Archive

Archive for the ‘Felicity Marlowe’ Category

MCV – "Rainbow Families Win" by Rachel Cook

September 10, 2008 Leave a comment

The State Government introduced new laws on assisted reproductive treatment (ART) and surrogacy on Tuesday, which will bring Victoria into line with other states.

Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said in a media statement that “the overarching objective of the reforms was to protect the best interests of children born using such treatment”.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes and always have. We want to ensure that regardless of family structure, a child born through a surrogacy arrangement, to a single mother or to a same-sex couple receives the same legal protections as others.

“These reforms provide a legal framework for what is already occurring in the community,” Hulls said.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission, which recommended the changes, found that parental capacity was based on good parenting skills rather than relationship status or sexual orientation.

The new laws will ensure Victoria’s laws are compatible with Federal discrimination laws by providing that women can gain access to assisted reproductive treatment regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.

The laws will also ensure stronger legal protection for children by giving legal recognition to the commissioning parents in a surrogacy arrangement, or the female partner of a child’s mother.

The Rainbow Families Council, which represents the interests of same-sex parents and their children, has welcomed the new laws.

“This is a step towards law reform that recognises our children and families legally and socially,” said spokesperson Felicity Marlowe.

Although the legislation will be the subject of a conscience vote in the state parliament, Marlowe told MCV she is confident it will be passed.

“I think it will get through on the recommendations that this is in the best interest for children and families in Victoria,” she said.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Felicity Marlowe, IVF, Lesbian

MCV – "The fight for Fertility Rights" by Rachel Cook

Conservatives applaud MP’s free vote on lesbian and gay parenting.
New legislation regarding lesbians’ and single women’s access to assisted reproductive technology (ART) and surrogacy in Victoria will go to a Parliamentary conscience vote, it was announced this week.

If passed, the legislative changes (recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in June 2007 and accepted by the government in December 2007) would greatly benefit lesbians, gay men and single women who wish to become parents.

Premier Brumby’s announcement of a conscience vote, which will allow ALP politicians opposed to the issue to vote accordingly, has been welcomed by conservative lobby group the Australian Family Association (AFA).

“It [the conscience vote] was by no means expected,” AFA national spokesperson Angela Conway told MCV. “I hoped they would but didn’t expect them to; so this is excellent recognition of the gravity of the issue [which is] a serious moral issue for many people in the community.”

Conway expressed her concern over “the growing number of people who are conceived using donor gametes who say they have been abused because of the separation from their natural parents. You hear the testimony of these young people and it’s about the ethical situation of same-sex parents bringing children into existence this way.”

Felicity Marlowe, spokesperson for Victoria’s Rainbow Families Council, told MCV that Conway was misrepresenting the situation.
“I’ve met a lot of people who were conceived through donor gametes before the law changed, so they had no access to information about the donors, but the laws have changed. Since 1988, donors have had to consent to providing personal information.”

Marlowe said that there have been five years of thorough consultation into these issues, and advocates are now waiting to see the final Bill and how voting pans out.

“We are remaining optimistic and positive for our families,” she said. “We are very confident that the best interests and rights of our children will win over other issues that might get in the way.”

Speculation that pressure from conservative Christian elements of the Labor Party was behind the call for a conscience vote was dismissed by the ALP member for Prahran, Tony Lupton.

“The Labor Party has had a long-standing policy when legislation involves matters concerning the start of life or death; we have a conscience vote,” he said, adding that he is happy with the progression of the Bill so far.

“I support the legislation very strongly, and in fact I think the legislation should and will pass the Parliament regardless; there’s every chance many members will vote for it,” Lupton concluded.

Victorian Opposition Leader, Ted Baillieu, is also expected to allow his party a free vote, depending on the Bill’s details.

However, some politicians remain fixed in their views.

National Party MP Peter Hall, who voted against the Relationships Bill 2007, which allows same-sex and de facto couples to formally register their relationships, told MCV that he would not be voting to allow the changes in ART and surrogacy legislation.

