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But in many places, once the baby arrives, outdated state laws fail to answer an important question: Who are the parents?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

Click here to read the entire article.

Two dads, two babies and a $150,000 journey

Some gifts inspire short-lived exultation, others polite nods. 

Then there are the gifts that take your breath away, rewarding years of self-doubt, financial hardship and agonizing choices. They help you realize that you, like your squirming preemies wrapped in tubes, are not fragile but a fighter.

For Jeffrey and Brian Bernstein, a gay married couple living in a sleepy Philadelphia suburb, the gift of life was not a happy accident.

Growing their family required foresight, patience, herculean coordination with egg donors, surrogate brokers, fertility specialists and lawyers, along with a $150,000 nest egg.surrogacy

One day, when the Berstein twins inevitably ask about their mother, they will hear about the 24-year-old, raven-haired outdoor enthusiast who pumped herself full of hormones and provided her eggs anonymously. Then they will learn about the 31-year-old stay-at-home mom with the blonde bob, “Aunt Ashly,” who also injected hormones, lent her uterus and underwent a C-section seven weeks early.

Both women live in Texas, where surrogacy laws are considered progressive. Neither wants to be called “mom.”

“It’s important that we bring our children up with the understanding that their family, while they may be different, is just as valid, loving and caring,” explains Jeffrey, a fitness coach. 

“There’s nothing shameful in how our family came together.”

STORY: A child’s journey to ‘truegender’

Surrogacy dates to Biblical times when Abraham’s barren wife, Sarah, loaned her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband to procreate.

In recent decades, the practice of a woman carrying the biological child of another individual or couple for payment has raised thorny questions from feminists and religious conservatives alike about the exploitation of women and commodification of children.

Today, most countries around the world, including developing nations, ban commercial surrogacy. But the practice is still legal in the U.S., which has emerged as an in vitro fertilization hub for prospective parents at home and abroad. In nearly every state, surrogacy operates legally or underground. 

by Margie Fishman, The News Journal, June 16, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

HOYLMAN ANNOUNCES COMMITTEE PASSAGE OF BILL TO LEGALIZE SURROGACY IN NEW YORK

 
S.17A, the Child-Parent Security Act, would legalize enforceable gestational surrogacy agreements in New York State

Hoylman: Becoming a parent should be a joyous occasion, not an illegal act. We need to legalize and regulate surrogacy contracts sensibly.”

ALBANY – State Senator Brad Hoylman (D, WF-Manhattan), Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced passage today of his bill (S.17A) to lift the ban on compensated surrogacy through committee. Currently, New York is only one of five states where compensated surrogacy is illegal, along with Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Washington.gay dads

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “For decades, New York law has been stuck in the dark ages on surrogacy. While the science on reproductive technology has advanced, our laws haven’t. The infamous ‘Baby M’ case led to a complete ban on surrogacy in New York. But now, thanks to in vitro fertilization, surrogates carry babies who are not genetically related to them, technology that wasn’t available at the time of Baby M. 

“As the proud father of a child born through surrogacy in California (and another on the way!) where it’s legal, I’ve experienced firsthand the need to provide the option of surrogacy to New Yorkers and establish laws to protect all the parties in a surrogacy arrangement, including the gamete donors, surrogates, intended parents and unborn children. Becoming a parent should be a joyous occasion, not an illegal act. We need to legalize and regulate compensated surrogacy contracts sensibly. 

“I thank my colleagues on the committee and look forward to working with them to pass this important piece of legislation through the full Senate.”

Hoylman’s legislation, the Child-Parent Security Act (S.17A), which he carries along with Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), would permit legally enforceable compensated gestational surrogacy agreements, allow individuals to obtain a “Judgement of Parentage” from a court prior to the birth of the child to establish legal parentage, and establish firm legal protections for both parents and surrogates.

May 23, 2017 – by Brad Hoylman

Click here to read the entire release.

Carrying a child for someone else should be celebrated—and paid

Restrictive rules are in neither the surrogate’s interests, nor the baby’s

The earliest known description of surrogacy is an ugly biblical story: in Genesis, the childless Sara sends her husband to bed with her maidservant, Hagar, and takes the child as her own. It is this exploitative version of surrogacy that still shapes attitudes and laws today. Many countries ban it outright, convinced that the surrogate is bound to be harmed, no matter whether she consents. Others allow it, but ban payment. Except in a few places, including Greece, Ukraine and a few American states, the commissioning parents have no legal standing before the birth; even if the child is genetically theirs, the surrogate can change her mind and keep the baby. Several developing countries popular with foreigners in need of a surrogate have started to turn them away.

