Do kids think of sperm donors as family?

How do we define a parent — or a family?

Bioethicist Veerle Provoost explores these questions in the context of non-traditional families, ones brought together by adoption, second marriages, surrogate mothers and sperm donations. In this talk, she shares stories of how parents and children create their own family narratives.veerle-p

Click here to watch the Ted Talk.

Conscious Surrogacy – Making the Best Decisions For Your Family

Is there such a thing as conscious surrogacy? Yes, and those considering surrogacy will be confronted with some serious ethical questions.

Conscious surrogacy is a process. It is critical to understand some of the questions, and dilemmas, that you will face if you choose surrogacy to help you have your family.  If you are prepared to answer these questions before your surrogacy journey, and if you are comfortable with your answers, then you are ready to have these conversations with a potential surrogate mother.

What are some of the questions that you will face on your conscious surrogacy journey?

Do I want a single embryo or double embryo transfer? Do I want twins?  One of the first questions you will have to consider is whether you want to try and have twins with your surrogate mother.  Many choose this option for economic reasons.  If you know that you want more than one child, consecutive surrogacy journeys may not be an option.  But there is much more to consider.

conscious surrogacy

Twin pregnancies are much harder on the surrogate mother.  It can mean doctor ordered bed rest for your surrogate and more doctors’ visits, particularly in the third trimester.  Twin pregnancies also bring a higher risk of complications for the surrogate, such as preterm labor, and hypertension.

Twins arrive earlier. A normal singleton pregnancy is 40 weeks.  Most twins arrive early, at or before 36 weeks, which means that one or both of the children may require an extended hospital stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit.)  Some doctors state that in 50% of twin pregnancies, a NICU stay is required.  This by itself may give parents pause about choosing a double embryo transfer.  Studies show that consecutive singleton births result in better medical outcomes than a single twin birth.  With all the information, you can make a conscious decision.

Do I want PGD or PGS? Preimplantation genetic diagnosis or screening is now being offered by most IVF facilities.  PGD or PGS allows a parent to view the genetic material of their child before an embryo is implanted in a surrogate mother’s womb.  PGD/S can show whether a child has any genetic disorders, the sex of the child and other genetic traits that may complicate a pregnancy.  While infertile couples who use IVF (in vitro fertilization), or anyone with a preexisting genetic condition,  may be familiar with PGD/S, couples or individuals who have their families with the assistance of a surrogate mother will most definitely be asked whether they want the information that PGD/S provides.

Knowing whether there is a genetic complication prior to embryo implantation may be in the best interests of all parties, however, choosing the sex of your child before it is born ventures into an ethical quagmire. Most families do not have this information and, while the technology exists, you must ask whether you want the information that it can provide.  The mental and physical health of your surrogate mother must be a priority in making this decision.

Do I want to selectively reduce if complications arise? Perhaps the most important questions you will confront is whether or not to selectively reduce, or abort, an embryo or fetus if there is a danger to the surrogate mother or to the child.  In reality, no state will enforce a gestational carrier contract which requires selective reduction.  The surrogate mother will always have the final say.  But you must know what you want first before you can discuss it with your surrogate.

While abortion is one of the most controversial topics in American society, it is routinely a part of conversations that intended parents have with their surrogate mothers. Surrogacy agreements attempt to cover all possible outcomes and obstacles that can arise during a surrogate pregnancy.  The most important aspect of this topic is being able to communicate your beliefs and desires with your surrogate.

There are many more issues that intended parents will face. Conscious surrogacy is about understanding the major decisions surrounding these issues and being able to come to a place of peace with each one, first with yourself, then with your surrogate mother.  Respecting her autonomy during the pregnancy will take you a long way toward reaching this goal.  Maintaining open and honest communication with your surrogate mother will also help to ensure that the journey is successful for all involved.

For more information about surrogacy, please visit http://www.timeforfamilies.com or email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

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New standards will tighten rules governing sperm and egg banks in Canada

Rigorous screening requirements would apply to those who donate sperm and eggs within Canada as well as abroad, when intended for export to Canada.

 

Sperm and egg banks will be required to review donors’ medical records and conduct more genetic testing under proposed new Canadian standards for assisted reproduction, which will be unveiled within two weeks, the Star has learned.

Developed by the Canadian Standards Association at the request of Health Canada, the new draft standards are intended to bring the country’s woefully outdated regulatory framework around assisted reproduction into the 21st century, says Dr. Arthur Leader, chair of a CSA subcommittee on assisted reproduction.Human Sperm Cell

Rigorous screening requirements would apply to those who donate sperm and eggs within Canada as well as abroad, when intended for export to Canada. Most donated sperm and eggs used in Canada comes from abroad.

