It took less than eight weeks for Ric De Castro to propose to his wife Susanna after first meeting her in 1996. "I was working and I saw her across the room and just saw her smile. For me, it was love at first sight. We got engaged very quickly because I knew I was onto a good thing. On Valentine's Day the following year, I sent a dozen red roses to Susanna's work every hour, on the hour. People at the time thought, 'You're crazy. A waste of money'. But looking back now, no one can take that away from me.
Susanna died in May last year after a long battle with breast cancer. The couple had difficulty conceiving before she was diagnosed in 2009, and attended an IVF clinic so they could have embryos frozen in the hope they could start a family. It was not until last year, not long before Susanna died, that Mr De Castro found out she had been paying to keep the embryos in storage for all those years. After she died, Mr De Castro discovered that under current West Australian laws, single men were not allowed to use a surrogate. "I believe it doesn't matter what gender or what relationship status you are in, if you want to be a parent you should have the opportunity to go down that path," he said. "As a husband who has lost his wife, I only want to be given the opportunity to see my wife through the eyes of our child. "I am surrounded with a strong family support who will help me raise a child. They say it takes a village. I have a city."
In August last year the State Government introduced a bill to amend the current laws to allow male same-sex couples and single men access to altruistic surrogacy arrangements. Health Minister Roger Cook said the changes were consistent with the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act. "These are simple changes, humane, compassionate, and we really should be getting on with them."
Mr De Castro recently found a surrogate, but his dream of starting a family now rests with the state's Legislative Council. The Human Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 is before the Upper House, where MPs will soon be given a conscience vote — a rare opportunity in which members are not obliged to follow a party line.
Upper House Liberal MP Nick Goiran will not be supporting the legislation. "The Government has not made a case for why single men need to access surrogacy, other than to say that it is a matter of discrimination," he said. "I think most fair-minded West Australians would agree that it's a matter of biology, not a matter of discrimination." Mr Goiran said while he understood people's desire to parent, he did not believe it was the Government's place to intervene. "There is no right to parent," he said. "If people are asking the state to intervene in these circumstances and to assist in that reproduction process, then it is important that the state acts in the best interests of children. "The question that members of Parliament need to ask themselves is: 'Is it in the best interests of children to purposefully from day one ensure that the person doesn't have a mother?'"
In January last year the State Government announced an independent review of assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy legislation. The review, by Associate Professor Sonia Allan, who reviewed similar legislation in South Australia, cost more than $225,000 and is yet to be released, despite being handed to the State Government in early January.
Mr Goiran said it was improper to expect MPs to vote on the Bill before they had seen the report. "We are being asked to make this conscience vote blindfolded," he said. "The Government has got a report, it spent $200,000 on this review, and it won't release it. "There is no point providing the information to members of Parliament after the debate, we need the information now."
Mr Cook said the report was still being finalized and it was a separate matter. "The review looks into a much deeper analysis of the act and how it's working and what changes we need to consider," he said. "But that is for tomorrow. For today, we simply have to get these changes through to make sure that our laws are compliant and make sure that people who should be entitled to, can have access to these mechanisms." Mr Goiran is pushing for criminal record checks to be mandatory for anyone who applies for surrogacy. Mr Cook rejected suggestions surrogacy could be accessed by dangerous people under the proposed changes. "There aren't going to be queues of people outside some so-called surrogacy office," he said. "These are rare occasions and it is only in the instance of compassionate surrogacy, it is not for the exchange of cash in order to access a surrogate.
Minister Cook believes that suggestion that somehow this law will fall into the hands of perverts is really quite offensive and is really just an example of how some people are playing politics with these very simple but important changes.
Photo: Eliza Laschon
Based on ABC News