NJ Court’s Split Decision Provides Little Clarity on Surrogacy

October 24, 2012
New York Times By

Unable to conceive, the New Jersey couple did what an increasing number of 21st-century parents have done: they got an egg from an anonymous donor, and made an agreement with another woman to carry the child for them.

And knowing that there are any number of ways that having a child by surrogate can end in heartache, they tried to protect against it. They had the surrogate legally renounce her right to the child, and had a judge pre-emptively order that their names appear on the birth certificate.

But for all their efforts, their case has become an object lesson in how much modern babymaking has outpaced the law, leaving even the most careful would-be parents relying on little more than crossed fingers.

On Wednesday the New Jersey Supreme Court deadlocked over how to handle the wife’s plea to be named the mother of the child that she and her husband are raising, ending a lengthy legal battle while providing little new clarity. The state had sued, successfully, to strip the wife’s name from the birth certificate. The couple argued this was discrimination: State law automatically makes an infertile husband the father if his wife uses a sperm donor, so why should the same presumption not apply to an infertile wife? An appeals court disagreed with that distinction, siding with state officials who argued adoption was the only option for a mother with no genetic connection to a child.

The court’s split had the effect of affirming the appellate court’s ruling and leaving the child, now 3, legally motherless. It also neatly captured the continued uncertainty across the country, 25 years after New Jersey was at the center of what remains the best-known surrogate custody dispute, over a child known as Baby M.

Three justices agreed with the couple that the law should not treat infertile women differently from infertile men. Three others argued that allowing women who hire surrogates to bypass adoption would give special privileges to those who can afford expensive reproductive technologies.

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Foster kids do equally well when adopted by gay, lesbian or heterosexual parents

October 19, 2012 by Stuart Wolpert in Health

The psychologists looked at 82 high-risk children adopted from foster care in Los Angeles County. Of those children, 60 were placed with heterosexual parents and 22 were placed with gay or lesbian parents (15 with gay male parents and seven with lesbian parents). The age of the children ranged from 4 months to 8 years, with an average age of 4, while the adoptive parents ranged in age from 30 to 56, with an average age of 41. Sixty-eight percent of the parents were married or living with a partner. The psychologists studied the children two months, one year and two years after they were placed with a family. The children underwent a cognitive assessment by a clinical psychologist three times during the course of the study, and the parents completed standard questionnaires about the children’s behavior at each of the three assessment periods. The psychologists found very few differences among the children at any of the assessments over the two-year period following placement. On average, children in heterosexual, gay and lesbian households achieved significant gains in their cognitive development, and their levels of behavior problems remained stable. Their IQ scores increased by an average of 10 points, from about 85 to 95—a large increase, from low-average to average functioning.
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Kentucky Appeals Court reverses trial court ruling against lesbian mother

Beyoned (Straight and Gay ) Marriage by Nancy Polikoff – October 19, 2012

It still happens today.  Lesbian mothers lose custody of their children to their ex-husbands because they are lesbian.  Hard to believe, in this era when conservatives often support civil unions — just not marriage — for same-sex couples.  But it’s true.
And that’s what happened to Angela Maxwell and her three children earlier this year when a Hardin County, Kentucky judge awarded sole custody to the children’s father, Robert. The judge also limited Angela’s time with the children and said neither parent could live with a nonmarital partner while the children were with that parent. For more than a year before the trial, the children who were about 14, 12, and 6, had been alternating weeks between the two parents.  That temporary arrangement included a prohibition on unrelated guests spending the night when the children were there, so it appears that Angela was not living with her same-sex partner, Angel.  At the custody trial, Angela asked that the joint custody continue and that the overnight restriction be lifted.
The trial judge was not subtle about the reason he awarded sole custody to Robert.  “The [mother] is seeking to live an unconventional life-style that has not been fully embraced by society at large,” the judge ruled, “regardless of whether or not same-sex relationships should or should not be considered sexual misconduct.  Like it or not, this decision will impact her children in ways that she may not fully have considered and most will be unfavorable.”