“I’ve never supported that concept before and I don’t expect I will change my mind.” Hall said.

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Felicity Marlowe

SX – "Rights groups push for state parenting reforms"by Adam Bub and Rachel Cook

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby are calling for the New South Wales State Government to recognise same-sex families, after Premier Morris Iemma announced last week that his government would amend the Adoption Act to help foster carers, step-parents and other relatives adopt a child in their care.

Emily Gray, GLRL co-convenor, said that the government has shown no intention yet to extend these rights to same-sex parents. “It is an absurd state of affairs …when individual lesbians and gay men are eligible for adoption, but same-sex couples are not,” Gray said, in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, Premier John Brumby announced a conscience vote on state legislation regarding lesbians’ and single women’s access to artificial reproduction technology (ART) and surrogacy. Recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in June 2007 and accepted by the government in December 2007, the legislation would allow lesbians and gay men greater access to having children.

Felicity Marlowe, spokes-person for Victoria’s Rainbow Families Council, told SX that “we are very confident that the best interests and rights of our children will win over other issues that might get in the way.”

But some politicians have already vetoed the idea. Peter Hall, Nationals MP, told SX: “I’ve never supported that concept before and I don’t expect I will change my mind.”

[Link: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption, Felicity Marlowe

The Age – "Rainbow Children" by Peter Munro

September 6, 2007 Leave a comment


When a daddy and a daddy love each other very much … More gays and lesbians are becoming parents, despite the obstacles in their way. Peter Munro reports.

NEXT month Rodney Cruise will become a father for the second time without having had sex with a woman. By then, it will be nine months since his first child, Ethan, was born to a surrogate in the United States, and Cruise and partner Jeff Chiang together cut the umbilical cord. They flew home to Melbourne as a family when Ethan was 11 days old, and three days later Cruise successfully donated his sperm to a lesbian couple who are close friends of theirs and who are now expecting their first child in four weeks.

Cruise, 41, a patent attorney, came out as gay when he was 13, but it is his new role as a father that attracts attention. “We both wanted to be parents and didn’t see our sexuality as being a bar to that; it just complicated things,” he says.

They used a surrogacy agency in California at a total cost of about $150,000, including flights and accommodation and $35,000 for their surrogate Kelly, from Ohio. They plan to return to the US before Christmas to conceive another child by surrogacy.

That child will be Cruise’s third, one of a growing number of babies born of gay and lesbian parents. Victorian families with same-sex de facto partners and at least one child aged 18 or under grew by more than a third in the five years to the 2006 census. Across Australia, there were almost 2400 families with at least one gay or lesbian parent, a jump of about 26 per cent.

If anything, these figures grossly underestimate actual numbers of gay and lesbian families, many of which are not comfortable publicly divulging details of their sexuality. But they offer a good guide to the increasingly pink face of Australian families. The most startling jump in Victoria was in gay families with preschool children, with the number of declared same-sex families with children aged four or under more than doubling to 167.

Dr John McBain, director of Melbourne IVF and head of reproductive services at Royal Women’s Hospital, says there is a growing acceptance of same-sex families in the wider community. “I think the public is much more tolerant now of lesbian couples becoming parents,” he says. “People are far more aware that lesbian couples are loving couples in relationships as stable as heterosexual ones and that they make good parents.”

Shifting public perceptions have also favoured single women wanting to start a family. Surveys show that from 1993 to 2000, the number of people who approved of the use of donor sperm to help single women conceive more than doubled to 38 per cent. Almost a third supported the use of donor sperm by gay couples, compared with only 7 per cent in 1993.

Both groups of women have sought to start families through the Royal Women’s sperm storage bank, where sperm from known donors is screened for communicable diseases and frozen before it is available for self-insemination. Three months ago, the screening facility celebrated its first birth from one of the 15 women to have used the service, McBain says.

