Rowena Doris

Commercial surrogacy won’t prevent another “Baby Gammy” situation

Image: AAP

Replying to Susannah McDonald’s article about commercial surrogacy, Rowena Doris jumps into the fray in the name of preventing further the exploitation of women’s bodies.


After reading Susannah McDonald’s piece in support of commercial surrogacy in Australia I had to stop myself holy rolling off my moral high chair.

First up, McDonald questions whether Australia’s laws to make commercial surrogacy a criminal offence can be partially blamed for the recent baby Gammy “atrocity”. In a word: no. It’s not the government’s fault, but it’s the same hollow argument I’ve heard some people fly in support of same-sex marriage. The assumption being that if same-sex marriage was legal, then less gay people would commit suicide. So, we blame others when someone jumps off a cliff?

The next point McDonald raises is that those wanting a child who don’t have friends or family willing to volunteer their womb must instead resort to going overseas and pay someone to be a surrogate. In other words, exploiting women in low socio-economic circumstances who are desperate and “willing” to be exploited by spoilt, rich folk who rationalise that they’re helping poorer women to have a better life. N.I.M.B.Y. Case in point: what happened with baby Gammy is why we should proceed no further.

“If it is legal for a man or woman to go into a brothel and pay for the use of someone’s body for an allocated time, then isn’t a barren couple entitled the right to pay someone to carry and birth their child?” McDonald asks. “To have the same right as any man or woman – in a brothel – wanting to have a little fun,” she writes. Fun?! Have you ever worked in a brothel or as a sex worker, Ms McDonald? Neither have I, and I don’t think it would be much chop once the novelty wears off. I have never thought being pregnant or giving birth was much fun either… and imagine how fun it would be to go through that process for nine months @ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week –  only to hand the newborn baby over to paying strangers.

It gets murkier. McDonald questions our willingness to segregate a group of people based on the fact that a woman’s uterus cannot carry a child and then throws drug addicts and sex offenders into the equation. She argues that according to Australia’s surrogacy laws, any woman with a functioning uterus, whether a criminal or of no fit state to bring up a child, is deemed more suitable to become a mother than a couple unable to produce a child.

Since when is it the government’s (or anybody else’s) fault whether or not a woman’s uterus can produce a child? Who exactly is segregating women based on their ability to bear a child… other than the woman’s own body? Men are also segregated in this equation. As for drug addicts or sex offenders being “deemed” more suitable to become a parent, that is more a case of biological determination than anyone else willing that to happen. We don’t legislate against consenting adults having sexual relations with each other and this includes scenarios where a woman falls pregnant in the process.

“Is Australia not stable enough to provide a safe and secure environment for its citizens to fulfill their dreams of becoming parents?” McDonald asks. Well, before surrogacy became the latest lifestyle option, people who dreamed of having a child (or children), but could not, simply lived with that fact. The same way people dream of meeting a life partner, but never do and die with a lonely heart. The same way people wish they lived on a farm, had fifty million dollars, owned an apartment in every far-flung place on earth or simply had something tastier to eat than another boring bowl of rice for the week.

We all dream, we do, but that does not mean we are entitled to exploit others whose lives are economically more miserable than our own to make our dreams come true. Please, let’s not legislate to exploit women’s bodies any further. I applaud Thailand for cracking down on commercial surrogacy and ending it.

Rowena Doris

Rowena is on the last leg of uni studies in history, politics, writing and criminal justice. She's a mother of three, lives north of Sydney Harbour Bridge and tweets when she has spare time to browse or an axe to grind. Rowena is available for writing or editing copy in a limited (from home) capacity and can be contacted via [email protected] or her Twitter handle.

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  1. Guest said:

    If the Cam supporting Susannah McDonald is her husband, it would be good if he acknowledged his bias.

  2. Guest said:

    Susannah McDonald’s husband is named Cam. Wonder if this is the same Cam?

  3. Jenny! said:

    I don’t see how this article teared down the other writers article? I read both. They are both great just different views? No need to feel personal 🙂 Both great articles guys! Made me think!!

  4. Cam said:

    Fair enough. Hopefully you don’t need to tear down your opposition next time in order to establish your own opinion.

  5. rowenadoris said:

    To be sure, I do not support commercial surrogacy at all, anywhere.

  6. Cam said:

    I’ve just read both your article and Ms McDonald’s article. Here’s my thoughts:

    1. Surely making commercial surrogacy available in first world nations such as Australia would allow for ALL parties involved to ensure that NO exploitation takes place in any way. Ms McDonald argued that surrogacy should be made legal in Australia for exactly the same reason that you argued it should remain illegal! Namely, so that no parties are exploited in the process.

    2. The controversy surrounding the Gammy case revolves around the exploitation of the Thai mother, ONLY from the point of view that the Australian parents had LEFT THEIR CHILD with the surrogate mother after finding out that Gammy had Down Syndrome. On this basis, a seemingly unregulated commercial surrogacy industry which facilitates atrocities such as this should be shut down, or at very least heavily regulated. At this point, I agree with you.

    3. To assume that the same thing would happen if commercial surrogacy was made legal in Australia is ridiculous. What happened with Gammy is the EXACT reason why surrogacy should be legal in Australia. If this were to be so, all parties would be protected by legislation, thereby avoiding a situation like the Gammy case from ever taking place.

    4. You said “Since when is it the government’s (or anybody else’s) fault whether or not a woman’s uterus can produce a child?” In her article, Ms McDonald never argued that it is the governments fault if a woman cannot produce a child. My understanding was that she argued that the government are denying Australians the ability to utilise surrogacy as a means to that end, thereby forcing them offshore into unsafe, unstable environments. You seemed to agree this is also not the way to go.

    To me it seems as though you and Ms McDonald (at least in part) are both on the same team.

  7. pvern said:

    surrogacy is never going to be an easy decision for parents or a problem free path for parents but if women want to be surrogates they should be allowed but also protected by legislation

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