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Alabama appeals court denies Mobile woman right to adopt partner’s son

By Brendan Kirby – October 12, 2012 – AL.com

MOBILE, Alabama –€“ Cari Searcy considers herself the parent of 6-year-old Khaya in every important way, but an Alabama appeals court ruled today that legally, she is not.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals upheld a decision by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to deny Searcy’s adoption petition. Although she has been with her partner, Kim McKeand, for 14 years – and legally married her in California in 2008 – the court ruled unanimously that Alabama law does not recognize same-sex unions.

“Of course, I was disappointed, but I guess we were kind of expecting it,” Searcy said this evening. “But you always hope for the best.”

Searcy said she and McKeand have discussed appealing the ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court or, perhaps, taking the case to federal court. But she said she has made no decisions.

Searcy’s lawyer, Vivian Beckerle, said the cost of an appeal is one of the factors her client will have to consider.

“It does begin to get expensive to carry it forward,” she said. “I’d like to see them do it, because it is something the state needs to confront head-on.”

This is the second time Searcy has tried to adopt the child. Davis denied an earlier petition in 2006, ruling that the adoption was not permissible because Searcy and McKeand were not married.

Contest paid for marriage trip to California

In 2008, the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau held a contest asking same-sex couples from other states to write about why they wanted to get married. Searcy, who owns a video production company, said she made a YouTube video chronicling her story and won a trip to the Golden State in September of that year.

Searcy also has told her story on a documentary entitled, “I am a Parent.”

After California voters made same-sex marriage illegal again in a hotly contested referendum, Searcy said, she and McKeand waited to see how the courts would treat marriages that occurred before the vote. Ultimately, the California Supreme Court ruled that those marriages would stand.

In Mobile, valid marriage license in hand, Searcy again petitioned to adopt Khaya.

“We’re not asking for the state to legally marry us,” she said. “I’m just asking for the right to legally adopt our son so I can make medical decisions for him, educational decisions, the normal parental things.”

It is not merely a theoretical exercise.

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NOM compares potential gay parents to rapists, sexual predators

By: Tuesday October 9, 2012 Pams House Blend

Pay attention, gay folks. There is seems to be a quiet war going on against our rights to be surrogate parents.

Via the NOM blog, I found this highly offensive piece, The New Sexual Predators. In it, the author, Alana S. Newman compares gay couples and older woman to human traffickers out to steal the eggs of younger women.

Every portion of this piece is gag-worthy drivel:

Young women now have to defend themselves not only from stereotypical sexual predators, but also from older women and gay men who seek their eggs.

. . . there are new predators on the scene, for whom we do not have a script. There are new characters eager to exploit our daughters’ bodies, who enjoy unsullied reputations, passing detection even as they blatantly hunt for eggs and wombs with checkbooks in hand. And historically they have been the people women should fear the least. These new players vying for access to young women’s bodies are older or infertile women, and gay men—quite often our friends and members of our family.

. . . Our gay friends and family members may now also be after our daughters’ bodies. These are the only men in the world we thought we could trust because they weren’t interested in our bodies. That is, until they grew older and discovered they wanted to be parents. Today, more and more often, gay men are using egg donors and surrogates to create motherless children on purpose. Toleration of these attempts to create families follows a timeline of slipped slopes and fallen barriers. If heterosexual couples can use sperm donors to create children who are separated from their biological fathers, so the logic goes, then lesbians should be able to do the same thing. To them, it’s not biology that matters—kids just need two parents. And if lesbians use sperm donors to create fatherless children, then it’s only equal and fair for gay men to be able to use egg donors and surrogates to create motherless children too. Because again, it’s not biology that matters; kids just need two parents. At present, all those who believe in gender equality rather than gender complementarity are being urged to accept this often violent (against women) form of third-party reproduction.

It’s not just the the piece itself which we should be paying attention to but also who is promoting it. Yet again, the National Organization for Marriage undercuts its false claim of simply attempting to protect marriage and continuous whine about “falsely” being called bigots. By promoting this piece on its blog,  it is now even more apparent that NOM has declared war on same-sex families.

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Create a Baby From Stem Cells? Research Suggests Possibility

BY Trudy Ring – The Advocate

October 05 2012

A breakthrough in fertility research lays open the possibility that gay and lesbian couples could someday have children who are completely their own, genetically speaking.

