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Child trafficking row after surrogate baby 'abandoned' in India

13 October 2014
Appeared in BioNews 775

Reports of another surrogate-born baby abandoned in India by an Australian couple have further ignited the debate on international surrogacy in the wake of the 'Baby Gammy' case (reported in BioNews 765).

The latest case, which dates back to 2012 and was recently uncovered by ABC news, involves twins born in India following surrogacy to Australian intended parents. However, following their birth Australian consular officials in New Delhi had to find a home for one of the twins after the couple reportedly said that they only wanted one of the children because they already had a child of the same sex.

Speaking to ABC news about the High Commission's knowledge of the case, the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant, said that the incident demonstrates the need for a national inquiry into surrogacy.

Chief Justice Bryant explained that she had been told that a person who claimed to be a friend of the Australian couple had took the unwanted child, but that officials had feared that money may have exchanged hands. If that was true, she said, it could amount to human trafficking.

'The whole issue of surrogacy is greatly concerning, especially when there are circumstances where the parents can choose the sex of the child and so we are commodifying children,' she said.

Chief Justice Bryant also said that it appeared there was pressure from Australia to grant the couple a visa to return one baby, after it had been delayed while officials tried to persuade the couple to bring both children home.

Also campaigning for an inquiry into international commercial surrogacy is the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, John Pascoe. He described the practice as the 'new frontline in human trafficking'.

Speaking also to ABC news, Chief Judge Pascoe said: 'We have enough anecdotal evidence to believe that people are commissioning children willy-nilly without any proper protections for the children or the surrogate mothers.'

'I find it almost unbelievable that Australians would be choosing a child on the basis of sex,' he added.

Australia's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has also commented on the case, saying: 'It's always distressing to think that a child has been brought into the world and then abandoned.'

Some commentators are concerned with what appears to be an increasing number of children being brought into Australia following international surrogacy arrangements. Labor's shadow parliamentary secretary Graham Perrett, who has joined calls an inquiry, urged for empirical data to be gathered.

'The reality is we've had 800 babies come into Australia in the last five years', Mr Perrett said. 'My understanding is those numbers are ramping up. There's certainly been a suggestion put to me that in some ways this can almost be child trafficking'.

Perrett also said best practice for children, parents and surrogates needs to be worked out after a close examination of the issues involved, including the valid consent of surrogates.

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