These restrictions are harmful. By pushing surrogacy to the legal fringes, they make it both more dangerous and more costly, and create legal uncertainty for all, especially the newborn baby who may be deemed parentless and taken into care. Instead, giving the gift of parenthood to those who cannot have it should be celebrated—and regulated sensibly.surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legal

Getting surrogacy right matters more than ever, since demand is rising (see article). That is partly because fewer children are available for adoption, and partly because ideas about what constitutes a family have become more liberal. Surrogates used to be sought out only by heterosexual couples, and only when the woman had a medical problem that meant she could not carry a baby. But the spread of gay marriage has been followed by a rise in male couples turning to surrogates to complete their newly recognised families. And just as more women are becoming single parents with the help of sperm donation, more men are seeking to do so through surrogates.

The modern version of surrogacy is nothing like the tale of Sara and Hagar. Nowadays, surrogates rarely carry babies who are genetically related to them, instead using embryos created in vitro with eggs and sperm from the commissioning parents, or from donors. They almost never change their minds about handing over the baby. On the rare occasions that a deal fails, it is because the commissioning parents pull out.

 

A modern surrogacy law should recognise those intending to form a family as the legal parents. To protect the surrogate, it should demand that she obtain a doctor’s all-clear and enjoy good medical care. And to avoid disputes, both parties should sign a detailed contract that can be enforced in the courts, setting out in advance what they will do if the fetus is disabled, the surrogate falls ill or the commissioning parents break up.

Emotional labour

Laws should also let the surrogate be paid. Women who become surrogates generally take great satisfaction in helping someone become a parent. But plenty of jobs offer rewards beyond money, and no one suggests they should therefore be done for nothing. The fact that a surrogate in India or Nepal can earn the equivalent of ten years’ wages by carrying a child for a rich foreigner is a consequence of global inequality, not its cause. Banning commercial surrogacy will not change that.

The Economist, May 13, 2017 Print Edition

Click here to read the entire article.

As demand for surrogacy soars, more countries are trying to ban it

Many feminists and religious leaders regard it as exploitation

NATALIE SMITH was born without a uterus. But her ovaries work normally, which means that, with the help of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and a “gestational surrogate”—a woman willing to carry a baby for someone else—she and her husband were able to have children genetically related to both of them. In 2009 they became parents to twins, carried by Jenny French, who has since had babies for two other couples. Ms French was motivated by her own experience of infertility between her first and second children. The experience created a lasting link: she has stayed friends with the family she helped to complete and is godmother to the twins.

gay surrogacy

Ms Smith was lucky to live in Britain, one of just a handful of jurisdictions where surrogacy is governed by clear (though restrictive) rules. In some other European countries, it is illegal. American laws vary from state to state, all the way from complete bans to granting parental rights to the intended parents, rather than the woman who carries the baby. In most of the rest of the world, until recently, surrogacy has been unregulated, leaving all concerned in a legal vacuum. The variation in laws—and costs—has created a global surrogacy trade rife with complications and pitfalls.

Now many of the developing countries whose low costs and lack of legal restrictions had made them popular surrogacy destinations are trying to end the business. Thailand barred foreigners from paying for surrogacy in 2015. Nepal banned it, even when unpaid, later that year. India, where surrogacy had been a booming business for more than a decade, suddenly barred foreign clients a few months later. A bill before its parliament would allow only unpaid surrogacy by close relatives.

These new laws were intended to protect surrogates from exploitation. These poor and often illiterate women could earn an amount equivalent to ten years’ wages for a single pregnancy. Governments feared that some did not understand the contracts they were signing. Unscrupulous clinics often placed multiple embryos in their wombs with the aim of making pregnancy more likely, without making the risks clear. Some overused Caesarean sections and neglected post-partum care.

The Economist, May 11, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Highlights From 2017 Chicago MHB Surrogacy & Gay Parenting Conference

The 2017 Chicago MHB Conference was an amazing experience for over 100 participants and dozens of providers.

