Could criminal background checks for surrogate parents be introduced in South Australia?

South Australia’s official opposition has put forth the idea that all prospective surrogate parents should be forced to undertake mandatory criminal records checks – despite such regulations being deemed unenforceable

MP and SA Deputy Premier Vicki Chapman put together the bill and introduced it to SA’s Parliament in September. She drafted the bill in response to recommendations from an independent body, the South Australian Law Reform Institute.

However, Labor’s child protection spokeswoman Jayne Stinson added to the bill. She added an amendment that to make it mandatory for any person looking to conceive a child through surrogacy to undergo a ‘working with children’ background check.

It is worth noting that no parents conceiving ‘naturally’ need to go through this process. She is not alone in her support – Liberal backbencher Paula Luethen proposed a similar (withdrawn) amendment in the past, and she fully supports this new one as well.

Ms Chapman is vehemently against this amendment, repeating that the current laws only mandate that people who work in certain professions, such as teachers, need to undergo these checks. She said: “I’m concerned that any opposition would be so irresponsible to press ahead with a proposal that is unlawful and wouldn’t be enforceable.

“The law says the unit can only do work for the purposes of working with children … and COAG agreed the police can only release information for the purpose of working with children.”

Chapman isn’t the only one against the amendment

South Australia’s Attorney-General says that this new rule is absurd. He calls making surrogates and future parents undertake criminal record checks “unlawful, discriminatory and absurd.”

It also doesn’t take into consideration that most surrogates are family members. After all, it is illegal to profit from surrogacy in Australia, and so it is rare for someone who isn’t a close friend or family member to offer to do undergo this monumental procedure. Leading surrogacy doctor and expert Dr Hamish Hamilton says that this amendment causes him concern.

“I see that the amendment has good intentions, but it creates problems,” Dr Hamilton says. “It’s a highly regulated and arduous process already.”

Surrogacy lawyer Stephen Page states that there are already many safeguards in place across Australia, including involvement of counsellors, lawyers, and the courts at different levels. He said: “These things are possible and evil, but we simply do not know of any case where it has happened in Australia. Not one politician can point to any evidence of it happening here.”

Victoria is the only state that mandates background checks for surrogacy parents, but they are thinking about withdrawing them. Last month, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos met with a group of key stakeholders to discuss withdrawing these requirements for IVF and surrogate parents.

With Victoria talking about removing them, should SA really be considering implementing criminate checks? What do you think – are criminal background checks for surrogate parents a good thing, or an unnecessary step?

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