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India's new surrogacy norms worry Australian couples

March 05, 2013 09:55 IST

Recent changes to surrogacy rules in India has sparked concerns amongst Australian couples who are awaiting their babies’ birth in India.

India's amended surrogacy rules ban singles, gay couples and de facto heterosexual couples from commissioning surrogate babies.

The programme called 'Babies in Limbo' aired on ABC News on Monday said, Australians would require medical visas and Indian government is precise about issuing them to heterosexual couples who have been married for at least two years.

Surrogacy law expert Jenni Millbank said babies could be left stateless if the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) refuses to issue citizenship to infants created in breach of Indian law.

"I think if this provokes a crisis within DIAC about the issuing of citizenship by descent then we would be facing the prospect of children born in India to Australian parents being stateless, with no Indian citizenship, with no Australian citizenship and without the ability to travel across any international border," he said.

He added that the changes are all about targeting particular people who access surrogacy, rather than assisting surrogates and the way that surrogacy is done.

The programme quoted a Perth-based expectant parent Paul Taylor-Burn who has been waiting with his partner Josh for the birth of their twins in India.

"When we went over there in July, we were under the impression that everything was absolutely fine. You [could] enter into this as a gay man with absolutely no restrictions on what we were doing," Taylor-Burn said.

He said, "We know that we don't meet the new criteria. Our contracts have been signed after the cut-off date, but we don't really know what's going to happen."

"I think the biggest worry is really: what's going to happen when we get there? Are the babies going to actually get their visas to exit the country? What can happen? Is there any possibility of the babies not being able to leave? Are we potentially going to be prosecuted?" he said.

Nearly 400 babies are said to be born to Australians using Indian surrogates in 2011 and a positive DNA test is all the Australian High Commission requires to issue citizenship by descent.

However, the sudden amendments to the visa requirements would leave dozens of expectant parents currently awaiting their babies' births in breach of Indian law.

Surrogacy Australia has estimated that on average 50 babies are born to Australian expats in India each year and the surge in births of babies who then gain Australian citizenship is due to rising use of Indian surrogates by Australians.

The number of couples seeking to surrogate in India could be higher. However, Immigration Department statistics revealed that number of babies being born to Australian citizens in India rose from 170 in 2008 to 400 in 2011.

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