In the Age of Celebrity Surrogate Families, What Exactly Is Surrogacy?

Kim Kardashian and Kanye are reportedly expecting their third child via surrogate — many other celebs have done so too.

But surrogacy is nothing new, with more and more Americans opting for it. In 2011, 1,593 babies in the U.S. were born to gestational surrogates, up from 738 in 2004, according to data from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), an Alabama-based nonprofit.

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New York Magazine, and their online presence, The Cut, have produced this video to better explain the surrogacy process.

NYMag.com via thecut.com- September 14, 2017

Click here to view the video.

Edie Windsor, Equality’s Champion, Dies at 88

Edie Windsor, a tireless advocate for LGBTQ rights who became a worldwide icon at age 84 when her lawsuit against the US government led the Supreme Court, in 2013, to strike down the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, has died at the age of 88.

“I lost my beloved spouse Edie, and the world lost a tiny but tough as nails fighter for freedom, justice, and equality,” said Judith Kasen-Windsor, who married Windsor last September, in a written statement. “Edie was the light of my life. She will always be the light for the LGBTQ community, which she loved so much and which loved her right back.”

Roberta Kaplan, the civil rights litigator who represented Windsor in her successful DOMA challenge, said, “Representing Edie Windsor was and will always be the greatest honor of my life. She will go down in the history books as a true American hero. With Edie’s passing, I lost not only a treasured client, but a member of my family. I know that Edie’s memory will always be a blessing to Rachel, myself, and Jacob. I also know that her memory will be a blessing not only to every LGBT person on this planet, but to all who believe in the concept of b’tzelem elohim, or equal dignity for all.”edie windsor

Windsor’s victory at the Supreme Court, which came on a 5-4 vote on June 26, 2013, meant that the federal government was obligated to recognize all legal marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms as those of different-sex couples. Windsor arrived before the Supreme Court in her challenge to a federal estate tax bill of more than $360,000 after the 2009 death of her first wife, Thea Spyer.

Windsor and Spyer, both New Yorkers who began dating in 1965, had traveled to Toronto in 2007, where they legally married. The following year, a New York court ruled that the state would recognize legal same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, despite the fact that such marriages could not yet be formalized within the Empire State. Regardless of New York’s recognition of their marriage, the Internal Revenue Service viewed Windsor and Spyer as legal strangers.

Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the DOMA case made clear that the court was not ruling on the underlying question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry — but instead on the narrower issue of whether the federal government must recognize those marriages legally recognized by the states or foreign governments — over the following two years, district and appeals courts, in a blizzard of pro-equality rulings, drew on the logic of the Windsor decision to find just such a constitutional right. On June 26, 2015, two years to the day after the Windsor ruling, the Supreme Court, in the same 5-4 split, ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry.

by Paul Schindler, gaycitynews.com – September 12, 2017

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Lesbian couples can now have children who are a part of each of them

Over the years I’ve had many lesbians tell me they want children but don’t see themselves being pregnant. It’s not part of their “body image.”

At some level, I understand this feeling. Our gender identity and sexual identity are tied up in our body image and feelings of sexual desire. Being pregnant and carrying a baby inside is an incredibly unique, womanly experience. Men have no idea what this is like, despite how much some may try.

As an experienced obstetrician who’s cared for many pregnant women throughout their pregnancies and deliveries, and as a gynecologist who has cared for and has performed gynecologic surgeries for women for the past thirty years, I’ve seen first-hand the many phases of reproductive health (and experiences with ill health) that only women can experience.IVF

I understand that some women may not identify with parts of that spectrum. For a lesbian couple it is sometimes easy to decide who will carry the pregnancy, while other couples struggle mightily with this uniquely lesbian decision. For single lesbian women, the choice can become more complex: to carry oneself and maybe go into new self-awareness territory, or to utilize the reproductive assistance of a gestational carrier.

We usually reserve gestational surrogates for women with a clearly defined medical need for surrogacy, yet lesbian women can often have very real issues that educate their life choices. Is body image a medical necessity for surrogacy? I believe that it can be if it’s tied into a woman’s sexual identity and sense of self.

