Hiring a Woman for Her Womb

New York Times, September 23rd, 2014

People unable to bear children have increasingly turned to women who bear children for them, often by transferring an embryo created by in-vitro fertilization. Because legal and social views on surrogacy vary from nation to nation (and even state to state), prospective parents often engage surrogates in the United States and in developing countries. Controversy has clouded this issue.

What can be done to ensure that birth surrogacy is safe, ethical and protective of both the birth mother and the intended parents?

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Gay parenting: How to talk to young children about adoption

September 21, 2014 – by gaystarnews.com, David Hudson

Thinking about adoption? Children will always have questions about being adopted, and knowing how to respond with honest answers is essential. We asked Beth Friedberg of New York’s Modern Family Center for advice.

Beth Friedberg is the Associate Director of Parent Preparation and Education at the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin. The center provides services for parents of adopted children, adoptees, families formed through adoption, and families brought together through remarriage – including same-sex couples and LGBTI parents.

Beth has been in the adoption and parenting field for over 20 years. We asked her to give the #GSNFamily section some advice on talking to young children about adoption.

Beth, do you have any general advice for speaking to children about adoption?

BF: There are some basic well-known practices that adoptive parents should know about talking with their children about how they became a family: start early, share information slowly over time in a way that meets your child’s developmental age, and talk in a balanced way about birth family being some of the most important.

But all of these sound ideas miss one critical piece that has less to do with talking and everything to do with listening.

This is a hard thing for many parents to do – we want to say the right thing and protect the ones we love from disappointment or loss. So we can often rush in with too many words to fix things before we really know what’s on our child’s mind.

Listen for what is behind your child’s questions and slow down a bit to both tune in to your child’s ‘emotional temperature’ and also consider what their questions brings up for you.

This last part is especially important so you don’t confuse what your child is asking to talk about with what you may actually want or need to talk about.

For instance, if your child asks you why their birth family couldn’t take care of them, you might respond with something simple like: ‘Why do you think some people aren’t able to take care of a baby?’ When your child gives you their own answers, you have a great place to start the conversation.

If your child is not asking any questions, lay the groundwork to give permission for the conversation. Simply saying, ‘If you ever have any questions or want to talk about your adoption that would be OK with me,’ can open a door for a child who may feel nervous bringing the topic up on their own.

What sort of questions might adopted children themselves ask about adoption – with regard to their background, history and biological family?

BF: Children are generally curious and want to know about everything that’s happening in their world. Asking questions about their beginnings and how they came to be in their family is a natural and necessary part of their development, so a goal for adoptive families is to support and encourage this wondering.

The types of questions that children ask will depend on the specific circumstances of their placement and your child’s own character and personality.

As much as each child has their own unique experience, questions do tend to fall into some general categories such as: ‘Why did I have to be adopted? Why couldn’t anyone in my family take care of me?’, ‘Will I ever meet my birth mother/siblings?’, ‘Will I ever see my friends from the orphanage again?’, ‘Is my birthmother alive?’, and, very commonly ‘I wonder who I look like’.

Click here to read the entire article.

Surrogates and Couples Face a Maze of Laws, State by State

New York Time, September 17, 2014 – by Tamar Lewin

When Crystal Kelley, a Connecticut woman who had signed a contract to bear a baby for a couple in her state, was five months pregnant, a routine ultrasound showed that the fetus had a cleft palate, a brain cyst and heart defects. The couple for whom she was carrying the baby asked her to have an abortion, offering to pay her $10,000 to do so.

But instead, Ms. Kelley, a single mother of two, fled to Michigan, where surrogacy contracts are unenforceable. So in June 2012, when she had the baby there, Ms. Kelley was listed on the birth certificate as the mother, although she had no genetic connection to the infant, made with the husband’s sperm and an egg from an anonymous donor. The little girl was adopted by a family that had other special-needs children.

While surrogacy is far more accepted in the United States than in most countries, and increasing rapidly (more than 2,000 babies will be born through it here this year), it remains, like abortion, a polarizing and charged issue. There is nothing resembling a national consensus on how to handle it and no federal law, leaving the states free to do as they wish.

Seventeen states have laws permitting surrogacy, but they vary greatly in both breadth and restrictions. In 21 states, there is neither a law nor a published case regarding surrogacy, according to Diane Hinson, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in assisted reproduction. In five states, surrogacy contracts are void and unenforceable, and in Washington, D.C., where new legislation has been proposed, surrogacy carries criminal penalties. Seven states have at least one court opinion upholding some form of surrogacy.