Seven years ago, McBain successfully challenged Victoria’s infertility laws on behalf of a 38-year-old animal shelter worker from Box Hill South, who had tried for eight years to conceive but was refused donor sperm because she was single. The 2000 Federal Court decision, upheld on appeal to the High Court, stripped out the requirement that women must be either married or in a solid de facto relationship to access assisted reproductive technology.

But such treatment is still limited in Victoria and South Australia, alone among the states and territories, to women who are medically infertile — effectively barring both lesbian and single women who function fine but don’t plan to test out their fertility with the opposite sex.

Lori, 34, and Libby, 32, a lesbian couple in western Victoria, are among a growing number of women who have had to cross the border to make a baby. In November, they will travel to Albury for their second shot at donor insemination for Libby, a horse midwife, at a clinic that is so busy it has closed its waiting list. Each attempt costs about $1500, not including the cost and inconvenience of having to stay interstate for several nights.

Lori, a part-time teacher at a Catholic primary school, who prefers not to reveal her surname, has a 10-year-old daughter from a former heterosexual relationship. She says that gays and lesbians, like the wider community, have become more accepting of parenthood.

“When I came out eight, nine years ago, there wasn’t a lot of support for lesbian mums. It was more like, ‘Why would you have a kid when you are gay?’ And I found it really hard to fight against that stereotype,” she says. “Now there are a lot more women who are saying that in a few years’ time they would like to have a kid.”

The couple have also advertised online for a donor, who they want to play an “uncle” role with limited contact, on Maybe Baby, one of several social groups for “rainbow families” — a mixture of homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders. They have had responses from a gay male who has previously donated sperm to two lesbian couples and a heterosexual man who says he would like to help.

They are not alone in pursuing parenthood online. On one website, a 30-something, non-smoking gay couple want to be co-parents and a 31-year-old lesbian with a nine-year-old son is on the lookout for a donor who is extremely fit, healthy and handsome. A gay couple in Perth want a woman to carry their child. And on the Queensland coast, a male bisexual wants to assist a single woman or lesbian couple, promising to help pay for the child’s rearing.

Other websites include forums with hints on DIY insemination, including the tip that women should avoid hot baths before and after they insert the syringe, and another on what name children should call their gay parents — Mum and Mumma? Dad and Pop?

The Rainbow Families Council, which was established last September, gives gay and lesbian parents the chance to meet offline as well. Felicity Marlowe, who co-ordinates the council’s Love Makes a Family campaign for legal reform, says the growing visibility of same-sex parents has made more gays and lesbians consider having their own children. “Sometimes you think every second person who is queer is having a child,” she says.

“We are seeing lots more requests from child-care centres and primary schools to look at how they can become more inclusive in their policies and their curriculum, because they are seeing more families with two mums or two dads.”

Schools in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs are particularly inclusive of the children of gay and lesbian families, she says. That might mean simply stocking library books that include same-sex parents among their characters or amending standard letters home to refer to parent/parent rather than mother/father.

It is a long way from the day in 2004 when then acting Prime Minister John Anderson publicly criticised the ABC for a Play School episode showing a young child visiting the zoo with her two mums. The Federal Government is yet to change its tune, with Prime Minister John Howard maintaining this year that having a mother and a father gave children “the best opportunity in life”.

Some sectors of the Australian public also maintain that children need a mother and father, preferably married. A spokeswoman for the Australian Family Association says: “Children need an involved, on the ground, in the house, father and mother. They don’t need other mothers, adopted mothers or other fathers.”

DISCRIMINATION was among the topics discussed at a symposium on same-sex parents for medical practitioners, healthcare workers and researchers at the University of Melbourne in June.

Dr Ruth McNair, a general practitioner specialising in lesbian and women’s health and a senior lecturer in the department of general practice at the university, says prejudice remains a potent issue for many same-sex parents. Men in particular face some opposition both from among the general public and from within the gay community, where they might be tagged with the derogatory term “breeders”.

