*Pic: Rodney Croome with a congregation where he delivered a recent lesson ( TT here )

Rodney Croome’s recent statement questioning the legal requirement that altruistic surrogates be at least 25 years of age and have already given birth, exposes his poor judgement in commenting on matters about which he is ill informed – namely women’s rights and reproduction. ( http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-29/parents-of-tasmania27s-first-surrogate-baby-call-for-more-supp/6355392 )

The Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NorMAC) expressed their deep concern that these comments by Mr Croome reflect badly on his previous good work seeking equality for the LGBTI community.

The requirement to be 25 years of age or older under the Tasmanian Surrogacy Act 2012, is the minimum age requirement in several Australian jurisdictions. This protection is aimed at ensuring the mental, emotional and experiential maturity of participating in surrogacy. Mr Croome’s suggestion that the age of consent to surrogacy be lowered fails to recognise the possibility for exploitation or coercion of vulnerable young women.

Surrogacy contracts are not legally binding and the birth mother is the child’s legal mother until parenting orders are agreed to by all parties and processed through the courts.

This point highlights why women entering into surrogacy arrangements must have had their own children, this ensures full awareness of the biological and psychological attachment experienced during pregnancy and the challenges from loss and separation which may be experienced in giving up rights to a child as its natural birth mother.

Surrogacy is very risky for a woman’s health, assisted reproductive methods and drug treatments to ensure fertility and biological acceptance of a donor egg present huge risks for a woman’s body and could lead to health complications, not least of which is potential future infertility for the woman.

Global organisations, including the European Women’s Lobby, the Swedish Women’s Lobby, the French Assemblée des Femmes and the US Center for Bioethics and Culture have called for the abolition of surrogacy, which has been recognised as reproductive slavery. (https://collectifcorpfiles.wordpress.com/2015/01/surrogacy_hcch_feminists_english.pdf)

NorMAC recognises that surrogacy can be a form of exploitation, using a woman as a gestational vessel to grow another person’s child. If surrogacy is to occur, every possible protection must be in place to minimise potential exploitation of the surrogate. It is essential that the current legal requirements in the Tasmanian Surrogacy Act 2012 are retained.

Rodney Croome should retract his comments which questioned the legislative safety net for women in the Tasmanian Surrogacy Act 2012 and condemn any potential for coercion and exploitation of women through surrogacy agreements. It is in the interests of all parties to an altruistic surrogacy arrangement that the surrogate has personal experience of pregnancy and childbirth, and has children of her own to better ensure that surrogacy is a fully informed choice.

Like the sex industry, the pro-surrogacy lobby is out to reframe exploitation of women as labour, we must ensure we maintain legislative safeguards which protect against commercialised surrogacy which commodifies women’s bodies and children and promotes access to women’s reproductive capacity and bodies as an inalienable right.

*Matthew Holloway is an award winning freelance writer and social justice advocate from Tasmania, where he has stood for state and federal parliament and co-founded Tasmanians for Transparency. He has worked in a variety of social work and counselling roles and currently works with homeless social services in Hobart. Matt is also the co-founder and former director of NorMAC ‘The Nordic Model Australia Coalition’ (www.normac.og.au), A secular survivor directed peak body advocating the introduction of Nordic model legislation on prostitution. NorMAC is a proud member of TasCOSS (http://tascoss.org.au) and Stop The Traffik (http://www.stopthetraffik.org).