THE topics of pregnancy, surrogacy and the law took centre stage at a LGBTI community forum hosted by a panel of experts from the medical and legal fields in Brisbane earlier this month.

The panel was made up of representatives from several fertility, law and mental health groups, discussing a variety of aspects for the LGBTI community in having a child, including surrogacy, anonymous or known egg and sperm donation and recognition of parental naming and rights.

Speakers included two members from the Queensland Fertility Group, founder and fertility specialist Dr Warren DeAmbrosis and psychologist and senior fertility counsellor, Michael Condon, along with organiser Stephen Page from Harrington Family Lawyers.

Following advice from a colleague, Page decided that there was a need for a community forum about the topic of having a baby and surrogacy to keep the LGBTI community up to date on the current state of Queensland and Australian law.

According to Page, recent patterns that he has observed within the LGBTI community indicated that there was a significant amount of gay couples that were still undertaking international surrogacy arrangements despite the legal implications.

“There are still a large number of intended parents who continue to undertake surrogacy overseas, often not knowing that what they are doing is against the law, and sometimes willing to take the risk,” Page told the Star Observer.

Attendees from various sectors of the community attended the forum including gay and lesbian couples, along with some straight couples and single people.

A point raised during the forum pointed towards the advancements and progressive nature of surrogacy laws in Canada, with some suggesting that Australian couples consider perusing their baby plans there.

“One of the interesting developments is that surrogacy is available in Canada, for less than that in the US (slightly more than Thailand), and most significantly is legal, because surrogacy in Canada is altruistic surrogacy, not commercial, so going there should not involve committing a criminal offence,” Page said.

It is currently against the law in Queensland for anyone to enter into commerial/non-alturistic surrogacy arrangements.

Plans to prohibit LGBTI, non-de facto couples and singles from entering into surrogacy arrangements were also “quietly shelved” last year.

“It would appear a year after the event that the (Queensland Government) is not going to press the issue of banning surrogacy for gay and lesbian couples and singles after all — a good thing,” Page said.

“The Federal Government received a report last December by the Family Law Council about the Family Law Act and surrogacy. The report has not been released, nor do we have the benefit of the Federal Government’s views.

“Currently NSW and WA are reviewing their laws concerning surrogacy, and the National Health and Medical Research Council is reviewing the licensing requirements of IVF clinics, which impact in turn on surrogacy. It will be interesting to see where these reviews head.”

Page had some advice for some members of the LGBTI community who were considering local surrogacy arrangements.

“What has been most concerning [of late] are the badly-planned known donor arrangements, typically involving a gay guy and a lesbian couple, which when they fall apart leads to a trainwreck in court,” Page said.

“Known donor arrangements can be high risk as there are few legal protections. My view is generally to avoid them.”

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