We are very fortunate to live in a country where reproductive options are now available for all individuals regardless of gender, sexual identity, or marital status. This is not the case across Europe and other parts of the world. In my practice I see many patients from across the globe – from China, Europe and elsewhere – who travel for reproductive treatment options that are illegal where they live.

All women, and in particular lesbians, who might consider having children someday should talk with their doctor about reproductive options available, or ask for a referral to a fertility specialist to review the treatments that may best apply to their situation. It is imperative that lesbian women seek out a practice that is comfortable providing care to lesbians and same-sex couples.

By Dr. Guy Ringler, LGBTQNation.com – September 12, 2017

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The Worst (and Best) Places To Be Gay in America – Opinion

If the Trump administration won’t protect gay people, we’re at the mercy of our ZIP codes.

All my life I’ve loved Texas: those big skies, big steaks and big attitudes. I’m there several times a year.

But Texas doesn’t love me back. Certainly its lawmakers don’t, and lately they’ve been hellbent on showing that.

In June the governor signed a bill allowing child welfare groups to refuse adoptions that contradict their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” They can turn away gay men like me.adoption and surroagcy

That same month, the Texas Supreme Court approved a lawsuit challenging the city of Houston’s provision of equal benefits to all married employees, including those with same-sex spouses. Although the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, Texas bucks and balks.

Not New York. My state loves me something fierce. What it did in June was finalize the design of a monument to L.G.B.T. citizens in downtown Manhattan. New York legalized same-sex marriage back in 2011 without any federal nudge.

There’s no such thing as L.G.B.T. life in America, a country even more divided on this front than on others. There’s L.G.B.T. life in a group of essentially progressive places like New York, Maryland, Oregon and California, which bans government-funded travel to states it deems unduly discriminatory. Then there is L.G.B.T. life on that blacklist, which includes Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota.

The differences between states — and between cities within states — are profound, and while that has long been true, it’s much more consequential since the advent of the Trump administration, a decidedly less ready ally of L.G.B.T. people than the Obama administration was.

The federal government under Donald Trump won’t be rushing in to help L.G.B.T. people whose local governments fail to give them equal rights, a sense of belonging or even a feeling of physical safety. Despite Trump’s happy campaign talk about how fond he was of gays (and, Trump being Trump, how fond they were of him), his record as president has been hurtful and hateful. Immediately after his inauguration, references to the L.G.B.T. community were scrubbed from many federal websites, including the White House’s and the Department of State’s.

Plenty of the people he pulled into his cabinet have long histories of pronounced opposition to gay rights. One of them, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, leads a Department of Justice that recently went out of its way to make clear, in court filings, that it did not consider L.G.B.T. people to be protected by a federal civil rights law that prohibits employment discrimination. The Obama administration had taken the opposite view.

by Frank Bruni, New York Times, August 25, 2017

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What Donor Conceived People Think of Donor Conception

The number of donor conceived children (donor sperm, donor egg, and donor embryo) is expanding.

In many ways it feels that we are standing on a precipice. We have such an opportunity in front of us to avoid some of the mistakes made in the past with both sperm donation and adoption, and yet I fear we are not learning.  Donor conceived children may have the answer.

The real experts on the best way to raise a child conceived by donor sperm, egg, or embryo are the adults that were conceived by donor conception way back in the day (or not so way back). I recently read the results of a fascinating survey of 82 donor conceived adults on We Are Donor Conceived.IVF

The people who responded to the survey were from around the world, mostly female (84%), raised by heterosexual parents (82%), and conceived by donor sperm (81 out of 82). They were born between 1954 and 2000, with 42% being born in the 1980s.

Donors and Donor Siblings are Important

According to We are Donor Conceived, 65% of respondents agree with the statement “My donor is half of who I am”. 94% indicated they often wonder what personality traits, skills, and/or physical similarities they share with their donor. 96% of respondents said they would like to know how many donor siblings they have, and a strong majority indicated they are open to forming a relationship with their donor (87%) or donor siblings (96%).

