New York State Allows Payment for Egg Donations for Research

June 26, 2009, New York TImes

Stem cell researchers in New York can now use public money to pay women who give their eggs for research, a decision that has opened new possibilities for science but raised concern among some bioethicists and opponents of such research.

The decision by the Empire State Stem Cell Board, announced two weeks ago, is believed by the board to be the first in the country allowing state research money to be used for this purpose. The board agreed that women can receive up to $10,000 for donating eggs, a painful and sometimes risky process.

Until now, researchers have relied on unused embryos from in vitro fertilization, as well as reprogrammed skin cells, for their work. Eggs, which offer other avenues for research, have proved more difficult to obtain.

Proponents say compensating women for their eggs is necessary for research, and point out that women who give their eggs for fertility purposes are already paid. Others worry that the practice will commodify the human body and lead to the exploitation of women in financial need.

“What we’re doing is making it in some ways more reasonable for women who are interested in donating for research to do so,” said Dr. Robert Klitzman, director of the new master’s degree program in bioethics at Columbia University and a member of the stem cell board’s ethics committee. “And at the same time, the goal is to move the science ahead, but we don’t want to just move science ahead regardless of people’s rights.” The board’s ethics and finance committees voted to approve compensation.

National Academy of Science guidelines prohibit paying women for eggs used in stem cell research, but researchers say recruiting unpaid donors has been unsuccessful.

“There are many questions you can only answer by studying human eggs,” said Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Harvard and at Children’s Hospital Boston. “I think it’s a gold step for New York State, and it will mean a tremendous advantage for New York.”

Dr. Daley’s research has so far used poor-quality eggs discarded after in vitro fertilization, a process he said has yielded modest returns but no stem cells.

However, Dr. Daley said, concerns that payment alone could induce women to give eggs were valid.

In New York, payments will be carefully evaluated by an institutional review board, Dr. Klitzman said. But that safeguard did not assuage the concerns of some critics that money, and not altruism, would motivate women to give their eggs.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that this is going to create a kind of undue inducement, a scenario in which a person can feel unduly compelled to take advantage of a situation,” said the Rev. Thomas Berg, director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, a Roman Catholic research group, and the only member of the stem cell ethics committee to vote against compensation.

Stem cells, the origin of all cells in the human body, have the potential to transform medicine by providing new ways to treat diseases and disorders that include cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and paralysis. But because stem cell research often involves human embryos, its financing has been a source of controversy for more than a decade. Congress bans the use of tax dollars for any research that results in the destruction of human embryos. In March, President Obama removed restrictions on federally financed stem cell research, but the Congressional restrictions are still in place.

States responded to the federal financing restrictions by pledging money of their own, including $600 million from the New York Legislature in 2007 for an 11-year stem cell research plan. Scientists say the New York board’s decision to permit compensation, reported online Thursday by The Washington Post, is likely to give the state an advantage.

Father Berg, who opposes stem cell research and in vitro fertilization, said he had found “strange bedfellows” in bioethicists who share his concern. Among them is Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, who said he feared that compensation would lead poor women to ignore the risks egg donation can pose.

“The image of women having their eggs harvested in a market is one that the industry is going to find difficult to destigmatize,” he said. “That notion of being treated as an object to derive those kinds of materials is not one that will sit well.”

The internal guidelines of some New York stem cell research centers, including Rockefeller University, Cornell University and the Sloan-Kettering Institute, prohibit paying for eggs. But for researchers without those prohibitions, it opens possibilities, said Susan Solomon, founder and chief executive of the New York Stem Cell Foundation.

“If you’re donating oocytes, there is time and burden,” Ms. Solomon said. “And in our society, we compensate for time and burden.”

Egg Donor Anonymity & Privacy & the Reality of the Google World

I spent the evening last night finally spending some time reviewing some fertility blogs and websites. I was actually surprised by some of the “promises” that were being made to egg donors in relation to their donation of their eggs to recipient parents.  In fact, some claim that the information is shredded once a donation is over and/or their information is not released to other agencies or clinics. I am not really certain how that protects the privacy of the donors in all situations.

I think it is important that those in this industry make certain that we advise egg donors that we cannot ever completely guarantee privacy and anonymity. Yes, the clinics follow the HIPPA rules for the most part, and my office falls under attorney-client privilege rules; however, no one can absolutely be guarantee any privacy.

