear friend and surrogate gave birth to our daughter in 2013 and is now six months pregnant with our son. I and many others are proof that surrogacy can be a wonderful and ethically sound way to have a family, if carried out via the right channels with pure intentions. There are many well-meaning families, for whom surrogacy is the last resort, watching in fear as it is demonised in the media. Last week Abbott announced that he will not rush to implement federal changes. Currently laws vary between each state. While no changes have been announced at state level, the laws could come into question under public pressure.
I agree that there has to be accountability, not just in this situation; the nature of surrogacy demands it. I’m as outraged as anyone. However why jeopardise the future of well-intentioned families because of one couple’s poor decision? Simply saying ‘no’ to surrogacy seems like a quick fix to appease the masses. There are two main problems here:
1) You just can’t say no to family
So many people have an innate desire to have a family and if we don’t facilitate that in a legal and ethical manner, more will seek to do it illegally; this is where even greater problems occur.
2) Complex issues need to be addressed from the inside. Band aids don’t work.
Core reasons that situations like this arise are because there are flaws and holes in both international surrogacy law and also individual clinic regulations. If any government or non-government group really wants to ensure that surrogates are protected, intended parents are accountable and the precious babies are born with nothing but the best outcomes, then they need to get down in the trenches. They can’t just say ‘no’ or pass the buck to no one in particular. They need to learn how the current system works, what the flaws are and how to help address them.
Surrogacy Australia provides a wealth of knowledge on both altruistic and commercial surrogacy and works endlessly to advocate for everyone involved. They would be an excellent resource to connect with and start working towards to a better future – a future where babies are born out of love and responsibility in equal parts.
Surrogacy can and should be a beautiful act with the intention of creating a life to be treasured and loved. My heart aches for everyone involved in this current horror story, especially the children. I do want change but nobody’s helping right now. In fact every inflammatory move is hurting. It’s time to take a step back and start to heal – for Gammy and for the surrogacy community as a whole.