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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2569 ..


MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (10.37): I ask for leave to present the Artificial Conception (Amendment) Bill 1996.

Leave granted.

MRS CARNELL: Thank you. I present the Artificial Conception (Amendment) Bill 1996.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, this Bill enables the genetic parents of a child who has been born as a result of a surrogacy agreement to become the lawful parents of their own child. It enables them to apply to the court for a parentage order. A parentage order has the effect of making them the legal parents of the child. Without this amendment, the law says that the woman who gives birth to a child and her husband are the legal parents of that child. It says that the commissioning parents have no legal claim to that child, despite the fact that they are the genetic parents. You can understand why the parents of baby Jessica, who was born on 7 August as a result of a surrogacy arrangement, are anxious to have their legal position clarified. They do not want any doubt that they are Jessica's legal parents.

By way of background, members will recall that the Substitute Parent Agreements Act 1994 prohibits commercial surrogacy agreements. It also prevents facilitation of pregnancy for the purpose of commercial surrogacy. However, it does not prohibit non-commercial agreements or the facilitation of pregnancy where there is a non-commercial agreement. As a result, doctors at the IVF clinic at John James Hospital have been assisting those who are infertile and they have developed a surrogacy program. This program involves facilitating the pregnancy of the birth mother through IVF where the genetic material has been totally donated by another couple - that is, the genetic parents. The genetic parents must be unable to conceive or bear their own child.

To reiterate, the aim of this Bill is for the child to become legally the child of the genetic parents. As the law stands, however, it is difficult for the genetic parents to become the legal parents of the child. It seems to me illogical that non-commercial surrogacy is legal but when the baby arrives it does not belong, at least in law, to the genetic parents. In effect, there are legal barriers preventing people from engaging in a legal activity. These difficulties start with the Artificial Conception Act. That Act provides that, where a woman gives birth to a child as a result of artificial conception, which includes IVF, she and her spouse are presumed conclusively at law to be the parents of the child.

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