Why, you may ask? Because when an egg donor fills out her profile, she wants to make certain that some of her accomplishments, etc. are highlighted. By doing so, she makes herself searchable via Google or now Bing. Even when a donor places limited information on her profile, the advent of Facebook, Twitter, My Space, and Google make it very hard for any of us to stay hidden for long.

Well, with this in mind, what is my advice? Just be prudent with your information and understand that you can be found – BUT, and this is a big BUT, is unlikely to happen in the near future. Specifically, it is unlikely that the Intended Parents will try and locate you, although it is always a possibility.

Now, what about the resulting child? What if their parent shares the information with them as they get older to satisfy their curiosity or they find the profile in a safe? Disclosure is becoming more common, as we all know in this industry, and donors need to be aware that this can occur.

Should you as a donor be concerned? Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it is not such a bad thing. I was located, and I am fine with it, as the family did not expect anything from me, except that they were happy that I am there if there is a medical need. No relationship beyond that, and I have no legal responsibility to these children. But, as a donor, I do believe that I have a personal ethical responsibility to be available for information in the future. I am not afraid of the choices that I made, even though I was not advised of this when I donated, although this was in the advent of this entire industry.

In summary, the purpose of this article is not meant to scare away egg donors, as they are desperately needed by families who cannot have families without them; but as a donor, be aware, be prepared and go into this with your eyes wide open to the future. Educate yourself and know what you are agreeing to while knowing the wonderful gift that you are providing a family.

Baldwin bill seeks to end LGBT health disparities

By 365gay Newswire
06.24.2009 10:30am EDT

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin introduced the Ending Health Disparities for LGBT Americans Act (ELHDA) on Tuesday, the first comprehensive approach to improving all areas of the health care system where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans face inequality and discrimination.

“Our current health care system fails LGBT Americans on many levels,” said Baldwin in a statement.

“Although we have ample anecdotal evidence of these disparities, the federal government lacks even the most basic data on sexual orientation and gender identity and health. This bill invests in research and takes critical steps towards improving the health of LGBT Americans and their families,” Baldwin said.

Joining Baldwin in sponsoring the bill are House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). Baldwin has worked for more than a year to craft the bill, which she calls “comprehensive” and “fully inclusive.”

In addition to investing in data collection and research, the bill establishes non-discrimination policies for all federal health programs, provides funding for cultural competence training for health care providers, extends Medicare benefits to same-sex domestic partners, creates a new office of LGBT Health within in the Department of Health and Human Services, and provides funding for community health centers who serve the LGBT community.

The legislation has earned the support of the Human Rights Campaign; National Coalition for LGBT Health; The AIDS Institute; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National; National Center for Transgender Equality; AIDS Action; American Psychological Association; Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization; and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Womb For Hire

ABC News, By Raissa Robles, Newsbreak, 06/16/2009, 06/23/2009

The story almost reads like a fairy tale: no sooner had the child been born than it was taken from its mother and whisked to a land far, far away.

Except that in this case, the infant was flown as hand-carried baggage from Manila to Bangkok, swaddled in the arms of a Danish man who had bought and prepaid for the baby boy.

Far from being a tale of enchantment, what took place  seven months ago in October was the first ever commercially transacted case of surrogacy in the Philippines. It was arranged by a foreign company between a Filipino married woman and a male gay couple from Malaysia and Denmark.

“The egg is actually her own,” Michael Ho, owner of Singapore-based Asian Surrogates, told Newsbreak. He said the woman, whom he declined to name, became pregnant in a “pretty straight forward” manner – through intrauterine insemination or IUI.

“The sperm is inserted into the womb of the surrogate and she gets pregnant, (with) no physical contact” with the male client, he assured.

Because the client “donated” his own sperm, he is the baby boy’s legitimate father and therefore has the legal right to take the infant out of the country, he said. The mother’s prior consent is part of the transaction, he added.

“The father took him back to Thailand because even though he’s Danish, he was working in Thailand,” he said.

