Thai surrogacy is now dead in the water

Australian Surrogacy and Adoption Blog – July 31, 2014 By Stephen Page –

A couple of days ago I wrote about how there was a crackdown in Thailand about surrogacy and gender selection.

Yesterday there was a meeting between the various IVF clinics, the Thai Medical Council, lawyers and others. The outcome of the meeting is ominous for those who undertake surrogacy in Thailand: it is over.

In summary, surrogacy is now only recognised in Thailand if:

  • the intended parents are a heterosexual married couple
  • who are medically infertile
  • the surrogacy is altruistic
  • and the surrogate is a blood relative.

It is no surprise that this will exclude almost every foreigner from pursuing surrogacy in Thailand. For Australians, this is significant- as about 400 babies were born in Thailand via surrogacy in the year ended 30 June 2012 to Aussie intended parents, and that number is likely to have increased since then.

The ruling coming out of the meeting, bearing in mind that there is now a military junta in charge in Thailand, is that surrogacy will be illegal in Thailand if:

  • the intended parent or parents are unmarried under Thai law (i.e. de facto couples, same sex couples and singles are excluded)
  • any money is paid to the surrogate
  • the removal of the child from Thailand without permission of Thai authorities will breach Thailand’s human trafficking laws.

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A Surrogacy Agency That Delivered Heartache

By tamar Lewin – The New York Times, July 27, 2014

CANCÚN, Mexico — Rudy Rupak, the founder ofPlanet Hospital, a medical tourism company based in California, was never shy about self-promotion. Over the last decade he has held forth about how his company has helped Americans head overseas for affordable tummy tucks and hip replacements. And after he expanded his business to include surrogacy in India for Western couples grappling with infertility — and then in Thailand, and last year, Mexico — he increasingly took credit for the global spread of surrogacy.

But now Mr. Rupak is in involuntary bankruptcy proceedings, under investigation by the F.B.I. and being pursued by dozens of furious clients from around the world who accuse him of taking their money and dashing their dreams of starting a family.

Where it is permitted, as in parts of Mexico, businesses like Mr. Rupak’s — many reputable, some not — have flourished by serving as intermediaries connecting clients with egg donors, in vitro fertilization clinics and surrogates. Those able to pay more than $100,000 for services often turn to an American agency in a state where surrogacy is legal and fairly widely practiced. Those with less money often go to India or to Mexico through agencies like Planet Hospital that advertise heavily and charge less than half the American price.

Jonathan C. Dailey, a lawyer in Washington, wired Planet Hospital $37,000 in December 2013, the first installment on a contract for a single mother in Mexico to carry his child. He and his fiancée flew to Cancún to leave a sperm deposit at the clinic that would create the embryo and to visit the downtown house where their surrogate would live while pregnant. They picked a “premium” egg donor from the agency Planet Hospital sent them to. But nothing happened.

“It was just outright fraud,” said Mr. Dailey. “It’s like we paid money to buy a condo, they took the money, and there was no condo. But it’s worse, because it’s about having a baby.”

The emerging Planet Hospital story, which Mr. Rupak characterized as one of mismanagement rather than fraud, stands as a cautionary tale about the proliferation of unregulated surrogacy agencies, their lack of accountability and their ability to prey on vulnerable clients who want a baby so badly that they do not notice all the red flags.

Catherine Moscarello, who worked with Mr. Rupak and handled communications with clients, said the company was engaged in unsavory practices “from the moment I stepped aboard.”

“The object was to get money,” she added. “He would keep changing clinics, and whenever his relationship with a clinic in India or Thailand or Cancún broke off, he would disparage the clinic and the doctors there. But what was really happening was that he wasn’t paying his bills.”

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Archaic Rules Applied in Gay Man’s Estate Dispute

Gay City News – July 24, 2014 by Art Leonard

BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD |  An early 2014 ruling from a surrogate judge in Manhattan highlights the dangers of making a will without the assistance of somebody knowledgeable about estate law. And, it also illustrates one court’s surprising reliance on old cases rather than on the evolving precedents in same-sex partner law in the decades leading up to New York State’s 2011 marriage equality law.