 The possibility of family is a powerful realization and I am proud to be a part of an organization that provides that possibility at the 2017 Chicago MHB conference for so many gay men around the world.  For more information visit www.menhavingbabies.org or www.youtube.com/menhavingbabies.

With over 4500 future and current gay parents worldwide, the international nonprofit Men Having Babies (MHB) is dedicated to providing its members with educational and financial support. Each year over a thousand attendees benefit from unbiased guidance and access to a wide range of relevant service providers at its monthly workshops and conferences in NY, Chicago, Brussels, San Francisco, Dallas and Tel Aviv. The organization’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP) annually provides dozens of couples with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from over fifty leading service providers. Collaborating with an advisory board made of surrogates, MHB developed a framework for Ethical Surrogacy that has received endorsements from several LGBT parenting organizations worldwide. In addition, MHB offers extensive online resources, a directory with ratings and reviews of agencies and clinics, a Surrogacy Speakers Bureau, and a vibrant online community forum.

 

For Gay Parents, Deciding Between Adoption and Surrogacy Raises Tough Moral Questions

When my husband David and I became new parents, we thought it would be fun and perhaps even affirming to get involved with a gay dads group.

As far as I could tell, the only regular event was a brunch that took place every few months. That sounded promising, a throwback to idle Sundays before the babies made it all about them. The food was always great—these are gay men, after all. But as it turned out, the event was neither fun nor affirming.

The gatherings mostly took place in wealthy suburban redoubts and were marked by a weird social division between two teams: Surrogacy Dads and Adoptive Dads. Some of this division was to be expected. Each group had war stories to share, and it was natural to break the ice with those who had lived through similar experiences. But after one or two brunches, I came to see that this kind of informal division reflected something much deeper: a philosophical debate about how we should form our families. The annoyingly named “gayby boom” has created a knot of moral questions that are impossible to avoid.Child health outcomes

Should is a weird word to use in this context, of course. For gay men especially, bringing children into the family is difficult and challenging no matter which route one chooses. Our first instinct should be support for all families, regardless of what route each of us took to realize our dreams. Both surrogacy and adoption present daunting legal obstacles—even now that marriage equality has been achieved.

As I learned when researching a book I co-authored, surrogacy is a state-by-state legal minefield. Some states won’t recognize these contracts at all, while the law in other states is unsettled. And there is the ever-present danger that the woman carrying the child will try to renege on her commitment. Adoption is hardly more secure. The countries offering this choice to gay men are constantly changing. Domestic adoption can be fraught as well either because birth mothers change their minds, or as in our case of adoption through the child welfare system, because the process has no certain outcome.

Beyond the legal hurdles, though, there’s an undeniable moral component to whatever decision we make. Those who can pony up the money for surrogacy—which frequently exceeds $100,000, all in—are faced with the cold fact that they’re selecting an egg donor based on objective calculations of positive attributes. Lesbians do the same with sperm donors, although of course at a much lower cost since no surrogate is needed.

When a case surfaces that draws the uncomfortable selection process into the open, people are left tongue-tied trying to figure out the proper response. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for Slate about the case of a lesbian couplethat sued a sperm bank for providing the “wrong” material—from a black, rather than a white, donor. As I said at the time, outraged gasps at the couple were “easy, but not completely fair. Because everyone who transacts business with companies that offer sperm and egg donation is looking for a bespoke baby.”

When it comes to the gestational surrogate, there’s the additional issue of contributing to an industry that commodifies the body in an obvious way. The ethical issues multiply when the surrogate is from a developing country, often India, where women are paid much less for their services; but such “surrogacy tourism” just highlights the uncomfortable exchange going on in all these cases.

Those thinking of adopting face internal battles, too. As required by law, case workers confronted David and me with an unsettling battery of questions about the race, age, and sex of the kids we were willing to adopt, as well as delicately phrased inquiries about whether we’d be comfortable dealing with disabled kids—and, if so, they needed to know, what kinds of disabilities did we think we could handle? Really, who knows?

By John Culhane, slate.com

Hey, Daddy! is a monthly column exploring the joys and struggles of parenting from a gay father’s perspective. Got a topic idea or question for Daddy? Send your letter along to johnculhane@comcast.net.

Click here to read the entire article.

As Mexican State Limits Surrogacy, Global System Is Further Strained

After years of longing and a mountain of expense, Michael Theologos became a father in December, when a surrogate mother gave birth to his son in a clinic in this tropical town. Mr. Theologos wept as he cut the umbilical cord.