Eighty-six percent of the respondents thought that anonymous donation should not be allowed.

When Did They Find Out They Were Donor Conceived

The results on when they found out they were conceived by donor surprised me because I assumed that more of them would have found out later in life. The survey, however, found that 61% were five years or younger when they found out.

by Dawn Davenport, August 24, 2017 – Creatingafamily.org

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What Parents Can Do to Nurture Good Writers – Guide for School Age Parents

Nurture good writers – Steve Graham, a professor at Arizona State University’s Teachers College, has been researching how young people learn to write for more than 30 years. He is a co-author of numerous books on writing instruction, including “Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students.”

How does reading at home help children become better writers?

Reading is really critical, but it’s not enough. We don’t have much evidence that if you just read more, you’ll be a better writer. But analyzing text does make a difference to nurture good writers. So when we read to kids, we can also have conversations with them about the author’s craft. How did this author make this place seem real in terms of description? What words did they use? How did they present this idea or this argument?nurture good writers

Should a parent correct a child’s writing, or just be encouraging?

Sometimes when kids come to you to share what they’re writing, they’re not coming for feedback. They are coming for affirmation. It’s really important we emphasize first and foremost what we really like about it. And if you’re going to give feedback, just pick one or two things. English teachers — and parents are guilty of this, too — sometimes overwhelm kids with more feedback than they can absorb all at once. The other thing that’s really important, particularly for parents, is to remember that they don’t own this piece. It’s their child’s. Asking questions, instead of saying “Do this,” can be a more effective approach. It gives the child the opportunity to make decisions about the text.  This will help to nurture good writers.

Is social media hurting children’s writing at school?

I don’t think so. Kids are constantly creating text when they are at home. They tweet, they text, they Facebook. Each of those has its own rules, and one of the advantages is that students learn that you write in different registers in different situations. We can use that to our advantage, working with kids on how we’d put that writing in a more formal situation. Changing register is a skill kids need to learn.

What should parents look for to assess the writing instruction at their child’s school?

After about third grade, very little time is devoted to explicit writing instruction. It’s like we’ve imagined that kids have acquired what they need to know to be good writers by then! In middle and high school, the most common activities are fill-in-the-blanks on worksheets, writing single sentences, making lists or writing a paragraph summary. When you start talking about persuasive essays or an informative paper, those things occur infrequently in English class and even less so in social studies and science.

New York Times, August 2, 2017 Interview by Dana Goldstein

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The Weirdest Reactions Same-Sex Parents Get from Straight People

Being a same-sex parent means dealing with a barrage of unexpected questions and remarks from straight people. We collected gems from couples across the country.

When I was pregnant with our son, my wife Sam and I often imagined our lives post-delivery: the unbearable cuteness of bath time, the inevitable onset of exhaustion, the middle of the night blowouts. We knew everything about our relationship was about to change, and that it would be close to impossible to prepare for what was to come.  Straight people and their questions.straight people

As same-sex parents, however, we knew we might have to steel ourselves for something else: a shift in how the world sees us. Though it would be years before he would understand that having two moms made him different, we had decisions to make about our son early on: what language we would use to describe our family, how we would answer questions from loved ones and strangers, how we would respond to inquiring minds.

The hospital staff where I delivered had experience with same-sex couples, and they made us feel welcome and celebrated. But in the world we’ve encountered since, reactions have often felt more complicated. In restaurants and grocery stores, men and women have wanted to stop and ask about our beautiful baby. Often their congratulations landed on whichever one of us was holding him; if anyone was confused when we both responded, they never let on. When people ask, “Who’s his mom?” We say, “We both are.” Often, when people learn we’re same-sex parents, they feel comfortable asking us who carried, whether he’s breastfed, how we chose a donor. We’re incredibly open when we reply, but I often wonder whether they’d ask the same kinds of questions of a hetero couple.

Those subtle displays of obliviousness are often frustrating (when they’re not humorous), and we’re far from alone in our experiences. Below, we collected stories from a handful of same-sex parents around the country about reactions they’ve encountered from the world, and how they’ve chosen to respond in turn.