In a February 14 decision, New York County Surrogate Nora Anderson resolved a disputed distribution from the estate of Ronald D. Myers, who died in 2006, by apparently making a “presumption in favor of” a relative, his mother, “as against unrelated persons,” in this case his surviving partner, Dr. Martin Ephraim. Both Myers’ mother and Ephraim have since died as well, making this a battle between their heirs.

The attorney for Ephraim’s estate, Karen Winner, has now filed a motion for re-argument, contending that the court’s decision overlooks significant precedents dating back to the 1980s establishing the “family” status of cohabiting same-sex partners.

The problems in this case stem from a homemade will Myers created in 1981, by which point he and Ephraim had already been together for 11 years. In the will, Myers designated Ephraim and his mother as executors, but when Myers died in 2006, his mother renounced her appointment, so Ephraim served as the sole executor.

In the will, Myers provided that “all monies will be left to my Mother, Roberta F. Long. And that all Stocks of IBM will be left to Dr. Robert Ephraim. And also all personel [sic] property will be left to Dr. Robert Ephraim.”

In carrying out his duties as executor, Ephraim paid over to Long, who survived her son, the roughly $40,000 in cash in the estate. At his death, Myers owned a substantial portfolio of stocks, including but not limited to IBM, which Ephraim transferred to himself, treating the non-IBM stock as “personal property.”

When Long subsequently died without a will, her administrator filed an objection to how Ephraim had distributed the stock, arguing he was entitled under the will to inherit only the IBM stock and Myers’ “personal effects.” When Ephraim himself died, his brother stepped into the case, which now pits Ephraim’s heirs against Long’s for the value of the non-IBM stock, which made up the bulk of the estate. (Winner’s motion for re-argument mentions, as the court’s opinion did not, that Myers had separately purchased annuities for his mother valued at $165,000, which passed to her outside the estate.)

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Fertility Clinics Scan for the Strongest Embryo

New York Times, July 12, 2014 by Andrew Pollack

Annika Levitt initially resisted the fertility clinic’s suggestion that only one embryo — rather than the usual two or more — be transferred to her uterus because she was too small to risk carrying more than one baby.

“You go through all that and you put only one back in?” she recalled thinking, fearing it would lower her chances of becoming pregnant.

But her embryos had been tested for chromosomal abnormalities, giving a fair degree of confidence that the chosen one was healthy. “Knowing that it was the strongest of the strong was reassuring,” she said. Ms. Levitt, who lives in Morris County, N.J., gave birth to a girl from that embryo and is now pregnant from another single-embryo transfer.

The chromosomal testing is one of the techniques now coming into use to help fertility clinics answer one of their most vexing questions: Which test-tube embryo or embryos will give a woman the best shot at having a baby?

Another new technique uses time-lapse imaging to study the development pattern of the embryo.

Both techniques can potentially provide more information than the approach now used to judge an embryo’s fitness, which is to look at its shape under a microscope.

That could increase the sometimes frustratingly low efficiency of in vitro fertilization. And if clinics can be nearly certain that an embryo is fit, they might feel more comfortable transferring only one embryo rather than two or more, as is common practice. That would reduce the chances of producing twins or triplets, which face greater health risks than single babies.

“What’s really good about this is we get high rates with singletons,” said Dr. Richard T. Scott Jr, clinical and scientific director at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, where Ms. Levitt went.

But some experts say the new techniques, which can add thousands of dollars to the cost of in vitro fertilization, are being heavily promoted without data supporting that they truly improve pregnancy rates. For some women, they say, chromosomal testing, an invasive procedure, might even worsen their chances of getting pregnant.

“A significant portion of women may actually be hurting themselves by doing that,” said Dr. Norbert Gleicher, medical director of the Center for Human Reproduction, a fertility center in Manhattan.

The chromosomal testing is called preimplantation genetic screening, or P.G.S. This is different from a related technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which tests embryos for specific mutations with the goal of preventing the birth of a baby with a genetic disease. With the chromosomal screening, the goal is mainly to improve birthrates, not influence the traits of the baby.