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have created eggs from stem cells in mice and used them to produce healthy offspring, NPR reports. They first used embryonic stem cells, then repeated the results stem cells created from adult cells, such as blood or skin. The same team previously created sperm from stem cells. “Stem cells can morph into any cell in the body,” observed NPR reporter Rob Stein.

If the results from mice could be duplicated in humans — a far-off possibility, granted, but scientists say mice are sufficiently similar to humans that it could happen — same-sex couples could create their own sperm and eggs and join them to have a child.

“There are lots of lesbian and gay couples who would be very excited about the possibility for the first time of being able to have children who are genetically their own,” Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford University, told Stein.

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IVF embryos that were frozen may result in healthier babies

The Guardian – by Ian Sample

Women who become pregnant with previously frozen IVF embryos tend to have healthier babies and fewer complications than those who have fresh embryos implanted, research suggests.

Fertility doctors found that mothers had a lower risk of bleeding in pregnancies with embryos that had been frozen and thawed, and went on to have fewer pre-term and low birthweight babies.

Fertility clinics in Britain usually transfer fresh embryos into women several days after they have been given hormone injections that stimulate their ovaries to release eggs. These are extracted and fertilised before being implanted. Any embryos that are not used straight away can be frozen for use months or years later.

The new results raise questions about the way fertility treatment is offered in the UK. If mothers and babies fare better with previously frozen IVF embryos, it may make sense to freeze more or most embryos for transfer into women later on.

The findings appear in a review of 11 published studies that covered more than 37,000 pregnancies in women who had either fresh or previously frozen IVF embryos implanted in their wombs.

The doctors who led the work suspect that IVF embryos that were frozen make for healthier babies because they are implanted long after the woman’s ovaries were stimulated with drugs, so hormone levels in the womb have had time to return to normal. This means the embryos implant in a more natural environment.

Another theory is that only high-quality embryos survive the freeze and thaw process, though survival rates for frozen embryos are now more than 90% in some clinics.

Abha Maheshwari, a senior lecturer at Aberdeen University and consultant in reproductive medicine with NHS Grampian, described the results at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen. The report appears in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

“If pregnancy rates are equal and outcomes in pregnancies are better, our results question whether one should consider freezing all embryos and transfer them at a later date, rather than transferring fresh embryos,” Maheshwari said. The practice has already been adopted by some clinics in Japan.

Maheshwari said the case to switch to frozen-only embryos was not yet strong enough, because the full consequences are unclear. Her study did not look at pregnancy rates, for example.

According to Alison Murdoch, head of Newcastle University’s fertility centre, a shift from fresh to frozen embryos would see birth rates from IVF fall because the latter still result in fewer pregnancies overall, despite improvements in freezing and thawing techniques in recent years.

“We have to explore further what is the cause of frozen embryos giving us better pregnancies or lesser complications in the pregnancy,” Maheshwari added.

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NOM Defends Child Kidnapping Because Of A Parent’s ‘Biological Connection’

By Zack Ford  on Oct 1, 2012 – ThinkProgress.org

The National Organization for Marriage is once again insulting the adoptive relationships of parents who do not have a biological connection with their children. Jennifer Thieme of NOM’s Ruth Institute wrote recently that banning same-sex marriage is the “compassionate choice” for children, ignoring the millions of children already being raised by same-sex couples. In an attempt to raise alarm about what will happen if heterosexual couples no longer have special recognition on government paperwork, Thieme cites the tragic case of Lisa Miller, who embraced an ex-gay identity and kidnapped her daughter away to Central America to prevent her ex-partner, Janet Jenkins, from having legal guardianship:

Conservatives, and libertarians for that matter, should be extremely alarmed at the change from gendered marriage to genderless marriage. How many have heard the story of Lisa Miller, the bio mom who lost custody of her bio daughter to her former lesbian lover due to their civil union? The lover is not related to the child by blood or adoption, and this did not matter to the judge who made the ruling. Lisa escaped with her daughter to Central America. Her name appears on the FBI and INTERPOL Wanted Lists for parental kidnapping, and the Amish pastor who helped her escape has been convicted of “aiding an international parental kidnapping of a minor.” He might be looking at three years jail time.

Lisa’s biological connection to her own daughter was disregarded in favor of a public policy aimed at promoting equality. The objective, natural, and pre-political reality lost, and the subjective, artificial, and state defined reality won.

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