Surrogacy in Australia

1) Medicare needs to be given to women undergoing IVF for surrogacy to make it easier for people to conduct surrogacy in Australia where we have superior medical facilities and surrogacy is conducted among economic equals. Read this blog to see real life surrogacy stories. We are everyday women who deserve the chance of a family just like anyone else.

2) People are heading overseas to Thailand etc, in part, because Australia makes it so hard. It’s complicated, and there are not enough protections for Intended Parents or Surrogates. There needs to be clearer regulation to ensure that a surrogate and a surrogacy patient understand what their rights and responsibilities are. Banning surrogacy is not the solution – it will only drive it underground.

3) Altruistic surrogacy is legal in Australia, after careful screening with psychological reports & in many cases police checks. Parents need to be deemed suitable, as do surrogates. A judge awards the parenting order after the baby is born, in a court.

4) We have a community of women undergoing surrogacy who all have legitimate medical reasons for needing surrogacy.  We are cancer survivors, or born without a functional uterus, or have some other serious medical condition that means we rely on the goodwill of another woman to have a baby. Our community supports women through cancer – we have giant pink ribbon days and our sportsmen wear pink – then what? We survive, thrive and want to have a family, and our community stops supporting them – there is no Medicare available when you want to have a family. This is clearly unfair and needs to change.

5) In Australia, discussions about genetic abnormalities and the risks in birth are completed with a psychologist and written in a contract. The baby Gammy story would not happen because we ensure that there is support for all involved. This is why we need to make surrogacy easier in Australia. A good start is giving women Medicare for IVF procedures for surrogacy.

Feeling the Medicareless pinch

Facing the financial strain of IVF without Medicare is a real challenge. This is one of our member’s stories.

It’s no secret that dreams take hard work, and some dreams take more hard work than others. This is what I think about when I rise for work at 5 am, ready to go to the Police Force, and take on the day’s duties. Dreaming about my partner’s face, holding a baby in his hands, is what I work hard for every day.

It’s a common dream – it’s one my colleagues and I talk about at work. Family is a big topic amongst my friends and I. I’m surrounded by family-loving people, dedicated to their families, our society, and our friends, and yet my situation is so different.

I’m struggling to make a family, through the only method I have available to me – IVF. You see, a few years ago, I had a medically necessary hysterectomy. I had two simple choices – remove my uterus, or face ongoing debilitating pain and suffering that impacted every aspect of my life. That’s not really a choice, it’s a situation one finds themselves in that has no care for whether or not you’ve made plans for family.

One of my friends is going through IVF. Because she has a uterus, she gets Medicare benefits. She goes to the same clinic I go to, and has just received a letter advertising that her out of pocket expenses will be $1250. Her second cycle will be $650. Her transfers are included in the costs. She can afford to do the recommended 3 cycles of IVF in which to gain a baby.

For me, one cycle costs $12,000. The transfers cost $4,000. So I am eating budget mince, and putting off the home loan repayments.  All of my money from many months of pay (and I mean ALL of my income) will be going toward making my dream a reality. What choice do I have?

Which is why I know as I struggle to pull together another meal from the cheapest mince I can find, padding it out with carrots ($1 a bag) and grated on-special vegetables for another daily staple of spaghetti bolognaise, that our situation just isn’t fair.

I want to create a family with my partner. He’s a loving man who will be a fantastic dad, and he really, really wants to be a father. It’s a natural enough desire, isn’t it? He also grew up surrounded by people that value family.

One late night, my partner said; “I’m in a lose/ lose situation with you. If I leave you, who’s to say I’ll ever meet someone I love as much as I love you, to have children with? If I stay, I may never have children…” It was heartbreaking in the truth.

Sometimes I’ve thought – “Maybe I should just do the kind thing and tell him to leave me, and find a woman that can give him a baby without needing surrogacy. Maybe that’s the kind thing to do?”

But I won’t give up. Which is why every meal is spaghetti bolognaise. Every cent of our income is going into IVF. What’s hardest is knowing that it needn’t be like that.

This is the real life impact of the government’s lack of action. It makes me so angry. I’m angry that I have to pay so much more than my friend. It’s hard to see others succeeding when they have such affordable access to medical treatment. Especially when it’s completely obvious that I have no other option but to seek medical treatment to have a baby.

There’s no other pathway for me. IVF is my ONLY way to have a baby. So why am I excluded?

What would you do? Give up on your dreams? Let your partner go and live a solo life? All because the government hasn’t updated its law to include you in a sentence of legislation…..?