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Would-be parents fleeced, surrogates abandoned by Mexican surrogacy operation Planet Hospital

By ABC.net.au By Jane Cowan and Bronwen Reed – July 8, 2014

An unscrupulous surrogacy operation in Mexico has left clients thousands of dollars out of pocket, and dozens of would-be surrogates abandoned, a Foreign Correspondent investigation has revealed.

Some of the clients are believed to be Australians.

At least one of the surrogates tracked down by Foreign Correspondent miscarried after being impregnated with twins, and received only a fraction of the money she was promised.

The man behind the operation, Rudy Rupak, has done the same thing previously in two other countries, according to one of his former employees.

Earlier this year, Foreign Correspondent exposed India’s lucrative commercial surrogacy industry, following two Australian couples on their own odyssey to create a baby.

Clinics offering an array of affordable fertility services are springing up in cities, towns and villages across the subcontinent.

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Largest-ever study of same-sex couples’ kids finds they’re better off than other children

Vox.com by German Lopez, July 7, 2014

The largest-ever study of same-sex parents found their children turn out healthier and happier than the general population.

A new study of 315 same-sex parents and 500 children in Australia found that, after correcting for socioeconomic factors, their children fared well on several measures, including asthma, dental care, behavioral issues, learning, sleep, and speech.

At the same time, two-thirds of the parents reported a perceived stigma on at least one issue tracked by the survey. These stigmas ranged from other people gossiping about an LGBT family to same-sex parents feeling excluded at social gatherings due to their sexual orientation.

Perceived stigmas were associated with worse scores for physical activity, mental health, family cohesion, and emotional outcomes. The stigmas, however, were not prevalent enough to negatively tilt the children’s outcomes in a comparison to outcomes across the general population.

Study author Simon Crouch told ABC News in Australia that previous research suggests same-sex parents don’t feel pressured into gendered roles, which lets them more freely adapt to the needs of the family.

“So what this means is that people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes, which is mum staying home and looking after the kids and dad going out to earn money,” Crouch said. “What this leads to is a more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well-being.”

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Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It

Foreign Couples Heading to America for Surrogate Pregnancies

New York Times, July 5, 2014 – by Tamar Levin

At home in Lisbon, a gay couple invited friends over to a birthday celebration, and at the end of the evening shared a surprise — an ultrasound image of their baby, moving around in the belly of a woman in Pennsylvania being paid to carry their child.

“Everyone was shocked, and asked everything about how we do this,” said Paulo, who spoke on the condition that neither his last name nor that of his husband, João, be used since what they were doing is a crime in Portugal.

While babies through surrogacy have become increasingly common in the United States, with celebrities like Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon openly discussing how they started a family, the situation is quite different in Portugal — as it is in most of the world where the hiring of a woman to carry a child is forbidden.

And as Paulo and João have discovered, even bringing home a baby born abroad through surrogacy can be complicated.In an era of globalization, the market for children crosses national borders; witness the longtime flow of Americans who have gone overseas to adopt babies from South Korea, China, Russia and Guatemala.

Other than the United States, only a few countries — among them India, Thailand, Ukraine and Mexico — allow paid surrogacy. As a result, there is an increasing flow in the opposite direction, with the United States drawing affluent couples from Europe, Asia and Australia. Indeed, many large surrogacy agencies in the United States say international clients — gay, straight, married or single — provide the bulk of their business.

The traffic highlights a divide between the United States and much of the world over fundamental questions about what constitutes a family, who is considered a legal parent, who is eligible for citizenship and whether paid childbirth is a service or exploitation.

In many nations, a situation that splits motherhood between the biological mother and a surrogate carrier is widely believed to be against the child’s best interests. And even more so when three women are involved: the genetic mother, whose egg is used; the mother who carries the baby; and the one who commissioned and will raise the child.

Many countries forbid advertising foreign or domestic surrogacy services and allow only what is known as altruistic surrogacy, in which the woman carrying the baby receives payment only for her expenses. Those countries abhor what they call the commercialization of baby making and view commercial surrogacy as inherently exploitive of poor women, noting that affluent women generally do not rent out their wombs.

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