Home > Uncategorized > Sydney Morning Herald – "$12 for bootees, $5 for bib, $30,000 for a baby" by Kate Benson

Sydney Morning Herald – "$12 for bootees, $5 for bib, $30,000 for a baby" by Kate Benson

TREVOR ELWELL and Peter West know they are in for an anguished wait, pacing the floor outside a Mumbai maternity ward as they listen to the cries of the mother of their children.

The couple have never met the woman bearing their twins or the donor who provided the eggs. They will not be allowed to attend the birth or meet any of their children’s family, but minutes after their newborns take their first breaths, they will be handed to the men – to be whisked away to a life in suburban Melbourne.

Mr Elwell and Mr West, both 40, are among the first Australians to pay an Indian woman to carry their children. So far, about 30 couples are pursuing surrogacy in India, including three who will fly to Mumbai next month to start treatment. Five are expecting children, including Mr Elwell and Mr West, but so far no Australian babies have been born.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002, but has been attracting more Australians since the falling exchange rate pushed the cost of buying a baby from the US to more than $300,000 last year.

A baby carried by an Indian surrogate can be bought for as little as $30,000, plus an extra $10,000 if the couple want to use a Caucasian egg donor, usually flown in from South Africa.

Surrogates are housed together with access to doctors, nurses, maids and social workers during their pregnancy and can earn up to 10 times their annual income by carrying a baby.

It is fast becoming big business in India as a viable industry rather than a rare fertility treatment, but Australian supporters are adamant the scheme does not exploit the country’s poor.

“These are not slum-dwellers,” says Megan Sainsbury, a spokeswoman for Australia India Surrogacy Advocates. “They are middle-class women who have the approval and support of their families. They are not being forced into it.”

The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General last week called for submissions regarding changes to altruistic surrogacy law in Australia. Its discussion paper included points on international surrogacy that could make it impossible for people like Mr Elwell and Mr West to add to their family.

It suggests surrogates must live in the same jurisdiction as the intended parents or the parents will not be granted custody, and laws should “preclude exploitative arrangements” with Third World surrogates.

“None of us would ever exploit a person from a Third World country,” Ms Sainsbury said. “We are furious about this. India has some of the strictest regulations regarding psychological testing in the world for surrogates and potential parents. They do not accept people who are purely in it for the money or those who want to exploit someone less fortunate than themselves.”

The first Australian baby is due in March to a couple living in Beijing. Mr Elwell and Mr West’s twins are due in May.

“We’ve thought long and hard about this and have put everything in place to make sure we can give these children everything they need – including plenty of girlfriends who are cat-fighting over who will be godmother,” Mr Elwell said.

Only the genetic father’s name will appear on the birth certificate. “But we’re a family unit and that’s all that matters. Our children will know where they came from and who their father is when they are old enough to understand and we are determined to include their Indian heritage in their upbringing. My mother is already planning a mural of an Indian elephant for their room.”

[Link: Original Article]

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