Don’t repeat what happened to us
On March 5 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs held a roundtable on surrogacy. Myf Cummerford was conceived in 1980 using an anonymous sperm donor, part of the AI program at the Royal Woman’s Hospital. She wants the committee to consider the experience of herself and thousands like her.
I’m a donor conceived person and a mother.
The sperm used to conceive me was sold for $20 in 1977. My parents didn’t just bring me home from the hospital, they bought me from the hospital.
While it might make us feel better to pay Australian women for their wombs and reproductive capacity instead of disadvantaged women overseas, it is no less exploitative. The only difference will be that the economic, social and psychological circumstances that lead an Australian woman to offer herself to the surrogacy market will be much less visible.
We are not paying a woman for her time and inconvenience. We are paying her first and foremost for the child; the risk that she undertakes and the effects on her physical and mental health are secondary issues.
There is a good reason prostitutes don’t have sex with strangers for free. And there is a good reason few women are prepared to be altruistic surrogates.
Compensation acts as the primary incentive for the woman to engage in providing a product for the consumer, however the true price of that product can never be paid or valued in monetary terms. The long term, omnipresent (often quiet and unacknowledged) subsequent loss incurred is borne not only by the woman but her existing family and ultimately the innocent child she delivers.
Why are we rewarding the people who choose to break the current domestic law by exploring permitting and regulating commercial surrogacy here?
If the only real answer to that question is because people are going to do it anyway then we should also legalise human trafficking, slavery, child prostitution and all the other practices that commodify human beings and their bodies. No one is going to die because they don’t get the baby they want, but someone might if they do, indeed they already have.
It’s entirely possible that by opening up a commercial surrogacy market here the overseas market will respond by cutting the cost of using a surrogate there. Which will do nothing to stop people using “cheap” surrogates and only make it even worse for those women (and their families). Let alone what that would mean for the child created.
We should not be sanitising this practice, we should be sanctioning it. I’m sure the exponents of commercial surrogacy attending the roundtable (Committee’s report and transcripts) discussion today will make a florid, superficially reasonable case for permitting commercial surrogacy in Australia. I sincerely hope you don’t listen to them.
Myf’s bio: In 2001 after being told of my DC status I searched for my donor and was ultimately successful in meeting him (and establishing an ongoing relationship) thanks to an article in The Australian newspaper. I have been actively involved in advocacy in this area for 14 years, primarily for the people created via these practices but also donors, surrogates and parents because their interests are also being exploited. I’m an atheist, feminist, democratic socialist, human rights and equality supporting realist who is just yet to hear an argument convincing me any of this is a good idea.
The 2015 National Conference for Donor Conceived People will be held in Melbourne June 27. More details.
‘Misconceptions’, Sarah Dingle, Good Weekend (photo SMH)
‘Mother Erasure: How the global surrogacy industry discards birth mothers’, MTR, The Age, Sun Herald
‘Donor kids must not be forgotten’, MTR, Sunday Herald Sun
‘Surrogacy, Reproductive Prostitution and Child Trafficking’, Kajsa Ekis Ekman, MTR