“They are often faced with comments that lesbians would have got 20 years ago,” McNair says. “Comments like, ‘Why are you selling out to the mainstream, why don’t you just continue the gay lifestyle’.”

Such catcalls are gradually fading, though, says McNair, who is on maternity leave with her four-month-old son, Samuel, whom she parents with her lesbian partner. “There has been a huge change in the community in the past 20 years. If you look at the (Sydney) Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, the first group are always the Dykes on Bikes, but the second group is now mums with prams.”

In one sense, the debate has moved on, from discussions on the concept of gay and lesbian parents to a focus on their children as they grow older. A US study last year found that the adolescent offspring of same-sex parents did not differ from the children of heterosexual couplings in self-esteem, peer relationships, school adjustment, drug use or sexual experience. The only significant difference was that the teenagers of same-sex parents coped better with prejudice and bullying.

But in another sense, the debate has stayed the same. The Australian Family Association still argues that “there is bucketloads of research” showing that children need a mother and father.

This is despite the findings of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s final report into assisted reproductive technology and adoption, which was tabled in Parliament in June. The commission made 130 recommendations for updating Victoria’s infertility laws, including that people seeking to undergo treatment or to adopt must not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or be excluded on the grounds that they have no partner.

The commission also recommended that Victoria scrap its “clinical infertility” bar to treatment in favour of a simple test of whether a woman, in her circumstances, is unlikely to become pregnant by any other means. Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has sat on the report for several months, has promised to respond before the end of the year.

Cruise and Chiang first told the story of Ethan’s birth to The Age in April and on the same day they were stopped in the street by a woman who thanked them for showing that her own gay son might one day give her a grandchild. “When I was young, I always wanted to be a parent but I couldn’t see how it could happen. Now there is a sense within the gay community than we can have it too and why should we be denied it,” Cruise says.

“Most parents want to be grandparents one day and we look forward to the day when Ethan, whether gay or straight, becomes a dad as well.”

[Link: Original Article]

The Age – "The Gay Couple"


SARAH Marlowe gave birth to twins Callum and Rafi almost a year ago. Being clinically infertile, she was legally able to use IVF in Victoria.

Now her partner Felicity wants to have a baby. But the “problem” is that Felicity does not have a fertility problem,

which means she cannot legally access these services in this state.

Instead of going to the expense of travelling to a more permissive state, Felicity intends to use the sperm of a known donor and inseminate herself at home.

It’s not ideal, and she would prefer to be inseminated by a doctor at a clinic. The couple see a clinic as her best chance of getting pregnant, but legally she can’t do that unless the Government adopts the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations.

The pair say a bigger problem is the lack of legal recognition for Felicity as the twins’ legal parent. Under current laws only the biological mother can be on the birth certificate.

They welcomed yesterday’s recommendations giving both parents legal recognition. Felicity, speaking on behalf of the Rainbow Families Council, said the report reflected the reality

of diverse families. “At the moment it’s still in the climate of uncertainty and we’d love there to be some legal certainty as soon as possible.”

[Link: Original Article]

Northcote Leader – "Gay parents’ parity plea"

April 25, 2007 Leave a comment

LESBIANS across Darebin have made a desperate plea for the legal recognition of non-biological parents .

Their personal stories are included in a Victorian Law Reform Commission submission made to Attorney-General Rob Hulls last month.

Mr Hulls has until June 20 to table the report on Assisted Reproductive Technology and Adoption.

In its draft submissions, the commission recommends that the law be changed to recognise the birth mother’s female partner as a parent of the child. It also recommends same-sex couples have equal access to the technology and be legally entitled to engage surrogate mothers.

Women’s Health in the North deputy chair Susan Rennie said the organisation broadly supported the interim recommendations.

“Law reform will be beneficial to children born in these (same-sex) relationships because it will mean, at least from a legal point of view, that their families will cease to be considered differently to other families in the community,” she said.

Ms Rennie, a lesbian in a relationship with two children, said women did not seek medical help for fear of breaking the laws.

