The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference says it would be “intolerable” to allow the development of a commercial surrogacy industry in Australia because of the “moral dilemmas” surrounding the practice.
The bishops acknowledged the pain and sadness couples face when they cannot have children because of infertility or the inability to carry a child to full term, but pointed out surrogacy can transfer sadness from the infertile couple to the surrogate mother.
The bishops’ comments were made in a submission from the Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, which is holding an inquiry into surrogacy.
“Surrogacy is not undertaken with the priorities and interests of the child in mind, but rather the interests of the adults who want a child,” said bishops' delegate for life issues, Bishop Peter Comensoli.
The bishops have raised concerns that as many as 250 Australian citizenship applications are made each year for babies born overseas via commercial surrogacy arrangements.
ACBC public policy director Jeremy Stuparich told The Australian that better safeguards were needed to protect children born overseas through surrogacy arrangements and to ensure that those bringing babies to Australia were appropriate parents.
“Any safeguards would be better than what we’ve got,” Mr Stuparich said. “There is currently no practical limit on people going overseas to hire a surrogate to produce a baby.”
In December, Attorney-General George Brandis asked the House of Representatives committee on social policy and legal affairs to inquire into international and domestic surrogacy arrangements.
The inquiry, due to report by June 30, will examine whether international commercial surrogacy arrangements should be banned but the practice allowed in Australia, in an effort to better protect vulnerable women and children.
This follows international outrage over the case of baby Gammy, who has Down syndrome and was left in Thailand by his West Australian parents.
In its submission, the ACBC argues that both commercial and altruistic surrogacy arrangements are “inherently flawed” and undermine human dignity.
“Given the manifest offences of this practice against the well-being of women and children, it would be intolerable to argue harm minimisation to allow the development of a commercial surrogacy industry in Australia,” it says.