For the past few months, there has been a growing demand for the federal government to end the exclusion of surrogacy arrangements from Medicare rebates. Surrogacy is defined as an arrangement whereby a woman (the surrogate) carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of another person or couple (the intended parents). Under Australian law, altruistic surrogacy is the only legally recognised arrangement. This means that a surrogate does not receive financial compensation or personal advantage from the intended parents for their services. The intended parents may provide compensation for any medical or legal costs directly associated with the pregnancy, including (but not limited to) medical appointments, prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing.
Why is surrogacy excluded?
In order for a woman to be eligible to receive Medicare subsidies for assisted reproductive technology procedures, a treating doctor must declare the procedure to be medically necessary. Since surrogates carry and give birth to children on behalf of the intended parents, these arrangements are viewed as a favour rather than a medical necessity. This can place a huge financial burden on the intended parents.
This exclusion disproportionately impacts some members of the population, such as LGBTIQA+ people, who often need to rely upon surrogacy to realise their dreams of having children. It is worth noting that there has been acknowledgement of these additional barriers for intended parents and in a May 2023 report published by the Senate Inquiry into Universal Access to Reproductive Healthcare, the committee acknowledged that “current practices and standards in the healthcare industry can be unaffirming and exclusionary for LGBTIQA+ people.” Additionally, the committee acknowledged that large cohorts within Australia had been overlooked, underrepresented or underfunded, and suggested that the government should consider improving access for a range of individuals who are currently excluded from receiving Medicare subsidised reproductive healthcare benefits.
What is next?
LGBTIQA+ advocates have welcomed the committee’s recommendations for equal access to reproductive healthcare. There has been government support for the removal of the surrogacy exclusion, and spokespeople for this cause have said that lobbying is now required to ensure that the Senate’s recommendations become a reality.
Such an investment by the government would have a significant impact on people pursuing surrogacy, offering them the support they need to overcome the financial hurdles preventing them from starting a family of their own. Moreover, it would create a vital lifeline for those who have exhausted other avenues of assisted reproductive technologies.
If you are thinking of starting or growing your family through surrogacy, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 03 9670 4122 to arrange an initial consultation.