Vice.com, by Laura Leigh Abbey, July 27, 2017

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As Surrogacy Surges, New Parents Seek Legal Protections

As more couples turn to surrogates to carry their child, some states are considering further protections for the intended parents, many of whom are gay, by handling custody issues before a child is born.

When Brad Hoylman and his husband wanted to start a family, they looked to a woman nearly 3,000 miles away to carry their child.Hoylman

The two Manhattanites turned to a surrogate in California, a state with a robust commercial surrogacy industry, because the practice is banned in New York.

The advent of gay marriage, advances in reproductive technology, and the fact that more people are waiting longer to start families have fueled a surge in the surrogacy industry.

In 2015, 2,807 babies were born through surrogacy in the U.S., up from 738 in 2004, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Women are often paid at least $30,000 to carry a baby created from the egg and sperm of others.

But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?

In many states the law is murky or even silent on surrogacy. The industry is free to operate but the contracts signed between surrogates and intended parents may not be legally binding. The baby may be born in a state that views the woman who gave birth as its mother, even if she has no genetic connection to the child.

The legal uncertainty is particularly concerning to the intended parents, who usually spend about $100,000 (including payments to a surrogate and the company she works with as well as doctors and lawyers) and risk ending up without the child they counted on. Gay male couples have an additional fear: that they might be discriminated against if they are embroiled in a legal fight over custody.

In states that ban commercial surrogacy and those with no laws at all, legislators are pushing bills that would legalize the practice, determine parentage before a child arrives, and ensure that contracts are enforceable and followed by all parties. In many cases, they would require surrogates to be at least 21, to have already given birth to their own children, and to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluations before signing a contract.

Hoylman, a state senator from New York, introduced a bill this year that would legalize surrogacy in his state and establish the legal framework of intended parentage.

Surrogacy became legal in Washington, D.C., in April, and lawmakers in Minnesota and Massachusetts debated bills this year but didn’t approve them. In New Jersey, state lawmakers passed similar bills in 2012 and in 2015, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed them. The Senate passed another bill this week.

Women and Babies as Commodities?

Critics of surrogacy, including both religious conservatives and some feminists, object to what they view as the commodification of both women and children. Opponents point to numerous European countries that have banned the practice and say states should be wary of letting American women be used by others, including foreigners searching for surrogates beyond their borders.

For many, the financial aspect of surrogacy is most troubling.

“Women will be exploited by wealthy people,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota’s Catholic Conference. “We see all kinds of Hollywood stars contracting with surrogates, but we don’t see any Hollywood stars serving as surrogates for their nannies and maids.”

Surrogacy companies prefer to work with women they consider financially stable in order to avoid women who may be acting out of financial desperation. Medicaid does not cover surrogacy costs, and women who are enrolled in the program would risk losing coverage for themselves and their families if they carry a surrogate baby.

By Rebecca Beitsch, Huffingtonpost.com, june 29, 2017

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Why Do I Have To Adopt My Own Daughter?

This Pride, I’ll be marching for my daughter, who isn’t securely mine without adoption.

This year’s Pride Parade will be different. On June 25th, LGBT New Yorkers and their straight allies will congregate in the streets of Manhattan with an urgency the city hasn’t seen since the 80s AIDS crisis or the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which galvanized the modern day Gay Rights Movement. Tens of thousands will stomp down Fifth Avenue protesting the Trump Administration’s sustained efforts to roll back—way back—LGBT progress. I’ll be joining them, but mostly I’ll be marching for my daughter Marty, who, it turns out, isn’t securely mine without an adoption.

Since taking office in January, Trump has rejected proposed changes to include LGBT-related questions on the U.S. Census; he erased a page dedicated to LGBT Rights from the White House’s official website; he rescinded the guidelines Obama put forth allowing trans students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender expression; and he partially revoked an Obama-era executive order compelling federal contractors to demonstrate their compliance with anti-discrimination directives.lesbian moms

Although I thought Marty was already mine in no uncertain terms, a few months ago, while researching estate planning attorneys, my spouse Sabrina and I discovered just how tenuous my relationship to Marty could be without a second-parent adoption. Despite the fact that she was born within my marriage, that my name is on her birth certificate, that we live in New York, one of the most progressive states in the country, and that our marriage is recognized by the federal government, every major LGBT advocacy group strongly advises me—and every other non-gestational parent—to complete a second-parent adoption to protect our family from potential legal consequences. And it will cost, at best, a whopping$4,000.