Had these improvements already been in place, it’s unlikely the sperm of a U.S. man who turned out to have been diagnosed with a number of serious mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, would have made its way across the border, Leader says.

“If there had been a validated medical record, they would have caught this case,” he said.

Chris Aggeles had been advertised by Georgia-based sperm bank Xytex Corp. as exceptionally healthy, based on a medical history questionnaire he had filled out. His sperm was subsequently used in the creation of at least 36 children in Canada, the United States and Britain.

But the truth about his health was revealed only after Xytex mistakenly released his name to some mothers in an email. Until then, he had been anonymous.

Angie Collins, a Port Hope, Ont., woman who is mother to a nine-year-old boy created from Aggeles’ sperm, is thrilled about the proposed changes, particularly the requirement for sperm banks to check donors’ medical questionnaire against their health records.

Collins is one of a number of mothers who is suing Xytex.

“Until now, the honour system has been the relied-upon method and it is clearly ineffective. This would help to prevent situations like ours from arising. Parents would not have to spend years wondering if their child will or will not inherit the donor’s known debilitating mental health conditions,” she said.

The CSA’s new draft standards are intended to underpin improvements to the regulatory framework of assisted human reproduction legislation. They are being released for public commentary.

“Suggestions are most welcome because we want the best standards in the world. The hope is that Health Canada will reference these standards in their entirely in their regulations,” Leader said.

The news of the pending release of the draft standards comes a week after Health Canada announced plans to strengthen and clarify the regulations in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

Canada’s current semen regulations are focused primarily around screening donor sperm for sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C and gonorrhea.

There exist no regulations for donor eggs or donor embryos.

TheStar.com by Theresa Boyle – 10/7/2016

Click here to read the entire article.

MHB Brussels 2016 Surrogacy Conference Highlights

More than 220 attendees from 12 countries attended the 2016 MHB Brussels conference on Parenting options for European gay men. The conference was widely covered by the Belgian media, allowing us to raise the need for ethical and effective surrogacy legislation around Europe.
This was our second Brussels Conference and it once again provided a wealth of unbiased information and access a wide range of relevant service providers. It was offered in an expanded two-days format, and at a larger venue, yet once again we had to add an overflow room with live video feed to accommodate the large demand. It brought together community activists from several LGBT European organizations, medical and legal experts, parents and surrogate mothers.
On the first day of the conference we will introduce MHB’s new Framework for Ethical Surrogacy, which was developed with the assistance of an advisory board made of surrogates. The framework already received endorsements from several LGBT family associations worldwide.

On the second day several workshops and panels provided peer advice on surrogacy in the USA and Canada, and adoption of children from the USA. Advice was also offered on finding and picking professionals to help in the process, and how to obtain financial assistance.

Birth of Three-Parent Baby a Success for Controversial Procedure

A few months ago, after a fertility procedure at a Mexican clinic, a healthy baby boy was born in New York to a couple from Jordan. It was the first live birth of a child who has been called — to the dismay of scientists who say the term is grossly misleading — a three-parent baby.

“This is huge,” said Dr. Richard J. Paulson, president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, after the birth was reported on Tuesday of a three-parent baby.

The method used to help the couple is one that reproductive scientists have been itching to try, but it is enormously controversial because it uses genetic material from a donor in addition to that of the couple trying to conceive. The purpose is to overcome flaws in a parent’s mitochondria that can cause grave illnesses in babies.three-parent baby

Mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories, are separate from the DNA that determines a child’s inherited traits. But mutations in these little organelles can be devastating, resulting in fatal diseases involving the nerves, muscles, brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems that often kill babies in the first few years of life.

The technique that led to the healthy birth was to move the DNA from an egg of the mother, who had mutated mitochondria, and place it in the egg of a healthy egg donor — after first removing the healthy donor’s nuclear DNA from her egg cell. Then that egg, with its healthy mitochondria and the mother’s DNA, could be fertilized.

More than a decade ago — before controversy forced the work to stop — researchers tried a simpler technique that did not involve swapping nuclei between eggs. Instead, they injected some healthy mitochondria into an egg in an attempt to help with repeated failures at in vitro fertilization. It was not a method that could be used to prevent the birth of children with mitochondrial diseases.

The story of the Jordanian couple’s procedure began in 2011 when they came to see Dr. James Grifo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University who pioneered the method in studies with mice. He referred them to his former student Dr. John Zhang, medical director of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York. Dr. Zhang had tried the method in 2003 in China, but the 30-year-old woman’s twins were born prematurely and died, though their mitochondria were normal.

