Australia

Australia's Julie Bishop backs officials over India surrogacy

Julie Bishop, left, with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi. 14 April 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Julie Bishop, left, has been on an official three-day visit to India

Australia's foreign minister has backed consulate officials in India over the case of a couple who rejected a baby born to an Indian surrogate.

The Australian couple had twins through the surrogate in 2012 but only kept the girl; the boy went to an Indian couple.

The couple said they could not afford to keep both babies.

Julie Bishop, speaking on a visit to India, said she believed staff at the consulate and the foreign affairs department had "acted professionally".

The row comes in the wake of the birth last year of a baby with Down's syndrome to a surrogate mother in Thailand. The baby was left in Thailand while his twin sister went home with Australian parents.

That case sparked intense debate in Australia about international surrogacy agreements.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The case last year of baby Gammy sparked a major debate in Australia about overseas surrogacy

'Complete family'

Emails and other messages between Australian officials in Delhi and Canberra show the couple - who have not been named - travelled to India in late 2012 to seek citizenship for a baby girl.

What the parents said to the Australian High Commission staff in Delhi over what would happen to the baby boy left behind remains unclear.

However, they told Australian consular staff that the twin brother would be left behind because they could not afford to keep him.

They said they already had a son at home and wanted to "complete their family" with a girl.

They reportedly told officials that the boy would be given to friends in India "who were unable to conceive a child".

The documents, first obtained by Australian broadcaster ABC, revealed that Australian officials had raised concerns that the baby boy could be left stateless as India "did not recognise surrogate children as citizens".

A cable from High Commission staff to Canberra early in 2013 said: "The proposed adoptive parents are in fact not close family friends of the biological parents, but are known to the biological parents through a mutual friend."

Ms Bishop said, quoted by ABC, said it was "a matter for the Indian authorities as it always was".

"There was only one application for citizenship, as it was, Australia could only act on the application that was made, but subsequently we have determined that the adoption was valid and that the Indian authorities are now in charge of the matter."

But she said Australian officials were continuing to stress that people entering into surrogacy arrangements checked both the legal situation in their home state and in the country they were hoping to adopt from.

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