He said the gay couple paid Asian Surrogates at least 45,000 Singapore dollars or P1.4 million pesos for the service. Of this amount, roughly P715,074 or 22,000 Singapore dollars went to the Filipina for renting out her womb and providing her eggs. The sum would roughly take   her 5.4 years to earn on minimum wage.

Eight other Filipino women are eagerly waiting in line to provide a similar service, Ho said, expressing his satisfaction.

“I have to say, the Filipinas, they are all very helpful, very enthusiastic. I find the Filipina excellent as a surrogate mother.”

However, they all appeared to be media shy since all refused to be interviewed for this article.

The transaction went unnoticed in the Philippines. Social welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said in an interview that she was not aware that commercial surrogacy was being practiced in the country. Even if it was, she said there was no law to ban it.

Womb Service-Provider

Ho’s company has been operating for four years now as a womb-service provider and claims to have clients in 15 countries including the Philippines, Canada, US, France, Belgium and Germany.

As a womb service-provider, Asian Surrogates is pretty up front with its array of services and fees.

It claims to handpick surrogates. They have to be non-smokers, non-drinkers, bright, healthy and attractive, below 30 but married or with a partner, and a tested baby-maker with at least one child born the natural way.

Unlike similar companies in India which advertise their surrogates are at least five foot three inches tall, Ho’s company imposes no height requirement.

However, he stresses that his girls “do not change their minds, (are) reliable, caring and ethical,” meaning, they “do not keep a couple’s baby for their own gain.”

The straightforward transaction discards any notion of romantic love or lust between the surrogate and her male client. Still, Ho believes love motivates his handpicked girls: They “want to help their own families with the fees they earned” and their husbands, partners or families understand and support this.

His company arranges both the “traditional” and “gestational” forms of surrogacy. The first method is illustrated by the Danish national’s case, where his sperm was mixed with the surrogate’s own eggs through artificial insemination.

The “gestational” method is harder, riskier and costlier. Here, the surrogate merely acts as the host. Eggs from another woman are mixed with sperm in a laboratory using a process called in vitro fertilization. The resulting embryo – popularly known as a “test tube baby” – is then planted inside the surrogate’s womb.

The traditional or natural surrogacy, if done in Manila, costs at least 45,000 Singapore dollars (US$30,380.80). This is easily thrice more expensive than in India, but far cheaper than in the United States.

Der Spiegel magazine, in a September 25, 2008 piece called  “The Life Factory”, estimated that commercial surrogacy in India costs US$10,000, and between US$50,000 to US$80,000 in the US.  (See,1518,580209-3,00.html [5])

Costs in Manila could go up, though, in case of medical complications such as the “loss of reproductive organ.”

Ho’s company justifies its price. This includes the surrogate’s fee, her clothing allowance, food, housing, travel, insurance, medical bills and loss of wages. It also includes chauffeuring the client parents around and housing them.

Looking at the lengthy menu of its services, the firm is in effect practicing medical tourism in the Philippines.

The fee is paid in six gives, with an initial down payment of 5,000 Singapore dollars upon signing the surrogacy agreement. By the third month of pregnancy, two-thirds would have been paid up.

The company makes no mention what would happen to the baby in case the client fails to pay all.

Ho has a separate company, Ivimed, that buys from egg donors at 6,000 Singapore dollars per retrieval. The fee is higher if the donor has a doctorate or a special talent like in music or math.

A client pays 13,500 Singapore dollars for the egg harvesting and other expenses such as egg donor screening, travel, housing and food. Ivimed claims the harvesting won’t hurt, “though some pelvic heaviness, soreness or cramps are common.” Interestingly, the company provides a 250,000 Singapore dollars insurance “in case of medical emergency.”

Ho told Newsbreak that the harvested unused eggs “are frozen in a doctor’s clinic, either here (in Singapore) or in Malaysia.”

“The eggs belong to the girls,” not to his firm. “We take care of our girls, don’t worry,” he said.

Rent-a-womb & egg harvesting may be next RP sunrise industry

Ho’s company, Asian Surrogates, has targeted the Philippines as its area of operations because its “laws are pro-family and show the way in this part of the world by helping infertile couples to start a family without hassles.”

Among Manila’s major attractions is the absence of a specific law banning surrogacy.

“Yes, that’s right, in the Philippines the law is very hazy so there’s no law,” he said.