I’m not about to give up yet, but I’m growing weary, and I’m running out of funds. If this transfer doesn’t work….I am not sure I can go on living like this. I’m making every sacrifice I can for our dream, but that feeling of being a part of a system that is so unjust is so….well….I don’t even have words for it. It’s so upsetting. Every day it’s upsetting. In the supermarket it’s upsetting. In the office it’s upsetting. I sit in the car and think about it. I can’t escape this feeling.

In the end, I just want to be a part of a family. I want to share what others have in an everyday, normal way. I want my partner to be a dad. And I want equal treatment to a woman with a uterus. I’m not half a woman. They took my uterus but they didn’t take my dreams. Well, not yet.

The murky waters of Medicare – Why we should update the law

The Medicare legislation is not clear in relation to rebates for medically necessary IVF. It states that if you are in an agreement to do surrogacy, you are not eligible for surrogacy. (Clause 2.37.7)

However, what if you are NOT in an agreement – say, you haven’t found a surrogate yet? Or you have just had a hysterectomy or you have just survived cancer and now you want to preserve your eggs so you have a chance of having a family?

If you are not in an agreement, and are not subject to an agreement – technically, you should be able to do an IVF cycle and be treated just like any other couple.

Unfortunately, NO.

Medicare recently replied to one of our campaigners and stated that ‘because a birth would require an ‘intended’ surrogacy’ they could not provide a rebate. However, this is clearly an interpretation of the law, and is not what the law expresses in the legislation.

Medicare state that they are committed to health services and ‘are currently looking into changes but they are NOT expected in the short term.’

This is why we are here campaigning. Now the law is being interpreted rather than expressly clarified – and it is open to interpretation at the clinic too.

Clinics are left to interpret the law, and as we have seen in the ICSI debate in an earlier posting, it means that even when surrogacy candidates are allowed to have a Medicare rebate, clinics will err on the side of NOT giving them.

We would like to clear up this mess. We would like to see IVF rebates provided equally to women who have a uterus or those who do not. Equal treatment under the law is a basic tenant of our society and we want to change the Medicare laws to reflect that.

We hope to have your support by either downloading the Petition in the files section and/or writing to your local member of parliarment and Tanya Plibersek.

Small Win – Medicare Rebates for ICSI

When I started working on this campaign I did quite a lot of research on the Medicare Rebates relating to IVF and surrogacy. During my research I noted that the Health Insurance (General Medical Services Table) Regulations 2011 excluded Medicare rebates for item numbers 13200-13221. In the Medicare Benefits Schedule these item numbers related to various IVF procedures.

What I also noticed that ICSI (the process of inserting the sperm directly into the egg) was item number 13251. As you can see not one of the item numbers excluded from the Medicare rebates. So I asked my fertility clinic if I could receive a receipt so I could claim my rebate. They denied me.

So I rang and wrote to Medicare asking for assistance. They initially advised that all IVF treatments used for surrogacy were excluded from the rebate. I pointed out to them that this is not what the law says. So they referred my concerns to the Department of Health and Aging.

I am pleased to say, that today I have received written advice from the Department saying that my understanding of the law is correct and that I am entitled to a rebate for ICSI.

If anyone else used ICSI for their embryo creation, I’d encourage you to ask your clinic to bill you separately for this treatment so you can claim your rebate from Medicare. If you have any issues I’d encourage you to print out this letter and show your clinic, or when you ring Medicare.

This is a great small win for us!

It also poses more questions. Why are all other IVF treatments excluded for Medicare rebates but this one is not? I think this just adds to our argument that we should be receiving the full rebates.

Don’t give up everyone, I feel a change just around the corner. 🙂

Letter from Dept Health & Aging

Response from Department of Health & Ageing

Today we received a promising response from the Department of Health and Ageing.

Firstly they “commended” us for the work we are doing to create awareness about the Medicare laws as they relate to surrogacy.

Secondly they reiterated that they are committed to medically necessary services to the public and are therefore actively considering the issues raised in the surrogacy paper. They have advised that I am welcome to contact them to see how this work is progressing and provided the contact Ms Mary Warner, Director of Medical Services.

I am so proud of this response and hope that they are sincere in their response.

Please continue the great work you are all doing in creating awareness about this issue, great joint effort.

Letter from Dept Health & Aging

Tracy’s Story

Let me just start this by saying that in no way does my story compare to the heartache that others in this blog have been through. My husband and I have been blessed with a gorgeous little boy. However, the current Medicare legislations are certainly putting an extra hurdle in the way of completing our family.