When Dr. Zhang told the Jordanian couple about the technique, they hesitated. They already had a child who was terribly ill with Leigh syndrome, a mitochondrial disease, but there was a chance they could have a normal baby on their own — a quarter of the woman’s mitochondria were mutated, but mitochondria are distributed at random in eggs. If an egg with mostly good mitochondria happened to be fertilized, the baby would be fine. They decided to take their chances.

New York Times, by Gina Kolata – September 27, 2016

Click here to read the entire article.

Ethical Surrogacy – Making the Right Choices

Ethical surrogacy is, and must be, the goal of an intended parent (IP) who is looking to have a family with the assistance of a surrogate mother.

Because of the different parties involved and the roles that they play, there must be a guiding, ethical roadmap for intended parents to follow to ensure that everyone has a successful and positive experience, an ethical surrogacy. Up until very recently, no such roadmap existed for intended parents.  Doctors have such guidelines in the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) Recommendations for Practices Utilizing Gestational Carriers.  Attorneys also have such guidance in numerous articles and section committees dedicated to issues surrounding surrogacy.

Respect Ethics Honest Integrity Signpost Meaning Good Qualities

Now there is a place where intended parents can go to review best practices and baseline protocols for ethical surrogacy, ensuring that each IP has the tools to create an ethical journey. Men Having Babies (MHB), a non-profit organization of which I am the board chairperson, recently introduced A Framework for Ethical Surrogacy for Intended Parents, available online in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Hebrew.  This comprehensive document is supported by several LGBT organizations in America and abroad.

What is Ethical Surrogacy?

MHB’s ethical surrogacy framework revolves around the notion that surrogacy can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience for all parties involved, even if the surrogate is compensated for her efforts, risk and inconvenience. While compensation is part of the process, the act itself is not commercial because the IPs are not buying anything, particularly a child, which is a claim made by some anti-surrogacy activists.  A surrogate efforts should be compensated, even if the journey does not result in a pregnancy or in the case of a miscarriage.

How can Ethical Surrogacy be Achieved?

Regulation is the key to achieving ethical surrogacy. Having laws in place that require independent representation for all parties ( in their home languages), ensuring that all parties are vetted medically and psychologically, limiting compensation so as not to create irresistible incentives for participation and making surrogacy legal in each state and in each country so IPs and surrogate mothers do not have extraordinary distances between them, all work together to create an ethical surrogacy environment.

Reasonable and appropriate legislation should be enacted to allow perspective parents, donors and surrogates enter into legally enforceable agreements for surrogacy arrangements without having to cross state lines or country borders. This fosters more successful and fulfilling relationships between surrogate mothers and IPs.  Steps must also be taken to limit any medical risks that donors and surrogates face in the surrogacy process.

Baseline Protocols for Providers

Several baseline protocols should be implemented by service providers to ensure an ethical surrogacy experience including, but not limited to: informed consent from all parties, medical screening, social and psychological screening, independent legal representation (with language interpretation is required) before any treatments begin, medical insurance review from the surrogate mother and an agreement regarding contact during and after the surrogacy journey.

Best Practices

Best practices are suggestions for “above and beyond” thinking that is required of IPs because so much of the integrity of the journey depends on them. Among these suggestions is the creation of a long term vision about your family.  Who will be the biological parent?  How many journeys do you anticipate? What will the relationships be during and after the surrogacy?  How will you explain your family make-up to your child?  These questions are just a few of those that need to be asked and answered in the surrogacy process.

Above all, the autonomy of your surrogate mother must be respected and supported. While it may be your child that she is carrying, it is her pregnancy.  Insuring that she knows that you, as IPs, understand this distinction is critical to supporting her autonomy.  Her family and community will also play a role in her pregnancy, so getting to know her circle of support is a wonderful way of bolstering that support, making the journey a happy and healthy one for your surrogate mother.

While the MHB Framework for Ethical Surrogacy for Intended Parents goes deeper into the specifics of making your journey an ethical one, this article is designed to begin a conversation about the quality and success of your surrogacy journey.  After all, your family is worth it!  For more information, go to timeforfamilies.com or email Anthony at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

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Pastors Sue Illinois Over Gay Conversion Therapy Ban

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A group of pastors is suing Illinois over a law that bars therapists from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation.conversion therapy

The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court seeks to exclude clergy from the ban that took effect Jan. 1. The lawsuit contends the prohibition shouldn’t apply to clergy because it violates free speech and religious rights.

Illinois is among five states with bans on so-called gay conversion therapy for youth under 18. Laws in California and New Jersey have withstood legal challenges, but an attorney for the pastors says the prohibitions in those states did not include clergy.