He acknowledged that surrogacy is banned in Singapore: ”Actually, it’s illegal in Singapore. But you see I’m not breaking any Singapore law because I’m doing this in the Philippines, in India or anywhere else.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez agreed with Ho. He told Newsbreak, “I don’t think we have a law on that” but he added that perhaps it was time the Philippines enacted legislation on the matter.

Ho’s company is not the only one eying Manila.

Fox Family Services Adoption Centre, a Singapore firm which was established “primarily to find good families for unwanted and abandoned infants and toddlers in the Philippines and elsewhere,” has expanded its services beyond mere adoption. It also offers to find for its clients “egg donors” and “surrogate mums”.

Last December, Fox Family owner Irene Low Ai lian was arrested in Jala Jala, Rizal when nine babies were found in the same house she was renting (see Parts 1 [5], 2 [6] and 3 [7], The Baby Merchants).

Meanwhile, the Philippines is apparently acquiring a reputation for its surrogacy services. An American of Taiwanese descent named Tim recently wrote in the web blog : “I was surprised to find out there’s a lack of Asian surrogates in the US (although no lack of them in India or the Philippines apparently.)”

Tim said he and his partner had obtained their daughter through the services of a Latino surrogate.

Commercial surrogacy is legally allowed, but with restrictions, in Tim’s home country the United States, in France, Germany and United Kingdom. It is banned in China, Spain, Australia and Italy.

Considering the skewed growth of the global population, the business caters to a growing niche market. World population is estimated to reach seven billion in two years but with a dramatic decline in fertility levels in the wealthiest regions, according to Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations population division and now research director of the UN Center for Migration Studies.

“The average (fertility) level for Europe, for example, is well below replacement, at 1.5 births per woman,” he said.

Fast-growing India is the acknowledged surrogate capital of the world, according to The New York Times newspaper and  Der Spiegel magazine. While no estimates are available on how much India earns from “baby outsourcing”, it is now being billed as the subcontinent’s next sunrise industry after business process outsourcing (BPO).

Surrogacy in RP

In the Philippines, surrogacy has sometimes been practiced but always informally and never by an organized and registered business like Asian Surrogates.

In fact The Family Code, signed into law on July 6, 1987 by the revolutionary government of President Corazon Aquino, acknowledged this informal practice but placed it firmly within the marital context. It was primarily intended to give the resulting offspring legitimacy when claiming inheritance.

Article 164 states that “children conceived as a result of artificial insemination of the wife with the sperm of the husband or that of a donor or both are likewise legitimate children of the husband and his wife,” provided both spouses agreed in writing before the child’s birth and submitted this agreement to the civil registry, along with the birth certificate.

The Family Code never contemplated that a married couple might opt to hire another woman to grow an embryo from their egg and sperm, like what Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick are now doing.

Philippine law is silent on commercial surrogacy and egg harvesting, perhaps because it did not anticipate this, said lawyer Sally Escutin, legal services chief of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

She said that in the absence of a law banning either, “technically, it’s allowed. But ethically, shouldn’t this be outside the commerce of man?”

“The law never envisioned that a parent would be part of such trade,” she also said.

A section of the Anti-Child Abuse Law (Republic Act 7610) would appear to classify commercial surrogacy as “an attempt to commit child trafficking.” Article IV Section 8 states that trafficking is committed “when a person, agency, establishment or child-caring institution recruits women or couples to bear children for the purpose of child trafficking.”

RA 7610 defines a child trafficker for the first time in statute books as “any person who shall engage in trading and dealing with children including, but not limited to, the act of buying and selling of a child for money.” It becomes a capital crime when the victim is below 12 years old.

But Atty. Escutin pointed out to Newsbreak that the law  does not extend its mantle of protection to the human egg and sperm. “Technically, when you are still egg and sperm you are not a person yet. You have to be born for you to be a person under the Civil Code,” she said.

Surrogacy and egg harvesting both take place before a child is born, so Section 8 of RA 7610 would not apply since it involves trafficking a child, she said.

Amihan Abueva, national coordinator of Asia Acts, an advocacy group against child trafficking, said she was unaware that the surrogacy business had arrived in the country. “It’s more prevalent in India. Here, it’s easier to have simulated births” or the registration of a birth naming fake parents to facilitate illegal adoptions.

