Rights at risk
Published: 31 January 2010
By: Paul Dobbyn
Wary: Ray Campbell
THE meaning of parenthood and family will be degraded if surrogacy law reforms under review by the State Government are passed, a leading Queensland Catholic bioethicist has warned.
Queensland Bioethics Centre director Ray Campbell said the bill, expected to be debated and put to a conscience vote next month, "would allow for the creation of a new class of children - those who were legally fatherless and legally motherless".
Mr Campbell's opinion was supported by Family Council of Queensland president Alan Baker who said the bill "if passed" would "commodify children, reducing them to the level of chattels to be dealt with by a contract".
Mr Campbell said the QBC and other pro-family bodies in Queensland had been concerned by the proposed legislation ever since it had been announced by State Premier Anna Bligh around the middle of last year.
The premier then announced the government would introduce legislation into Queensland parliament which would decriminalise altruistic surrogacy (where a woman bears another person's child for no financial benefit).
Mr Campbell noted at the time that "Premier Bligh in announcing the proposed legislation stated 'each and every Queenslander who wants to become a parent should be allowed the opportunity to do so'".
He said the premier also stated that "everyone, regardless of their sexual status or their gender, should be afforded the privileges of parenthood".
Mr Campbell said "these desires of adults were being put before the interests of the child".
"The proposed legislation will deny to some children their fundamental rights to both a father and a mother and to know and be reared within his or her own biological family," he said.
"For reasons such as these the Church teaches that surrogacy, no matter what form it takes, is not 'responsible motherhood' and is 'against the marital good'.
"The Church places the concern for the child above the desires of adults.
"Church teachings (Donum Vitae) state that 'a child has a right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up by his (or her) own parents; (surrogacy) sets up, to the detriment of families, a division between the physical, psychological and moral elements which constitute those families'.
"Pro-family groups are lobbying the Government and the Opposition for amendments to the law that at the very least would limit some of its impacts on the children arising from surrogacy arrangements."
Mr Baker said a recent Galaxy survey commissioned by the Australian Family Association showed the proposed legislation would most likely be out of step with public opinion.
"The survey asked that ideally wherever possible should children be raised by their biological mother and father," he said.
"Just over 86 per cent of respondents answered 'yes'.
"This would seem to indicate that a government introducing such laws could face an electoral backlash."
He said surrogacy arrangements overseas had caused many legal problems and that such laws could open a "Pandora's box of legal problems in Queensland".
"A child can have in effect six parents – the genetic parents, the surrogate mother and her partner, and the commissioning parents who become the social parents. "It's tantamount to child abuse to bring a child into the world who may never know his or her biological mother or father.
"It is an honour to be a parent but that there was no automatic right to be a parent.
"Those who wish to have children but cannot, due to natural or social reasons, can be sympathised with.
"However, the rights of a child to be nurtured by a mother and father are paramount and supersede such desires.
"This right is even recognised by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."
Mr Campbell said the legislation was "most likely to be put to a conscience vote amongst parliamentarians".
"For this reason concerned Catholics should take up the issue with their local members," he said.
"Their influence can make a difference."