Neglecting to adopt Marty could have shattering consequences: If we ever visit or live in a state where family law is not settled on questions surrounding the legal status of non-biological parents, or one that continues to challenge marital equality, or another country that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, my parentage could be disputed by a medical or school administrator. In cases of life or death, and the need for immediate decision-making authority, that could be especially devastating.

According to Anthony M. Brown, an LGBT family law attorney in New York City, it’s not just news to me. “Gay couples are often surprised and indignant by the necessity of second-parent adoption because they believe we’ve already fought and won this battle,” he says. “But the battle is still playing out in family courts around the country and world.”

“Emboldened legislatures,” he adds, “are attempting to whittle away at marriage rights through parentage issues.” Arkansas and Indiana, for examples, refuse to allow non-biological parents in same-sex marriages to appear on their children’s birth certificates. And a judge in Kentucky thinks he can recuse himself from gay adoptions because, he says, “under no circumstance would ‘… the best interest of the child … be promoted by adoption …’ by a practicing homosexual.”

These legal quagmires existed before Trump was elected, but his presence in the Oval Office adds new anxieties for same-sex parents. “In the Trump era,” says Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counselor at the Human Rights Campaign, “where we see more rhetoric about it being OK to discriminate and Trump giving credence to those who say they should have a religious right to refuse services to same-sex couples, you need to have every possible protection.”

by Stephanie Fairyington, Elle .com June 23, 2017

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Same Sex Parents Still Face Legal Complications

At gay pride marches around the country this month, there will be celebrations of marriage, a national right that, at just two years old, feels freshly exuberant to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

But while questions of marriage are largely settled, same sex parents still face a patchwork of laws around the country that define who is and who can be a parent. This introduces a rash of complications about where L.G.B.T.Q. couples may want to live and how they form their families, an array of uncertainties straight couples do not have to think about.

“There are very different laws from state to state in terms of how parents are protected, especially if they’re unmarried,” said Cathy Sakimura, deputy director and family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “You can be completely respected and protected as a family in one state and be a complete legal stranger to your children in another. To know that you could drive into another state and not be considered a parent anymore, that’s a pretty terrifying situation.”gay parents adoption

Adoption laws, for example, can be extremely contradictory. In some states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, adoption agencies are expressly prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation. At the same time, other states, like South Dakota, have laws that create religious exemptions for adoption providers, allowing agencies to refuse to place children in circumstances that violate the groups’ religious beliefs.

Alan Solano, a state senator in South Dakota, sponsored his state’s adoption legislation. He said he was concerned that if those groups were forced to let certain families adopt, they might get out of the adoption business entirely, shrinking the number of placement agencies in the state.

“I wanted to ensure that we have the greatest number of providers that are working on placing children,” Mr. Solano said. “I’m not coming out and saying that somebody in the L.G.B.T. community should not be eligible for getting a child placed with them. What I hope is that we have organizations out there that are ready and willing to assist them in doing these adoptions.”

But as a practical matter, lawyers who specialize in L.G.B.T.Q. family law say that in some areas, religiously affiliated adoption organizations are the only ones within a reasonable distance. Moreover, they say, such laws harm children who need homes by narrowing the pool of people who can adopt them, and they are discriminatory.

“There is a very serious hurt caused when you’re told, ‘No, we don’t serve your kind here,’ and I think that gets lost in the public discourse a lot,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. “There’s just this narrative that absolutely ignores, and almost dehumanizes, L.G.B.T. people. They’re missing from the equation here.”

There are a number of laws that can affect L.G.B.T.Q. families, from restrictions on surrogacy to custody, and the landscape is constantly shifting.

by Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times – June 20, 2017

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