Starting a family is a precious milestone for all couples, and is something that many look forward to in their relationship.
Same-sex couples have access to many of the same ways of starting a family as heterosexual couples do. Fostering and adoption often come to the top of mind, but there are also options to have biological children for same-sex couples in Australia using assisted reproduction methods. This article will provide an overview of some of these options for starting a rainbow family in your same-sex relationship and some of their considerations.
Adoption is quite rare in Queensland, with only 26 adoption orders made in the 2019 financial year. However, the process for same-sex couples seeking to adopt is the same as any other person or couple seeking adoption. Individuals or couples need to submit an expression of interest form to Adoption Services Queensland, and if they meet the eligibility criteria, they will be added to the expression of interest register for a period of two years. During this period, they may then be selected for a suitability assessment and if successful, a court order can be made. More information on the process can be found here.
Foster care or kinship care
Whilst this option does not create a legal family, foster care or kinship care is also an option to welcome a child into your life. Once an application has been made to the Queensland Government through the Queensland Foster and Kinship Care agency, there is an approval process that includes several stages of assessment and training. More information can be found here.
Donor insemination and IVF
Lesbian couples who wish to give birth to their biological child can do so through insemination of donor sperm or through IVF with donor sperm. In the case of intrauterine insemination, the donor’s sperm is placed inside the uterus for direct fertilisation. In IVF, the fertilisation process occurs in a lab and upon successfully fertilisation an embryo is placed into the uterus of the partner who will be carrying and birthing the child. IVF may be preferred for some lesbian couples who wish to share the physical experience of the child as it can be possible for one partner to supply the eggs, and the other to carry and birth the child. This is also known as reciprocal IVF.
Something to bear in mind here are the legal considerations for sperm donors. Whilst sperm donors are generally not recognised as legal parents under Queensland law, donor-conceived children do hold the right to know who their genetic parents are when they reach legal adult age and this information must be held by the sperm bank that facilitated the donation.
Surrogacy can allow gay male couples to have a biological child which is conceived, carried and birthed by a woman. Like any other couple or individual going through surrogacy, there is the option of the female surrogate providing their own eggs or using the eggs of a donor which can be fertilised and then placed into the uterus of the surrogate to carry and birth. In Australia, commercial surrogacy is illegal which means that the surrogate must be acting altruistically and not for commercial benefit
In Queensland, there is also a legal process for surrogacy that also requires involvement from lawyers, counsellors and culminates in a parentage order which ensures the couple are the listed parents of the child on its birth certificate. Again, this process is the same for any individual or couple pursuing surrogacy.
One consideration that may be unique to gay couples in surrogacy is choosing who will be the biological father of the child, as only one sperm can fertilise the egg. This decision is incredibly unique to each situation and may consider medical history and genetics. Some also opt to let chance decide, by fertilising multiple eggs with sperm from both partners so that either one may end up being the biological father of the child that is born.
The most important thing to know is that this is not an exhaustive list of options and considerations. For same-sex couples who wish to have biological children – know that it is possible! A fertility specialist will be able to help you understand what might work for you.
Dr Joseph Jabbour is a private fertility specialist and OBGYN who can help you navigate the complexity of a starting your own same-sex family. He is passionate about providing high quality care and a personalised experience. He is also one of Monash IVF’s Brisbane fertility specialists, which means he has access to extensive resources to help you realise your dream of starting a family.