Posts Tagged ‘surrogacy agency’

Surrogacy Case Coverage Doesn’t Tell Whole Story

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I’d like to argue the old adage that all publicity is good publicity. As I discussed in my last entry, the extremely unfortunate surrogacy cases recently playing out in Michigan and New Jersey continue to command headlines. Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a story called Surrogacy Battles Expose Uneven Legal Landscape. While I certainly can’t disagree with the premise that favorability of surrogacy laws varies widely throughout the U.S., the approach to mainstream media coverage of this industry continues to frustrate me.

I guess I understand that the few unfortunate outcomes seem more interesting to some than the greater majority of positive surrogacy outcomes, but the media continues to leave out possibly the most important view – that of the real and participating players in this complex and self-regulated industry.
Although the legal scholars and think tanks quoted in this article bring a very well-educated and informed perspective, they should include the perspective of reputable agencies and other professionals literally in the thick of this on daily basis. I think all of them would tell you that many (if not all) of the well-established industry protocols put in place to protect all parties in a surrogacy relationship were tossed aside in this case, as well as all of the others that have made headlines recently.

Check out the article and share your perspective. –Nazca

Unfortunate Michigan & New Jersey Surrogacy Cases & the Advantages of the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Happy New Year! I have great hopes for 2010 and think it is going to be a fortuitous year for people seeking alternative family-building options and the third-party reproduction industry in general.

But, first, I need to discuss two rulings involving gestational surrogacy outside of Illinois and assure intended parents and gestational surrogates alike that, as long as the requirements of the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act are satisfied and you work with a reputable agency, similar situations should not occur in this state.

For those of you who haven’t read about these cases in the New York Times or elsewhere, the first took place in Michigan and involves a married couple who, after years of infertility issues, turned to surrogacy. To create their family, they used an egg donor, anonymous sperm donor and found a gestational carrier, who already has four children of her own, to deliver the baby.

A month after the birth of twins, a police officer supervised as the couple was forced to relinquish their infants into the custody of the gestational surrogate who gave birth to them. While the surrogate has no genetic link to the babies, neither do the intended parents and the surrogate was able to obtain a court order to retrieve the infants after learning the intended mother was being treated for mental Illness. While there was a contract, according to the Times article, a statute in Michigan, where the twins were born, holds that surrogacy is contrary to public policy and that agreements are unenforceable.

In a second case, also discussed in the New York Times, a single woman with no children of her own agreed to be a gestational surrogate for her gay brother and his husband, who donated sperm. A New Jersey judge ruled that the surrogate, who gave birth to twins, is their legal mother, even though she is not genetically related to them. In this case, the twins do have a genetic link to one of their fathers, but the court still ruled in favor of the surrogate. The ruling gives the woman the right to seek primary custody of the children at a trial in the spring.

In both cases, these unfortunate situations could have been avoided if the babies were born in Illinois and the requirements of the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act were adhered to.

While I won’t list all of them here, some of the most pertinent requirements include: 1) At least one of the gametes (egg or sperm) used in forming the embryo must be contributed by an intended parent; 2) The surrogate cannot also be the egg donor, making her a gestational surrogate. At ConceiveAbilities, our Illinois surrogacy program requires that our gestational surrogates have no genetic link to the child/children; 3) The gestational surrogate must be at least 21 years old and already have at least one child of her own; 4) The intended parent(s) and surrogate must complete a mental health evaluation, and the surrogate must also have a complete medical evaluation; 5) Both the intended parent(s) and surrogate must consult with an attorney regarding the terms of the gestational surrogacy agreement and the potential legal consequences of participating in a surrogacy arrangement.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, in Illinois, if all requirements of the Act are met and certified by the attorneys representing both the gestational surrogate and intended parent(s), then parentage is established immediately at the time of birth. And, the intended parent(s) names are placed on the birth certificate with no court involvement or subsequent adoption proceedings. – Nazca

A 2009 Reflection on the State of Surrogacy & Egg Donation

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

As 2009 draws to a close, it’s worth looking back to reflect on some of the issues we’ve grappled with in the evolving industry of third-party reproduction. Not unlike other years in its relatively short history, this one was a mixed bag. In hindsight, some of the issues in the spotlight generated a gut-wrenching feeling of disbelief and outrage, others a sense of excitement and joy for the advancements of our field.

There were absolutely a couple of high points for our industry this year. Sara Jessica Parker’s decision to use a surrogate to expand her family drew positive attention to assisted reproduction. As more celebrities participate in third-party arrangements and choose to share those decisions, we hope the public will become more educated about this growing method of family building and become even more accepting. Its mounting awareness not only helps those facing fertility challenges recognize additional options, but starts to help dispel the false idea that women can wait to have children into their forties or fifties naturally (without medical/technical intervention). Now, if celebrities would also cop to using donor eggs, that would be even better progress!

Also on the positive side of the spectrum this year was the increase in reproductive tourism, bringing more couples to America to circumnavigate their country’s restrictive stance on third-party reproduction and take advantage of our advanced medical care.