“If a woman thinks she is breaking the law by self-inseminating she might not consult her doctor and may be less inclined to ask a donor to undertake appropriate medical tests,” she said.

Preston couple Felicity and Sarah Marlowe were so concerned by the implication of the law that they started a lobby group, Love Makes a Family, in 2004.

“We started a campaign to mobilise the community around law reform; seeking legal and social recognition of rainbow families,” Felicity said.

They now have 170 members on their email list and have made a formal submission to the commission also broadly supporting the recommendations.

Other locals who made submissions include Northcote couple Vivien Ray and Robin Gregory; parents of a teenage daughter conceived by donor insemination.

“It would make a great difference to us if the non-biological parent could do a second parent adoption,” they said. “It would be such a relief after all these years to be legally recognised.”

Preston’s Sabdha Charlton says her partner Cristina Pink is six months pregnant with their first child. They feel strongly that the law should not differentiate between hetero and homosexual couples.

* Should same-sex couples be given the same legal rights as hetero couples? Write to the editor at http://www.northcoteleader.com.au

The Age – "Making babies for all" by Carol Nadar

March 31, 2007 Leave a comment


TO MAKE their first baby, Anna Russell and Sacha Petersen drove 3½ hours to cross the NSW border to Albury. Petersen lay on a table, and a nurse inseminated her with a donor’s sperm. Ten minutes later, what the couple call the “spermination” was complete. Blue-eyed baby Mabel was born 17 months ago.

Now Russell and Petersen are trying for a second child. The first donor is unavailable and the Albury clinic — traditionally the place where Victorian lesbians and single women go for fertility treatment — has all but run out of sperm donors. So the couple have shifted their hopes to Tasmania. Each month they fly to Launceston and leave Mabel with family there. Then they drive to Hobart, where Petersen receives treatment. They drive back to Launceston, pick up Mabel, and fly back to Melbourne. The couple have gone through this ritual five times, costing them about $5000 in airfares and treatment. But Petersen hasn’t fallen pregnant.

If their sixth attempt in May fails, Petersen can be declared “medically infertile” — that means that under Victoria’s labyrinthine laws governing reproductive treatment, she can receive IVF treatment in her own state for the first time.

“There’s no logic behind it that we can see,” Russell says. “The Federal Government is handing out money for straight people to have babies left, right and centre. The famous quote (by Treasurer Peter Costello) ‘one for you, one for your partner, and one for Australia’. You have a whole community wanting to do that.”

There is another anomaly. Victorian reproductive laws are the most restrictive in the country mainly because it was the most progressive state for infertility treatment in the early years. Victoria was one of the first places in the world to offer IVF, in which embryos are created using a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm then implanted into the woman. It was the first Australian state to legislate in 1984 when IVF was so new and so controversial that it was strictly controlled. The sole purpose of IVF then was to help infertile married couples have biological children.

The medical technology has always bumped up against community unease. Even de facto heterosexual couples were banned from using it until a decade ago and, although attitudes towards lesbians and single women having children have changed dramatically in a generation, such people remain excluded unless they are clinically infertile.

Soon, that might change. The Victorian Law Reform Commission has spent more than four years reviewing the state’s fertility legislation. Yesterday, it handed its final report to Attorney-General Rob Hulls, and its recommendations will be made public in coming weeks. In a draft report released in 2005, the commission indicated it would recommend that lesbian couples and single women be given the same access to fertility treatment as women in heterosexual relationships. That would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, when the notion of “social infertility” was unheard of.

Despite the rapidly changing definition of “family”, the debate about whether Victoria should, like most other states, make it easier for single women and lesbians to have children is likely to be emotional and intense. In a sign of the discomfort the issue arouses, the Bracks Government has so far avoided making its position clear.

What is clear is that the impact of the restrictions has been profound for Victorian women desperate for a child who have been forced to travel around the country for treatment. The phenomenon even has a name — “reproductive tourism”. Last year, the Albury clinic treated 44 women, of whom 30 were from Victoria. Thirteen were lesbians, 19 were single and eight were married. Victorian women also travel regularly to Canberra, Sydney, Hobart and Brisbane.