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico — Then the trouble began.

The next day, officials arrived at the hospital and took the baby, Alexandros, into custody. They said Mr. Theologos, a New York City resident, had broken a new law that bars surrogate mothers here in Tabasco State from bearing children for foreigners.

Mr. Theologos, 59, did not see Alexandros again for nearly six weeks.international surrogacy

“You receive your dream and then someone comes over and takes away everything,” said Mr. Theologos, an American citizen who paid $55,000 to an agency for the surrogacy. Speaking by telephone from Queens, he added, “It was the end of the world for me.”

Mr. Theologos and his son are among a dozen foreign families who have been tangled up in a legal battle over how to apply new surrogacy restrictions in Tabasco, which for years was the only state in Mexico that allowed foreigners to hire surrogates.

Dozens of other families whose babies are yet unborn will face the same quandary, officials and lawyers said.

The imbroglio highlights the legal complexities of commercial surrogacy and the hazards of outsourcing it to freewheeling frontier markets, experts said.

“It’s an area that’s incredibly hard to regulate,” said Sam Everingham, global director of Families Through Surrogacy, a nonprofit based in Sydney that organizes seminars and shares information on the internet.

The model in which would-be parents from wealthy countries hire surrogates in poorer — and less regulated — nations is “not sustainable,” he said.

Surrogacy has expanded around the globe over the past decade as adoption rules become more stringent. But several markets have boomed and then abruptly closed to foreigners or people who are not in heterosexual marriages, often catching parents in a messy transition from one law to the next.

surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legalTabasco, where surrogacy has been legal since 1997, became a hub after India closed its doors, first to gay and then to foreign would-be parents, starting in 2013, and Thailand followed suit.

In Tabasco, the new restrictions closed a lucrative door for hundreds of women in a state where the oil industry has shed thousands of jobs, and the unemployment rate, at over 7 percent, is the highest in Mexico.

“There are no opportunities here,” said Mariana, 34, an unemployed saleswoman who bore twins for an Australian man last year. Like other surrogate mothers interviewed for this article, she did not want her full name used.

Sipping a soursop juice at a noisy cafe in the city center recently, she said that the pregnancy, for which she was paid about $10,000, was her “only chance to get ahead.”

The market here was never as large as India’s and Thailand’s had been. The government estimates that about 100 babies were born to surrogates in Tabasco each year from 2013 to 2016; academics and activists say it could have been as many as 500 a year.

by Victoria Burnett, New York Times – March 23, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

In landmark ruling, Italy recognizes gay couple as dads to surrogate babies

For the first time in Italy, two gay partners have been legally recognized as fathers of two surrogate children.

The children were born to a surrogate mother in the United States using artificial insemination, but both of the men will officially be named as its father – not just the parent who is biologically related.

Judges at Trento’s Court of Appeal made the historic ruling in line with the birth certificate issued in the US, which stated the dual paternity, according to the Article 29 website.international surrogacy

The website, which takes its name from the article in the Italian Constitution regarding family life, published the ruling on Tuesday, though the ruling was dated February 23rd.

In their decision, judges noted that the foreign birth certificate was valid because in Italy parental relationships are not determined solely by biological relationships.

“On the contrary,” they said, “One must consider the importance of parental responsibility, which is manifested in the conscious decision to have and care for the child.” 

Article 29 said the decision had “great significance”, as it is the first time an Italian court has ruled that a child has two fathers.

Surrogacy in Italy

Italian law prevents couples from using a surrogate mother, and in theory, anyone caught entering into a surrogacy arrangement faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to a million euros.

Two years ago, a child was taken from its parents who had paid a surrogate mother in Ukraine 25,000 euros. The couple were charged with fraud and the child put up for adoption.

TheLocal.it, February 28, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

The LGBT Trump Disconnect

The LGBT Trump disconnect is real and attention must be paid to what appears to be the beginning of a not so veiled assault on LGBT rights in America.

First, I must say that there is an LGBT Trump disconnect.  Since I wrote my first piece about LGBT family rights in the Trump presidency, a lot has changed.  I have heard from many people, and I myself wanted to believe, that Trump wouldn’t touch the LGBT gains that we have made during the Obama years.  But his actions have proven different.  His appointments, activity in state courts and the often unintelligible rhetoric we have become accustomed, all suggest that we may not be as safe as some thought we were.