Tracy with her husband John and precious son Oliver

Tracy with her husband John and precious son Oliver

John and I met and married within a year and a half. We were in our early thirties and just knew it was right. We both had stable jobs, I was a primary school teacher and John was an engineer. We had the car, the house, the Labrador. The next thing to conquer was the kids! We were so excited to start a family together and hoped to have three children. I come from a small family and John’s family are all in Ireland so it was our plan to bring back the noisy house and big Christmases that I’d dreamed of. We fell pregnant very quickly. At our 10 week scan, we found that the heartbeat had stopped. We were devastated. But four months later, we found that we were pregnant again. I was anxious, but as the weeks rolled on I got more and more confident that this pregnancy was going to work. I was healthy throughout and we got busy preparing for our new addition. Oliver was born after a drug free natural labour on the 5th of November 2012. As the doctor placed him on my chest, I began to feel strange. I don’t remember much after that… Apparently, my uterus inverted causing a severe post partum haemorrhage. I required 13 units of blood in a transfusion and my blood pressure was so low that they were expecting brain damage or cardiac arrest! The only way to save my life was an emergency hysterectomy. My poor husband saw all this unfold and had to give the consent to perform the operation, something he’ll never come to terms with.

I remember waking up in the ICU after being on life support for a couple of days. I was so relieved to hear that my son was fine but was absolutely heartbroken to hear that I would not be able to carry any more children. I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I had never felt emotional pain like that before.

Tracy's wishes she could give her son Oliver a sibling

Tracy’s wishes she could give her son Oliver a sibling

Anyway, fast forward almost 4 months and I love being a mummy. I’m on maternity leave and enjoying every minute of it. Physically I have healed, however, I’m not ready to give up the dream of more children. I’ve looked into adoption and permanent care, however, there are so few children to be placed that our chances aren’t high. During my research I have found that finding a gestational carrier can happen to everyday families like us! At this stage, I’m unsure if this will occur in Australia or overseas. This is completely dependent on whether I can find a carrier here or not, but either way, I will be doing my IVF cycle on home soil. We have discussed the priorities for our family and have decided that another child is more important to us than a new car or material possessions. We will be using all of our savings to fund this and we are just hoping that the bank will allow us to take out another loan to cover the rest. If it doesn’t work the first time, I don’t think a second time will be an option. A child is our priority but if we can’t get more money, there is nothing we can do. I already feel ‘ripped off’ that I had to have a hysterectomy, but being charged extra for IVF services is like kicking us when we are down. All I can do is to hope that our actions here will persuade the powers that be to change the Medicare ruling and give us the chance to complete our family.

Jillian’s long two weeks ahead

Wow it’s here already. Today I start my injections for my first IVF cycle.

I’m not really sure how I am feeling – maybe anxious, nervous and even a bit pressured. Not pressured to go through with the cycle –  I would do it ten times if I could!  Pressured because I know I must succeed with this precious cycle. Without Medicare benefits this may well be my only chance.
Many women going through their first cycle are aware of the slim success rate and already start planning a second attempt. For me (and many of you following our blog) a second cycle would be what dreams are made of! Its like winning the lottery!

Unfortunately, we just can’t afford it as is.
In fact, when looking at the statistics, and my chance for success, I almost went straight from thinking about doing my own IVF cycle with my own genetic (but potentially not young enough) eggs, to the “safer financial idea” of a donor IVF cycle, where a younger woman would donate her eggs so we could have a family. I was justifying this idea in my head as “better value for money”.

What was I thinking?

How could I even start thinking that way? My desperation for a child was turning into a financial decision!!! It was only when my mother in law said to me “you don’t want to be left wondering ‘what if…’ ” and she is right. What if? What if my eggs work? I have to find out.
This should be the most exciting two weeks of my life. Many babies are created in a night a passion with those we love the most. But for us the process is far more complicated. For some of us the medication tends to make us somewhat “moody” and for others it’s a breeze. The stress causes arguments in our lives often with our partners who tread on egg shells (pun intended) as they support us over the two weeks it takes to do the stimulation to collect the eggs. Never-the-less, I know our love will withstand these pressures. We made it this far –  there’s no turning back!!!
I have my fingers crossed! Two weeks seems forever, but its going to be positive thinking all the way!!!
To all the amazing people following our blog and supporting our fight –  I thank you. Your support is wonderful.