And finally, this year brought the creation of DNA (Donor Network Alliance), a real progression in the egg donor industry revolutionizing the way patients around the globe search for egg donors and collect important information. I’m proud to be a founding member of this unique resource that presents thousands of prospective egg donors from egg donor agencies around the country on a single Web site.

I’m not sure I even have to go through the low points of 2009, since they commanded our national conversation for so much of the year…but I’ll go ahead and run down the list anyway.

This year brought us the surrogacy scandals of SurroGenesis, Bala, Angels in Waiting and B Coming. These organizations were run by unscrupulous individuals with little or no experience in the field of infertility. Unfortunately, their fraudulent activity left the public with the false impression that the industry is fraught with this kind of corruption and deceit. Of course, most facilitators of third-party arrangements are caring individuals with an agenda based upon helping intended parents build families. This is exactly why this year’s streak of bad business has tainted our collective reputations. Even worse, rumors continue to swirl as agency insiders complain other rogue agencies are teetering on the brink of the same undoing.

Then, of course, there’s the Ocoto-mom saga, which brought its share of disgrace to the field of infertility treatment. This is a prime example of what happens when vital parts of the process are missing or are blatantly disregarded. Possibly worst of all was this year’s German High Court ruling of surrogacy as immoral leaving many gestating surrogacy pregnancies in limbo.

Every time I think I’ve seen it all, along comes another conundrum to stump and amaze me in more ways than one. That is one of the things that keeps me devoted to this highly charged (and admittedly often difficult) business. There is always a new development for better or for worse that keeps the reputable members of the industry on our toes and communicating effectively. But, overall, the fact that what I do really does impact others lives’ in a positive way enables me to work through the rough parts of the business and find creative ways to learn from all the wacky, weird and downright awful issues that sometimes arise.

I hope 2010 is a year of expanded understanding of the wonders of Assisted Reproduction by the public and positive stories for an industry that is, by and large, made up of caring, consciousness, dedicated professionals who are passionate about what they do. Best wishes in the New Year – Nazca

NYT Surrogacy Article: The Power of the Media and Its Misguided Role in Shaping Public Opinion on ART

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Yet again, a high-profile media outlet is using isolated examples of unscrupulous practice to portray Surrogacy as a rogue, unregulated industry in the U.S. The NYT article, “Building A Baby, With Few Ground Rules,” highlights disturbing cases in Michigan and Indiana where agents arranged for the surrogacy process to take place under negligent circumstances. This article is simply not representative of the industry at large.

Like many professionals in my field, I was struck by the sheer lack of adherence to industry guidelines and good practice standards by all parties involved in the process outlined in these cases. These are arrangements that should have been avoided at all costs and would have been if adherence to standards had been part of the protocol put in place by reputable agencies and medical centers.

These unfortunate, but isolated, situations make for good headlines, but the fallout is a stain on an industry that by and large does an amazing job meeting the basic needs of well-deserving individuals. I take issue with the headline that there are few ground rules involved in the practice of surrogacy. There are many, they are sound, but none of them were implemented in the cases featured by the NYT.

No Maternity Leave for Those Using Surrogates??

Monday, November 9th, 2009

A recent article in the London Evening Standard reminded me why reproductive tourism is on the rise here in the U.S – many other countries have a much more restrictive approach to assisted reproduction. According to this article, there is a law in the U.K. that prevents mothers who use surrogates from taking maternity leave. The current guidelines only entitle women who undergo a successful pregnancy to paid leave – even if they are not the genetic parent. But people who use a surrogate have no right to paid or unpaid leave to look after their newborn child.

From my perspective this practice seems arcane at best and discriminatory at worst. Is this a result of flawed fiscal logic that because a woman doesn’t physically give birth, she somehow doesn’t require the rest and respite needed to care for a newborn baby? Or rather a result of a poorly cloaked agenda by those who disagree with surrogacy as a method of family building and who seek to punish intended parents with lost wages or the physical and emotional consequences of returning to work too early, should they decide to stay home.

I do not claim any in-depth knowledge of Britain’s policy as it pertains to maternity leave for parents who adopt a baby but this article indicates that adoptive parents are granted a certain amount of maternity leave for this type of family building. And surely one can see the correlation between adoption and bringing home a baby via a surrogacy arrangement. It seems justifiable to allow all new parents the same protections regardless of their individual paths to parenthood. Physical aftermath of childbirth aside, both babies and parents must be given the time and space to grapple with the intensive learning curve of their new or expanded families and to find a certain degree of balance before returning to work.

Restrictions like this and a ban on surrogate compensation in U.K. and other countries have clearly triggered a rise in reproductive tourism – or couples going abroad to seek third-party reproduction services. The article notes that there is an opposition in Britain to surrogacy becoming a “commercial” transaction. I guess I don’t see how denying moms the opportunity to bond with their new babies prevents this.

Your thoughts?
– Nazca