Click here to read the entire article.

New York Times August 11, 2016

Supreme Court Blocks Order Allowing Transgender Student Restroom Choice

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily blocked a court order that had allowed a transgender boy to use the boys’ bathroom in a Virginia high school.

The vote was 5 to 3, with Justice Stephen G. Breyer joining the court’s more conservative members “as a courtesy.” He said that this would preserve the status quo until the court decided whether to hear the case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

The court’s order has no effect on any other case.

new york probate process

The gavel of a judge in court

The move came amid a national debate over transgender rights. A North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use bathrooms in government buildings that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates has drawn protests, boycotts and lawsuits. A directive from the Obama administration threatening schools with the loss of federal money for discrimination based on gender identity has been challenged in court by more than 20 states.

The case in the Supreme Court concerns Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as a male and will soon start his senior year at Gloucester High School in southeastern Virginia. For a time, school administrators allowed Mr. Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom, but the local school board adopted a policy that required students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms for their “corresponding biological genders.” The board added that “students with gender identity issues” would be allowed to use private bathrooms.

California Approves LGBT History Lessons for Classrooms

References to gay Americans and events start in second grade.

SAN FRANCISCO—In second grade, California students will learn about families with two moms or two dads. Two years later, while studying how immigrants have shaped the Golden State, they will hear how New York native Harvey Milk became a pioneering gay politician in San Francisco.

California education officials approved those changes in classroom instruction Thursday to comply with the nation’s first law requiring public schools to include prominent gay people and LGBT-rights milestones in history classes.gay family values

The State Board of Education adopted the updates as part of a broader overhaul of California’s history and social-science curriculum. Dozens of people attending the meeting criticized the way Muslims, Hindus and Jews are discussed, but no one spoke out against the new treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

“We are proud to represent a diverse state, and we are proud that this framework reflects the state that we serve,” said Lauryn Wild, a Southern California curriculum specialist who chairs the advisory commission that produced the new guidelines.

They weave references to gay Americans and events throughout the history and social-science curriculum, starting in second grade through discussions about diverse families and again in fourth grade with lessons on California’s place in the gay-rights movement.

The guidelines also touch on the topics in fifth and eighth grade—looking at gender roles in the 18th and 19th centuries and examples of individuals who flouted them—and throughout high school.

A capstone of sorts will come in U.S. government courses, where seniors would learn about the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and recent court cases involving bathroom access for transgender students.

The changes are designed to satisfy legislation passed by California lawmakers five years ago that added LGBT Americans and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions schools are supposed to teach and must appear in kindergarten through eighth-grade textbooks.

The legislation also prohibited classroom materials that reflect adversely on gays or particular religions.

The law took effect in January 2012, but its implementation was slowed by opponents’ failed attempts to overturn it, competing educational priorities and budget cuts that stalled work on drafting recommendations for the school board and textbook purchases.

While some school districts and teachers made efforts to incorporate gay history since the law passed, many were nervous about tackling the topic without explicit guidance from the state, said Carolyn Laub, a consultant for a group of LGBT parents called Our Family Coalition.

“If educators perceive, rightly or wrongly, they may not get support from their administration if they face pushback from a parent who says, ‘I don’t want you talking to my kid about that,’ they are reluctant to do a whole lot of inclusion,” Ms. Laub said.

Associated Press  -July 14, 2016

Click here to read the entire article.

GOP Passes ‘Most Anti-LGBT Platform’ in History, Log Cabin Republicans Shocked

Led by some of the nation’s most anti-lgbt politicians and even the head of an anti-gay hate group, Republicans late Tuesday voted on and passed the final draft of the GOP 2016 platform.

The Log Cabin Republicans issued a fundraising email immediately, shocked, apparently, telling supporters, “moments ago, the Republican Party passed the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”politics, corrosive politics

 

“Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of “pray the gay away” — it’s all in there,” the email reads, as the Miami Herald’s Steve Rothaus reports.

“This isn’t my GOP, and I know it’s not yours either,” wrote Log Cabin President Gregory T. Angelo. “Heck, it’s not even Donald Trump’s!,” he claims, although that’s debatable.

When given a chance to follow the lead of our presumptive presidential nominee and reach out to the LGBT community in the wake of the awful terrorist massacre in Orlando on the gay nightclub Pulse, the Platform Committee said NO.”

As NCRM has been reporting all week, along with passing an amendment calling for an unconstitutional “religious freedom” bill, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) to become law, the GOP platform committee passed a plank that effectively says children raised in a “traditional” family are better off than children raised by same-sex parents or single parents.

thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, July 13, 2016

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