Back to Page Authors: Yingyi Luo

Keywords: cross-border surrogacy, facilitators, human rights, surrogate mothers

Abstract: Cross-border commercial surrogacy, where Australians travel overseas to access reproduction through a surrogate mother, is an increasing phenomenon. This paper focuses on the role of Australian surrogacy facilitators, including lawyers, non-for-profit agents, fertility counsellors, who act as intermediaries managing cross-border surrogacy arrangements in Australia. It explores the extent to which surrogacy facilitators are concerned with human rights of surrogate mothers in developing countries. Commercial surrogacy is a matter that is often cast in the language of human rights. This paper will contribute to an in-depth understanding of the dynamics between surrogates, intended parents and surrogacy facilitators by adopting a human rights framework to inform data analysis. The purpose of this research is to inform debate and discussion on law reform related to surrogacy. This paper centres on interviews with surrogacy facilitators and non-participant observations in Australia to generate thick, empirical data about the fertility industry. The data showed that the process of facilitating surrogacy arrangements had prompted facilitators to form a view on human rights as they applied to their works. Although facilitators claimed that the right of surrogate mothers was taken into consideration, the researcher observed that the commercial surrogacy contracts described by these facilitators favoured the interests of intended parents with the baby acting as their unique selling point. The interests and needs of surrogate mothers were not prioritised in the views or actions of facilitators. The result was a commercial transaction that entailed the purchase, through cross-border surrogacy, of a child, as a commodity, by relative affluent intended parents from disadvantaged surrogate mothers through unfair contracts.