Surrogacy backlash hits Bligh
Jamie Walker | August 19, 2009
PREMIER Anna Bligh will swing Queensland into line with the rest of the country and decriminalise not-for-profit surrogacy, provoking an outcry yesterday from Christian groups and conservative MPs.
The Premier said same-sex couples would be allowed to become parents through "altruistic surrogacy", in which the birth mother's expenses could be met by the adoptive party but no other payments made.
The Liberal National Party warned that the legislation would be defeated in a conscience vote of MPs if Ms Bligh persisted in linking the measures.
While Ms Bligh acknowledged that some in the community would have a "moral dilemma" over the moves, she urged people to set aside their prejudices and put the interests of surrogate children first.
"This decision continues the determination of my government to modernise Queensland to ensure that our laws, our policies and our programs reflect the reality of modern life," she told a rowdy state parliament, where she faced repeated interjections.
"In this case, the reality is that modern technology has made pregnancy and birth possible in circumstances never previously imagined, particularly by our legal statutes."
After Ms Bligh confirmed the changes would be subject to a conscience vote by Labor MPs, the Australian Christian Lobby urged that the legislation be voted down when put before parliament later this year.
Queensland director Peter Earle said the LNP pledged in the run-up to the state election last March to oppose same-sex surrogacy arrangements.
"In the interests of children, we urge them to stick by these commitments, and we urge Labor and Greens politicians to look to their consciences and follow suit," Mr Earle said.
LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek called on Ms Bligh to decouple legalisation of altruistic surrogacy from extending access to gay and lesbian couples.
"I am confident that in its current form, this will be defeated along conscience lines," Mr Langbroek said.
Ms Bligh said all other states allowed transfer of parentage to same-sex couples through non-commercial surrogacy.
Legalisation of surrogacy is likely to be seized on by advocates of abortion law reform in Queensland, who argue that the introduction of the abortion pill RU486, combined with the prosecution of a Cairns couple for using a contraband supply of the drug, demonstrates the need for decriminalisation.
Ms Bligh said the government had no such plans. "When it comes to any changes to the current law on termination of pregnancy, it is my assessment that would not receive majority support, and in that case, I see no benefit in bringing it forward," she said.