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Title: Our Communities: The Surrogacy Dilemma Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 1st April 2016 - 8:42am1459453320 Article: 18120 Rights
 
One recent New Zealand news item referred to two New Zealand gay men whose experience of Mexican surrogacy arrangements has become a nightmare. So, let's summarise the case and the current New Zealand legal context awaiting gay men who want to become parents through this avenue. When it comes to parenting, lesbians and gay men can go about it several ways. Maori and Pasifika lesbians and gay men may acquire tamariki and rangitahi as a result of the death, illness or incapacity of their birth parents within their whanau or aiga and undertake parental obligations and responsibilities as a result of their understandings of whanau and aiga through the avenue of whangai adoption- which is unofficial and which should be recognised within the framework of adoption law, however-but isn't, because the current Adoption Act was written back in 1955. Lesbians or gay men may have custody of children from any previous straight marriage they undertook. If they marry or are in a de facto relationship, the rights of their partner as coparent are recognised. Civil union partners are an anomaly in this area, as Kevin Hague recently noted. Lesbians may use access to in vitro fertilisation, although some straight male sperm donors refuse to let their gametes be used to start lesbian or single women's families. Under the Care of Children Act 2004, their partners are recognised as co-parents. For gay men, though, the avenue of assisted reproductive technology is somewhat more difficult. Unless one of the partners is a transman who hasn't had a hysterectomy, cis/cis gay couples can't rely on partner pregnancies in this context. In my own case, I became a co-dad ten years ago because Jeff, my partner, was the custodial dad of Nat, our daughter, from his previous marriage to Karen. I suspect that adoption of biological parents children is probably the easiest way for gay men to become parents, and according to New Zealand adoption statistics, most adoptions are co-parental today, whether within the context of straight, lesbian or gay blended/stepfamilies. But what if you've never been in a previous straight relationship? This is the plight currently facing Nicky and David Beard, two Auckland gay men who decided to sidestep the long, painstaking road of stranger adoption, given that few babies are available to adopt through that avenue, regardless of sexual orientation. Instead, the couple tried the surrogacy route instead. So, what does this involve and why couldn't they have used a New Zealand surrogate mother? What is the legal status of surrogacy within New Zealand? According to Dr Richard Fisher from Auckland's Fertility Associates, paid surrogacy is illegal in New Zealand, although altruistic surrogacy isn't. The sperm must come from the commissioning couple, and those intent on the process must also go through an Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology oversight procedure. The ECART will examine the medical and social histories of the individuals involved as well as legal advice available to the participants in this context. There are apparently limited numbers of women who want to be altruistic surrogates in New Zealand. According to Fisher, only nine to ten surrogacy cycles occurred in the New Zealand context (2009/2010). Given the illegality of commercial surrogacy, reimbursement for time off work or prenatal pregnancy care options cannot be funded. This may lead affluent gay men and straight couples to contemplate overseas surrogacy as a pathway to parenthood. Unfortunately, internationalised commercial surrogacy can be highly exploitative. This used to be the case in India and Thailand, in which surrogate mothers were subjected to close confinement and imprisonment by unscrupulous agencies, which sometimes neglected to oversee adequate prenatal and antenatal care despite being paid to do so by the commissioning straight or gay couple. As a consequence, Thailand and India have cracked down on overseas surrogacy contracts- which has also meant conservative restrictions on eligible relationships have also been made. They are now largely limited to straight married couples. Mexico does not have such restrictions, but this also means that surrogacy agencies have not been subject to any regulation whatsoever. David and Nicky found this out the hard way when their Mexican surrogacy agency absconded with the men's money and left the two surrogate mothers to fend for themselves when one of them went into premature labour and gave birth. As a consequence, the two men are now stuck in Mexico, trying to get their newborn infant children back to New Zealand with New Zealand passports and proof of their paternity. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade regrets the situation, but says that it cannot assist as this is a private commercial affair between two contracting international parties. Nor are they the only gay couple facing this nightmare- two European and American gay men, Manuel Valero and Gordon Lake (41) are facing an identical situation, albeit this time in Thailand, against a Thai woman who reneged on the surrogacy contract after she learned both men were gay. The question is whether international surrogacy is worth it. One feels for David and Nicky, but their plight is the consequence of the foreclosure or inadequacy of current parenting options for gay men other than co-parent adoption. Something needs to be done about this. Recommended: Dr Richard Fisher: "Surrogacy"Oh Baby!: http://www.ohbaby.co.nz/ conception/surrogacy/ Nicole Lawton and Anne Burns-Francis: "Surrogacy company denies assistance to Kiwi couple in triplings row"Stuff.co.nz:28.03.2016:http://www.stuf f.co.nz/life-style/parenting/ baby/78310750/surrogacy- company-denies-help-to-kiwi- couple-in-triplings-row "Surrogacy costly for New Zealand couple"Mexico News Daily:29.03.2016:http:// mexiconewsdaily.com/news/ surrogacy-costly-new-zealand- couple/ "Gay couples lives destroyed by surrogacy battle" New Zealand Herald (31.03.2016):http://www. nzherald.co.nz/world/news/ article. cfm?c_id=2  
 
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