California has the most permissive law, allowing anyone to hire a woman to carry a baby and the birth certificate to carry the names of the intended parents. As a result, California has a booming surrogacy industry, attracting clients from around the world.

Seeking Middle Ground

In many states, surrogacy remains a political third rail, drawing opposition from anti-abortion groups, opponents of same-sex marriage, the Roman Catholic Church, some feminists, and those who see surrogacy as an experiment that could have unforeseen long-range effects.

The issue has produced some strange bedfellows: In several states, for example, Kathleen Sloan, an abortion rights advocate who is a board member of the National Organization for Women, has worked with Catholic and conservative groups to oppose surrogacy because she sees it as a form of exploitation. But most other feminists have backed off.

Click here to read the entire article.

Parenthood Denied by the Law – New York’s Outdated Parentage Law

After a Same-Sex Couple’s Breakup, a Custody Battle

New York Times, September 12, 2014 by John Leland

The Marriage Equality Act, which New York State passed in June 2011, allowed Jann Paczkowski to marry her partner, Jamie, with the assurance that “the marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples” would “be treated equally in all respects under the law.” But when the couple separated and Ms. Paczkowski sought joint custody of the 2-year-old boy they were raising together, she discovered the limits of that assurance. On June 30, 2014, a judge in Nassau County family court ruled that Ms. Paczkowski did not have legal standing to seek access to the boy — because even under the Marriage Equality Act, she was not his parent.

In his decision, Judge Edmund M. Dane acknowledged “inequity” and “imbalance” in the law, adding that if Ms. Paczkowski were a man in the same position, the law might point toward a different ruling. But in the end, he left Jann with no contact with the boy.

The decision devastated Ms. Paczkowski, 36. “You can see how angry and upset I am,” she said on a recent afternoon, seated beside her court-appointed lawyer after a morning spent moving cars for an auction house. She had not seen the boy since a brief visit on Mother’s Day.

“For 17 1/2 months I changed his diaper in the quickness of a dime,” she said. “I fed him. I sat him in a high chair, one spoonful for you, one for me. At night he crawled up to me in bed. Each step that my son took, I did it with him. That’s what a parent does.”

Beyond her pain, the ruling also illuminated a snarl in New York’s treatment of same-sex couples, three years after the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, according to some legal scholars.

“This is a troubling ruling because it leaves a same-sex parent as a legal stranger to her child,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University law school. Family law, she said, “has not caught up with the way families live their lives, or the rest of New York law. And that gap is causing tremendous damage.”

Click here to read the entire article.

The Motherhood Penalty vs. the Fatherhood Bonus – A Child Helps Your Career, if You’re a Man

New York Times – September 7, 2014 by Claire Cain Miller

One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children. Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.

For men, meanwhile, having a child is good for their careers. They are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.

These differences persist even after controlling for factors like the hours people work, the types of jobs they choose and the salaries of their spouses. So the disparity is not because mothers actually become less productive employees and fathers work harder when they become parents — but because employers expect them to.

The data about the motherhood penalty and the fatherhood bonus present a clear-cut look at American culture’s ambiguous feelings about gender and work. Even in the age of “Lean In,” when women with children run Fortune 500 companies and head the Federal Reserve, traditional notions about fathers as breadwinners and mothers as caregivers remain deeply ingrained. Employers, it seems, have not yet caught up to the fact that women can be both mothers and valuable employees.

This bias is most extreme for the parents who can least afford it, according to new data from Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has studied the parenthood pay gap for 15 years. High-income men get the biggest pay bump for having children, and low-income women pay the biggest price, she said in a paper published this month by Third Way, a research group that aims to advance moderate policy ideas. “Families with lower resources are bearing more of the economic costs of raising kids,” she said in an interview.

Cultural assumptions aside, here is the reality: 71 percent of mothers with children at home work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and women are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of households with children, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Yet much of the pay gap seems to arise from old-fashioned notions about parenthood. “Employers read fathers as more stable and committed to their work; they have a family to provide for, so they’re less likely to be flaky,” Ms. Budig said. “That is the opposite of how parenthood by women is interpreted by employers. The conventional story is they work less and they’re more distractible when on the job.”

Ms. Budig found that on average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had. Her study was based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 to 2006, which tracked people’s labor market activities over time. Childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents, widening the gap.

Click here to read the entire article.