Asked to comment on the successful surrogacy involving a Danish national and a Filipina mother, she said: “This is getting more and more bizarre.”

Offhand, she said that while “this really smacks of commercialism” she could not give her opinion on the matter because of the complexity of the issue.

“I guess the problem is, technology is moving so fast ahead of ethics and the law,” she said.

A local fertility doctor said that medically, artificial insemination or the method used in traditional surrogacy is easy to do but Filipino specialists don’t do this outside of  marriage. Insemination is also cheap in Manila, with prices ranging from P5,000 to P10,000.

The Philippine Society of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility has taken a strong position against commercial surrogacy, said its president, Dr. Eileen Malapaya Manalo. “In 2005, we came up with our own ethical guidelines. One of the principles is, there should be no third party surrogacy and no cloning,” she said.

“Basically, we are still influenced by the Catholic upbringing. Most members are Catholic.”  But she conceded that not all fertility specialists, including some who claim to be one, are society members.

Still, she took strong exception to Ho’s claim that “between you and me, all the IVF (in vitro fertilization) doctors in Manila they say they all don’t do it because of the Catholic faith. But in reality they do.”

“Let him face us,” she challenged Ho.

Some Filipinos are eager donors

Even if the country is reputedly deeply Catholic, some Filipinos would eagerly go out of their way and fly anywhere to perform this “humanitarian” deed.

Five Filipinos have offered to be egg donors and surrogates in the website, which charges a hefty 99.99 British pounds just to trawl its site for six months.

One of them is Erika Obias, single, brown-eyed black-haired, part-time model from Malate, Manila who sent photos of herself in a college graduation gown, a schoolgirl uniform and a skimpy bikini.

On February 22, 2009, she posted this message to gay couples: “Hello, I am Erika, 22 years old and I am currently studying law and I have always dreamed of help[ing] people. If giving eggs is one way, I wouldn’t miss out on that kind of experience, even though it’s scary. But I would give it a try.”

Another is Jelo De Leon, a non-smoker. Offering his sperm to a lesbian couple he posted this message on February 17, 2009: “I’m 24, working in a hospital, friendly, caring and love helping others, and haven’t sleep (sic) with someone.”

Even in a macho society like the Philippines, some men would apparently agree to their female partners becoming surrogates. “Why not?,” taxi driver Nolan Lopez told Newsbreak when he learned how much it pays. “Anyway there’s no sex involved,” he said.

He was surprised when his partner, Jannylyn Macalincag, objected saying: “If even a mere cellphone becomes precious to me over time, what more a baby that I would carry inside me.”

IVF Savings: Consider Shared Egg Donation

By Eleni Himaras

Would-be parents who want to work with an egg donor, but who don’t have the $30,000 or so in-vitro fertilization costs, have some hope. Many fertility centers give their recipient patients the option of splitting the cost of receiving an egg donation with another couple.

“It’s really great for the younger patients who haven’t had a chance to really acquire any finances,” says Dr. Bruce Rose of Infertility Solutions, P.C., a clinic in Allentown, Pa.”It gives them the chance to have a child not otherwise possible.”

Sharing Means Saving
This process can save patients up to 50% of the costs in this step in the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process. In some cases what could typically cost $30,000 to $40,000 can come down in price to $15,000.

Other fertility treatment discounts are available, too. Dr. Carlos E. Soto-Albors, senior partner at the Northern California Fertility Medical Center in Roseville, Calif., is making IVF more affordable for patients by decreasing the cost each time they have the procedure, whether it is because they did not conceive the first time or because they want a second child.

“If they wait a year or two [to save additional monies for a second child] it will hurt their chance of getting pregnant,” he says.

Even With Fewer Eggs, Success Rates Are Similar
According to Soto-Albors, the most obvious drawback of sharing an egg donor is that each couple only gets half of the total oocytes.
Typically, when eggs are harvested, doctors will pick the healthiest two or three to turn into zygotes and implant into the mother. In a single-donor program, that can leave up to 10 eggs that can be frozen for use in the future if the procedure was unsuccessful or they want a second child.

But Soto-Albors says couples who share have a comparable conception rate as with those who do not share an egg donor.