Those wanting change see the law as a mishmash of contradictions. For instance, for lesbians and single women, infertility can be a cause for celebration — they can have IVF treatment in Victoria. But fertile single women or lesbians, who do not have a male partner or who are unwilling to sleep with a man solely for the purpose of becoming pregnant, do not have access to reproductive help.

The anomaly is due to a court case six years ago. A single woman who could not conceive for medical reasons, Leesa Meldrum, and her doctor, Melbourne IVF director Dr John McBain, tested a ban on single women using IVF in the Federal Court. The court upheld their argument that state legislation contravened the federal Sex Discrimination Act. Since then, women can no longer be excluded based on marital status. But they still need to meet the requirement of infertility.

So women who are fertile have to be creative. They either ask a friend to provide the sperm and inseminate themselves at home, a practice some worry is unsafe. Or they travel interstate.

In the aftermath of the McBain case, Hulls asked the Law Reform Commission in 2002 to review the legislation. Its interim recommendations urged the Government to remove the infertility requirement and allow access for women who are “unlikely” to become pregnant without treatment. That would cover all women without a male partner.

The commission argued the law was unfair because it was applied unevenly — a single woman with a genetic abnormality that could be passed onto her child is eligible for treatment. A single woman of 45 may be eligible for treatment because her age has made her clinically infertile. But a single woman aged 35 who does not have clinical infertility cannot be treated. These distinctions, the report noted, “make no sense”. Nor did it believe that the marital status of a child’s parents was linked to the child’s health and welfare.

One heterosexual woman who spoke to The Age first explored the idea of having a baby when she was 40 but was ineligible because she was single. She is now 43 and pregnant, but only because tests proved she was medically infertile. Instead of celebrating her pregnancy, she lives in fear that she is going to have another miscarriage — her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage late last year. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life and then it’s not the journey it should have been,” she says. “I want to celebrate it, but you’re scared all the time. Your chances of doing it earlier are easier. You shouldn’t have to wait until you’re infertile and you have 50 million obstacles in front of you.”

There are other quirks caused by galloping technology. If a woman can find her own sperm donor, the Melbourne IVF clinic will screen and store the sperm for six months to make sure it is safe. She can then take it home and inseminate herself. The clinic can do all the tests but not the insemination. The aim is to reduce a woman’s vulnerability to HIV.

Alice Murray and her partner are trying to have a baby using this program. “Both my partner and I work full time and going to Sydney when you’re ovulating, which might be mid-week, is impractical from a work perspective,” she says. “If you’re working in a professional environment you can’t just drop everything and leave.”

The law may change to allow women to be inseminated in a clinic. But even if they could, some women might still choose to do it at home.

Dr Ruth McNair, a Melbourne University senior lecturer in general practice and a GP who specialises in gay and lesbian health, believes self-insemination is relatively safe. She says some women prefer the autonomy of doing it themselves. And some like the idea of giving gay men the opportunity of being parents, too. But if it isn’t clear where they all stand — or if feelings change after the birth — it can lead to problems later.

“The most fraught part of it is the medical risk of transmitting infection, and secondly the legal risk if they haven’t managed to make an adequate written negotiated contract,” McNair says.

Dr Deb Dempsey, a lecturer in sociology at Swinburne University, says the law needs to catch up with the complexity of people’s relationships. “Children deserve to be well supported and have legal recognition for the people that are actually parenting them,” she says.

Opponents of lesbians and single women having access to IVF argue that children are better off being part of a traditional family. In the storm following the McBain case, Prime Minister John Howard said: “Children are entitled to the opportunity of both a mother and a father.” His views were echoed by State Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, who said in the lead-up to the November state election: “My view is that IVF ought to be for heterosexual couples.”