The Appointment Problem – My greatest fears about Trump’s appointments center around the Department of Justice (DOJ), and more specifically, around the civil rights division of the that agency.  First, the long and telling history of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the Republican Senator from Alabama who President Trump has tapped to lead the DOJ, is troubling for many more that just LGBT Americans.  According to The Washington Post, Jeff Sessions has claimed to be a civil rights champion, yet he has overstated his experience and, in some cases, lied altogether about his involvement.  Sessions has spent the majority of his career attempting to undermine LGBT equality, the details of which are numerous and troubling.

But the worst of this story is that President Trump has chosen John M. Gore to head the DOJ’s Civil Right s division.  Mr. Gore, prior to this nomination, was in the process of defending North Carolina’s odious trans-bathroom bill.  Prior to that, he defended Republican efforts to gerrymander congressional districts in violation of the civil rights of minority Americans.       This is not only putting the fox in charge of the hen house, but the hens in this analogy are real people who have had their civil rights violated in what should be the most fundamental right this country possesses – the right to vote.  How can they now trust that their best interests will be defended by a person who, up to now, has made a career out of challenging these fundamental rights?

The Visibility Problem – One of the first signs that there might be a distance between Trump’s “accepting” rhetoric toward the LGBT community during the campaign and what he plans to do as president appeared, or rather disappeared, within the first hour after he was sworn in.  The official White House website, www.whitehouse.gov, removed the LGBT rights page which had been there throughout Obama’s last term, and before.  No explanation was given, however, the pro-Trump Twittersphere rejoiced.LGBT Trump

In an equally expedient manner, all data regarding climate change was removed as well from the whitehouse.gov site.  As most LGBT Americans are not one issue voters, this deletion concerned me as much as the LGBT page being removed.  “Out of sight, out of mind,” seems to be the rule of law now.

The Marriage Issue – I referred earlier to things having changed since I wrote LGBT Family Rights in a Trump Presidency.  At that time, the Supreme Court of Texas had declined to re-hear a case which would abolish benefits that the City of Houston provides to same-sex married couples. Literally on Trump’s inauguration day, the Supreme Court of Texas changed its mind, under GOP pressure.  The Republican Governor of Texas himself wrote a brief to the court asking them to reconsider, essentially arguing that the Obergefell Supreme Court marriage decision does not apply to Texas.  In that brief, the Governor wrote of the “Federal Tyranny” of the courts and that Obergefell does not require that same-sex married couples and different-sex married couples receive equal treatment under the law.

In my previous article, I was originally at a loss for identifying a case with a fact pattern that would make it to the Supreme Court which would have the effect of etching away at the Obergefell marriage decision.  This Texas case may be just that.  It would undoubtedly take time to make it to the Supreme Court, and who knows what its makeup will be then.  But the anti-marriage movement’s argument is in development and may take the same amount of time to get its legs.  The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a decision based on the above mentioned logic denying same-sex couples that right to be listed on their children’s birth certificates.  The issue is now before us and we cannot afford to stop paying attention.

After attending the Women’s March in Washington this last weekend, I left with a renewed sense of hope and possibility.  Hundreds of thousands of people made the impossible seem possible.  The greatest lesson that I took from my experience there was that no matter how generous I may have felt before in giving President Trump a chance to govern, I cannot forget, nor should any of us, that he won the election by dividing the country and making it clear that some people were simply not welcome.  Those are not “alternate facts.”  Those are the facts.  

This is the LGBT Trump disconnect.  I fear now that my beloved LGBT community has taken its place among women, black people, brown people, Muslim people and immigrant communities that were so vilified during the election and may have no voice in the Trump administration.  I hope that the LGBT Trump disconnect is a myth, but if past is prologue, we have no option other than to pay attention, remain engaged and share our feelings with everyone we can. 

For more information, visit www.timeforfamilies.com, or email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.  

 

Update – 1/30/2017 – As of Friday, January 27, 2017, the Trump administration has reacted to outrage regarding the removal of climate change information from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website by restoring that information on to the EPA website.  All LGBT information remains missing from the whitehouse.gov site.

 

Update – 2/23/2017 – As of Thursday, February 23, 2017, the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgendered students in public schools.

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