“In 2008, we did 39 embryo transfers on the non-shared and 25 of those got pregnant,” he says. “That comes out to 64%.”

In the shared program, they implanted 11 women and seven got pregnant. That’s an identical 64% success rate.

At Soto-Albors’s practice, patients in the non-shared program pay $24,725, and those in the shared pay $16,775, but these numbers vary by clinic.

“When we started it years ago, I was expecting the success rate of the shared program to be smaller,” says Soto-Albors. But in the 10 years he’s been offering the program, the rates have only differed by, at most, 5%.

Kids met gay dad’s partner on Father’s Day

(Atlanta) Eric Mongerson’s kids couldn’t meet his partner of two years, much less join the couple for ice cream. His friends couldn’t cheer on the children at concerts or Little League games.

The divorced dad spent thousands of dollars fighting an unusual ban imposed by a county judge in 2007 that kept the three minors from having any contact with his gay friends or partners. 

He felt unfairly scrutinized every moment he spent with the kids, though he never was looking to make a statement. He just wanted to spend a day with his kids and his partner, Jose Sanchez – together.

This Father’s Day, he finally did.

“It’s a fairy tale ending,” he told The Associated Press after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the ban.

The ban stemmed from the bitter divorce between Mongerson and his ex-wife, Sandy, who were married for almost 20 years and had four children. Mongerson said the marriage ended when his wife discovered he was gay in November 2005, but he would not elaborate.

The dispute played out the next few years in court, as Sandy’s attorney claimed he had several affairs with other men and subjected the kids to an array of “wholly inappropriate conduct” during a trip to Arkansas.

The arguments helped sway Fayette County Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards to award Sandy Kay Ehlers Mongerson custody of the children. The judge also issued a blanket order banning Eric Mongerson from “exposing the children to his homosexual partners and friends.” A fourth child is an adult over 18 and had no restrictions on contact with Mongerson or his gay friends.

Edwards said in his ruling that the decision was meant to reflect “the trauma inflicted upon the children” during the Arkansas trip.

Mongerson, though, said it only made him feel like he was being targeted for coming out of the closet. For almost two years, Mongerson said he feared losing more time with his kids and walked on egg shells during their weekly four-hour visits.

He didn’t hide the fact he was gay from the kids, but they couldn’t be around his partner, Sanchez. He was afraid to invite straight friends who might be accused of being gay. And he wouldn’t dare bring his children to his place in downtown Atlanta, even though his wife once brought a boyfriend to his daughter’s concert.

“I was always afraid of the ‘What if?’” Mongerson said. “I felt isolated, alone. She could go get friends, have them watch the kids, but I could never because I was gay.”

Sanchez, fearful of somehow violating the order, would run through all sorts of scenarios.

“What if you and I are on a plane, and your kids happen to be on the plane?” he would ask incredulously. “Do I jump out?”

Mongerson, a restaurant manager who routinely works 13-hour shifts into the night, said he scrounged together more than $10,000 to challenge the judge’s decree, partly by wracking up debt on his credit cards.

In court arguments in January, attorneys Hannibal Heredia and Kimberli Reagin contended the judge had no evidence that exposing the children to Mongerson’s gay friends would damage them.

Last Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously agreed. Justice Robert Benham wrote in the scathing 10-page ruling that the trial court abused its discretion without evidence of harm to the children. He concluded it “flies in the face of our public policy that encourages divorced parents to participate in the raising of their children.”

The decision was quickly applauded by gay rights advocates who say the judge’s order was rooted in decades-old misconceptions about gays and lesbians. Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality called the top court’s decision a dose of “common sense and fair mindedness.”

Sandy Mongerson’s attorney, Lance McMillian, said the mother does not plan to appeal.

“My client is interested in putting it behind her,” he said. “Other than that, we don’t have anything to say about it.”

As news of the court’s ruling filtered down to Mongerson on Monday morning, he picked up the phone and called his partner. It didn’t take long to work out their schedule for Father’s Day, when they’d finally go out for that ice cream.

“I cry at commercials – he cries before commercials come on,” Sanchez said. “He’s very emotional. He said, ‘Happy Father’s Day. You get to meet my children.’”