When the Law Reform Commission released its interim report, Health Minister Tony Abbott blasted its “apparent dismissal of the traditional notion that children should ideally have male and female parents”.

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway says the priority should be the rights of the child. “Children do best in the context of family life, where their natural mother and father are involved in their day-to-day life and upbringing as their recognised parents, and preferably where that natural mother and father are married,” she says.

But the Law Reform Commission has reviewed the literature and does not believe this is the case. It says there is sound evidence that children born into families with non-biological parents or same-sex parents do at least as well as other children.

According to social researchers, there is scant evidence that children who are not raised by a father and mother in a traditional way are worse off than children who are.

Sarah Wise, the principal research fellow in children and parenting at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, says the research, predominantly from the United States, does not suggest that children’s wellbeing is at risk. Whether they’re raised by one parent or two, a heterosexual couple or a gay one, is less important than the quality of care,” she says.

“What matters most to children is the environment in which they grow up, the quality of the interactions they have with their care-givers and the security that they feel within those relationships.”

What may be harmful to children is the lack of legal recognition given to the non-birth mother in a lesbian relationship. The non-biological, or “social” mother, does not have the right to be on the child’s birth certificate and is not recognised as the legal parent in Victoria.

However, in another anomaly, if a heterosexual couple uses donor sperm to have a child, the woman’s male partner is on the birth certificate.

The Law Reform Commission has suggested the non-birth mother deserves legal recognition and should appear on the birth certificate alongside the birth mother. Acting chairman Dr Iain Ross says if the birth mother dies , there is legal ambiguity about the rights and obligations of the surviving partner and it would be possible that the child could become a ward of the state. Then there are issues to do with inheritance and being able to consent to medical treatment and sign school forms.

“At worst, you’ve got a position where someone who was for all intents and purposes the parent of the children does not have any legal rights,” Ross says. “They’re not recognised as the parent and would have to seek some sort of legal intervention.”

Robyn Hamilton and Helen Grutzner want this legal recognition. They have a four-year-old daughter, Harper, who was conceived in a Sydney clinic. They believe the non-birth mother, Hamilton, should automatically be considered a legal parent from birth. Their only recourse was to go to the Family Court to get a parenting order that gives her limited recognition of responsibility but doesn’t give her legal status as a parent.

Anyone can apply for such an order — a grandparent, relative, even a friend. The order enables non-biological mothers to make some day-to-day decisions. But if anything were to happen to Grutzner, Hamilton would not necessarily get custody of Harper. That would depend on the good will of the court.

“It has an undermining impact on us as a family, in that we don’t have that legal recognition and protection that other families do,” says Grutzner.

Felicity and Sarah Marlowe are in a similar position, although they have not yet applied for a parenting order. Sarah Marlowe is medically infertile and can legally have IVF in Victoria. Her partner can’t. Marlowe had twins Callum and Rafi, who are nine months old. As the birth mother, only her name is on the birth certificates. Even though the couple went through the process of having children together, Felicity Marlowe has no legal rights. She could walk away from the relationship and not be obligated to pay child support. If Sarah Marlowe ended the relationship, her partner may never see the twins again.

Meanwhile, for the women who are still trying to have a baby, the frustration and sense of grievance lingers. “We have a good house in the suburbs,” says Alice Murray.

“We can afford to send our kids to good schools, we earn good money, we’re in the best position to be parents, we want it more than a lot of people and there are roadblocks in the way.”

Anna Russell and Sacha Petersen are creating story books for their children to explain how they were conceived. They’ve made one for Mabel, detailing how the couple met, fell in love and knew they wanted to have babies together.

But, the story goes, to have babies, you need an egg and sperm — but “mum” and “muma” are both girls who only have eggs. So they got into their little blue car and drove to a place called Albury, where a kind man supplied the sperm.

Mabel will know her story from the start. But more importantly, says Russell: “Our children will know that they’re the most wanted children, because we had to go all over Australia to create them.”

Carol Nader is The Age health editor.

[Link: Original Article]