Support the end of International Surrogacy in Cambodia
Following a recent meeting between the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, Angela Corcoran and Justice Minister, Ang Vong Vathana the Cambodian Minister agreed to consider drafting the country’s first surrogacy legislation.
Surrogacy has become a booming industry in Cambodia since restrictions were introduced last year in other Asian countries including Thailand, Nepal and India. Cambodia is now the new hot spot destination for commercial surrogacy – with each surrogate child costing upwards of $30,000.
The practice, which has been described by some as “human trafficking,” potentially also facilitates legal exploitation of women and children. Internationally, both the European Union and the United Nations have adopted resolutions condemning surrogacy, highlighting how it undermines the human dignity of those involved.
We would like to call on the Australian Foreign Minister, Hon. Julie Bishop and the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia not to support the facilitation of international surrogacy arrangements in Cambodia.
International surrogacy refers to where a person or couple from outside the country commissions (often via a broker) a woman to carry and bear a child, who then permanently relinquishes the child to the commissioning person or couple. Surrogacy can be either altruistic or commercial.
Altruistic surrogacy is where the surrogate mother does not make a profit, but may be reimbursed for medical costs associated with the pregnancy. Altruistic surrogacy is legal to some extent in most Australian states and territories.
Commercial surrogacy is where payment is made to the surrogate mother that is beyond the recovery of medical costs and the surrogate mother makes a profit from the arrangement. Commercial surrogacy arrangements are illegal in Australian states and territories. However, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory allow international commercial surrogacy arrangements.
Surrogacy undoubtedly directly affects many Australians. Figures compiled by surrogacy agency, Families Through Surrogacy, show there more than 400 international surrogate births to Australians last year, including about 135 from Thailand and 70 from the United States.
Despite its increasing practice, surrogacy remains ethically and legally fraught. Recently, the House of Representatives standing committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, tabled its report: “Surrogacy Matters”, taking the position, “that even if a regulated system of commercial surrogacy could be implemented, the risk of exploitation of both surrogates and children remains significant. It, therefore, recommended among other things, that the practice of commercial surrogacy remain illegal in Australia.”
There is no question that commercial surrogacy puts the wellbeing of surrogate mothers and surrogate children at risk. Please sign this petition now to end the possible exploitation of women and children in Cambodia.
Commercial surrogacy uses the mother for her womb and then legally – and perhaps emotionally – set her aside. Disadvantaged women are particularly vulnerable to exploitation via financial inducements. This is one of the primary reasons we see commercial surrogacy booming in third world countries. It is hard to imagine with all the economic interest in surrogacy that the women involved are being cared for and protected from exploitation. The reality is, surrogacy provides a platform to exploit poor women many of whom are low-income singles mothers, migrants, unemployed, or women with limited choices about their future. This is one key reason many other jurisdictions have banned commercial surrogacy.
A woman from Phnom Penh, for example, was paid $10,000 to act as a surrogate for a foreign couple. She was then given an extra $1,000 after it was discovered she was carrying twins. Of this amount, she was expected to give 20% of her payment to the broker. This payment over the period of nine months equates to much less than the minimum wage.
Surrogacy also purposefully favours the rights of the commissioning parents. The child is treated more as a commodity, used in a trade agreement. When the Baby Gammy story was exposed in 2014, this ultimately led to the closure of international surrogacy in Thailand. Whilst the Australian High Court has cleared the commissioning parents of abandoning baby Gammy– this story highlighted the real risks of the rejection of the surrogate child. A child might be perceived to be imperfect in some way, if, for example, they had a disability or even perhaps were born the wrong sex.
Concerns could also be raised in relation to the negative psychological impact of surrogacy on the child as no evidence from longitudinal studies exists to demonstrate its safety. It is also arguable that the child in the womb and the surrogate mother, whilst perhaps not being the biological mother, often form a strong attachment or bond. Once the child is born nevertheless, the surrogate mother is expected to relinquish all parental rights to the commissioning couple. The surrogate mother's bond to the child, that was so important for the child’s development during the pregnancy, now becomes completely irrelevant. We know with children who are adopted, for example, many often wish to seek out their biological parent. International surrogacy arrangements do not allow the possibility for the child in the future to seek out information about their origins, which might even mean they have a number of parents including biological, gestational and adoptive parents.
Please sign this petition now and we will deliver your signatures at the end of the month to the Hon Julie Bishop and Ms Angela Corcoran, asking that the Australian government does not support increased moves towards international commercial surrogacy arrangements in Cambodia.
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Let’s not see another woman or baby put at risk: Support the end to International Surrogacy in Cambodia