Surrogacy becomes a political issue in Australian federal election

Bioethics has seeped into politics in the high profile constituency of Warringah in Sydney. Australia goes to the polls on May 21, the Liberal-National Party coalition for a fourth three-year term.

The election is mostly about economic management, but there are a number of other issues, particularly climate change, which will affect the outcome. In Warringah, a traditionally Liberal seat currently held by an Independent, it could be transgender rights and surrogacy.

Although relatively unknown, Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, co-founder of the pressure group Save Women’s Sport, was hand-picked by Premier Scott Morrison. She strongly opposes the participation of trans women in women’s sports and opening women-only spaces for them.

That alone painted a big target on his candidacy. However, a treasure trove of 6,000 deleted tweets surfaced and provided more ammunition. One of her controversial ideas is opposition to commercial surrogacy. Here are some of the controversial tweets

  • “Surrogacy is an exploitation of women and a violation of human rights.”
  • “Gestation for surrogacy is a violation of human rights. Women’s bodies are not the vehicle of a vain project. (This was a comment on US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s announcement that he and his partner had had a child through surrogacy.)
  • “Surrogacy is reproductive prostitution. It is a blatant exploitation of women, both the woman whose egg is “harvested” and the pregnant woman who gives birth to the baby. Breaking up the mother-baby dyad is a catastrophic disruption of reproduction and normal human relationships.

Sam Everingham, of Sydney-based surrogacy organization Growing Families, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Deves’ comments were “inflammatory”. “Hundreds of Australians enter into well-regulated surrogacy arrangements each year, many of them from his own constituency,” he said. “Ignorance breeds prejudice and discrimination.”

Mr Everingham may not be the best person to comment on Ms Deves’ election challenges. Her company has surrogate mothers in combat zones in Ukraine. He told The Telegraph (London) last month that he employed SWAT teams to extract their babies and hand them over to the intended parents. So much for those “well-regulated surrogacy arrangements.”

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