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Why Australia prohibits commercial surrogacy

Commercial surrogacy can lead to exploitation of surrogates, children and commissioning parents.

Australian states and territories prohibit commercial surrogacy in Australia to protect the rights of each of the people involved in a surrogacy arrangement.


There is a growing body of evidence

There is a growing body of evidence that commercial surrogacy can lead to exploitation of women and children, and focusses on the commissioning parents' wishes rather than the best interests of the child.

Examples of issues that have arisen in commercial surrogacy arrangements can be found on Issues that have arisen from engaging in surrogacy overseas.

Both the Australian Parliament

Both the Australian Parliament and the United Nations (UN) have published reports on the issues, concerns and human rights risks that have arisen from commercial surrogacy.

Australian Parliament Reports

From December 2015 to May 2016, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs conducted an inquiry into the regulation and legal aspects of international and domestic surrogacy arrangements. The Committee's 2016 final report Surrogacy Matters included the following:

  • the recommendation that 'the practice of commercial surrogacy remain illegal in Australia' (Recommendation 1).
  • the conclusion that even if commercial surrogacy was legal and regulated in Australia 'the risk of exploitation of both surrogates and children remains significant' (p6).

United Nations Reports

In its 2019 report Families in a Changing World, UN Women noted:

  • 'the complex legal and ethical issues raised' by surrogacy, and that 'as the debate continues, the market for commercial reproductive surrogacy remains subject to a patchwork of discordant national rules and is rife with the potential for the abuse of the women who work within it' (p96).
  • that surrogacy can 'reinforce socio-economic inequalities: it is invariably women from the poorer social groups in developing countries who enter international commercial surrogacy arrangements to bear children for those from the more affluent countries and groups who are unable or unwilling to do so themselves' (p36).

The UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children has previously provided reports on surrogacy and sale of children:

  • A 2018 Thematic study on surrogacy and sale of children presented to the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council noted:
    • 'commercial surrogacy as currently practised usually constitutes sale of children under international human rights law' (p12).
    • 'it is recognized that there is no "right to a child" under international law. A child is not a good or service that the State can guarantee or provide, but rather a rights-bearing human being' (p15).
  • A 2019 Thematic study on safeguards for the protection of the rights of children born from surrogacy arrangements presented to the UN General Assembly restated the themes in the 2018 report and also noted:
    • 'the real threat of exploitation and commodification of children, and potentially of surrogates, is often related to the role of intermediaries. In general, this is due to the for-profit motives of private intermediaries, who have, as a guiding motive, the successful completion of the surrogacy agreement with little to no regard for the rights of those involved' (p.16).

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has consistently expressed concern that commercial surrogacy, if not properly regulated, can lead to the sale of children. E.g. see the Committee's concluding observations on reports submitted by:

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