A seminar on overseas surrogacy will be held next week with experts offering advice on the potential problems couples and singles can face if looking at overseas options to start a family.

The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) — who will host the Eyes Wide Open: Cross-Border Reproductive Care seminar on April 13 — say hundreds of Australian couples and singles travel abroad to create a family but not all are equipped with the appropriate information or know the right questions to ask when entering into complex legal arrangements.

VARTA CEO Louise Johnson told the Star Observer the seminar is about providing information to the growing number of couples looking at overseas reproductive options.

“One of the messages we’d like to convey through this seminar is surrogacy arrangements are complex and when you add overseas arrangements into the decision-making, it’s even more complex,” she said.

“It’s important to seek the advice you need to make a good decision and there are implications for children born too.”
Johnson said when people enter into complex arrangements, such as surrogacy, they need to be fully aware of the implications.

“We’re aware that some people haven’t sought counselling or legal advice before entering overseas surrogacy arrangements and that … increases the risk of things going wrong.”

The seminar will focus on surrogacy in India where guidelines — yet to be passed — have been developed to better regulate the use of assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy arrangements.

The man responsible for developing the regulations, Dr R S Sharma, will address the seminar to discuss the implications of India’s proposed changes.

The Star Observer attempted to speak to Sharma before he arrived in Australia but poor phone lines made it almost impossible.

“We’re trying to see both the health of the surrogate mother and the benefit of the couple [with surrogate arrangements] implemented properly,” Sharma told the Star Observer.

Concerns have been raised that the regulations will close the door to gay couples using Indian surrogates.

There is no legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships in India.

The seminar will also feature infertility network ACCESS Australia chief executive Sandra Dill.

info: The seminar will be held on Wednesday, April 13, 5.30–7.30pm, Level 12, 469 La Trobe St, Melbourne. To register, visit www.varta.org.au or call 03 8601 5250 for more information.

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