The Australian government offered a bill that would have decriminalized surrogacy in Queensland. However, at the eleventh hour, the opposition party, LNP, introduced their own bill which would deny access to surrogates for single individuals and same-sex couples. According to the Courier Mail:
“Opposition deputy leader Lawrence Springborg yesterday moved to trump the Government on the issue after it drafted laws to decriminalise altruistic surrogacy for anyone in Queensland, including homosexual couples and sole parents. But Opposition MPs were angry the issue of surrogacy had been tied to gay parenting and had called on the Government to split its Bill, allowing all MPs to vote separately on decriminalising surrogacy for heterosexual couples and then same-sex couples.
The Government refused, but Labor politicians will now be forced to vote on the Opposition’s Bill with a conscience vote expected to reveal deep divisions over the issue on all sides of politics. Mr Springborg yesterday accused Labor of risking “having the issue hi-jacked by social engineers who wish to use the opportunity to redefine the mainstream understanding of family”.
Under the laws he introduced, only married and defacto heterosexual couples who have been together for at least two years would legally be able to have a child by surrogate. “The Bill will make certain that young Queenslanders born through an eligible surrogacy arrangement will be cared for in a safe, stable and nurturing family and home life right through their childhood,”‘ Mr Springborg said.
“The Bill also makes it clear that the only form of surrogacy which will be legal, will be non-commercial and for heterosexual couples only. Same sex and single surrogacy arrangements will remain illegal.” But Attorney-General Cameron Dick said the LNP’s Bill was a “disgraceful step backwards for Queensland”. “The Opposition’s Bill will return Queensland to the Joh-era of arch-conservatism and rank discrimination, by demonising single mothers and same-sex couples,” he said.
“The Government’s draft legislation, which is currently open for public consultation, demonstrates the Bligh Government’s commitment to social reform, equality and the importance of family.””
What is so disappointing for me is that in many respects, Australia is the country most similar to the United States when it comes to the laws on reproductive choice. Parenthetically, I have had the opportunity to lecture in Australia on three different occasions and have not only a deep fondness and respect for the country, but have found Australians to be some of kindest, most friendly and progressive people in the world.
Like the United States, surrogacy and egg donation are regulated at the state level as compared to almost every other country in the world that legislates it federally. It would be a travesty if Australia passes the Opposition bill which would mandate government-imposed discrimination. It seems as if Australia has not learned any lessons from the disgraceful United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson as Australia will be going one step further by actually establishing a separate but unequal standard when it comes to reproductive freedoms.