Couple back home with twins after months of legal battles

Shekhar Bhatia

A couple from London who spent £25,000 in a deal with an Indian surrogate mother are back home in East Ham with their three-month-old twins after a lengthy legal fight.

Chris and Susan Morrison saw their children, Louis and Freya, born seven weeks early on 1 March and spend their first weeks in intensive care while a dispute between Britain and India blew up over their nationality.

The family were forced to sit it out in hotels in the intense summer heat until the Indian government granted them exit visas.

Mr Morrison, 40, a marketing analyst, said: “It is so wonderful to be at home with our children. We have waited years for this.”

Mrs Morrison, 37, said: “I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe that I am holding my own children in my arms. We have been to hell and back, but it has been well worth it.”

The couple were forced into using surrogacy because Mrs Morrison, a former teacher, suffers from a rare blood disorder which caused her to miscarry. Britain does not allow commercial surrogacy and there is a shortage of volunteers.

Louis and Freya were born to Vimla, a 24-year-old Gujarati housewife who was paid £8,000 by the Morrisons in a deal arranged by a clinic in the city of Anand.

They spent another £17,000 in their efforts, including hospital fees. But the UK regarded the twins as Vimla’s children, while India recognised them as the Morrisons’.

The couple had to apply for British passports then Indian exit visas and it took weeks to sort out details while they were stuck in Jaipur and Mumbai.

Mrs Morrison said: “I am just so glad we are home in London as a family. Our prayers have been answered. The twins have caused a great deal of excitement among family and friends.”

The Morrisons are advising childless couples on what can be and emotional and legal rollercoaster.

Mr Morrison said: “We are happy to help because we know how terrible it is to not have any real prospects of becoming parents. There are many people desperate for a baby of their own.”

Georgia Passes Nation’s First Embryo Adoption Law

ATLANTA — By a vote of 108 to 61, the Georgia House sent the nation’s first ever embryo adoption bill, HB 388, to the desk of Governor Sonny Perdue for him to sign into law.

“We are pleased that we are making headway in our goal of establishing personhood for the pre-born” says Daniel Becker, President of Georgia Right to Life. “Gone are the terms designating the human child at an embryonic stage as property … devoid of rights.” says Becker.

The language of the bill stops short of declaring full personhood for the child but does introduce new terms that acknowledge for the first time that an embryo has “rights and responsibilities” that are owed to it under Georgia law. “Legal embryo custodian” replaces “embryo donor” throughout Georgia’s new code sections dealing with embryo adoption. No longer is an embryo described as being “donated” by its genetic parent.

“Gametes, cars, old clothes and other property are ‘donated'” says the bill’s author, House Rep. James Mills, “not children … they are adopted.”

It also clarifies that an embryo’s life begins “at a single-celled” stage. “This is an important distinction as we see the medical community attempt to lessen the personhood of an embryo by re-defining a zygote to be a ‘pre-embryo'” says Becker.

“Estimates are that over 40,000 cryo-preserved human embryos are abiding in concentration cans in our state,” says Becker, “this will allow them an opportunity to have a birthday.”

It is also possible that a Federal Adoption Tax Credit will now be available to parents to offset the legal costs of adoption. The limit under IRS guidelines is $11,500.

“We look forward next year to the passage of a companion bill, SB169, the Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos. This would effectively ban therapeutic and reproductive cloning, destructive embryonic stem cell research and human/animal hybrids.” says Becker. The Georgia Senate had passed SB 169 by a vote of 34 to 22.

Other pro-life initiatives passed this session include Senate Resolution 328, “that the members of this body recognize that the right to life is paramount and the need for protection of the lives of the innocent at every stage.”

Colorado gay couples OK’d to adopt. New legislation allows joint adoption of children by unmarried couples.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter recently signed legislation that allows same-sex couples to adopt.

The Colorado Springs reports that House Bill 1330 by Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder, allows the joint adoption of children by unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, unmarried heterosexual partners and relatives seeking to help single mothers.

Colorado becomes the 10th state in the country to allow such second-parent adoption.

Raising Kids in a Same-Sex Marriage

Washington Post Blogs – June 2009

Lisa Miller

First comes love, then comes marriage. Then come all the thorny issues that arise with raising kids in a religious tradition when that religious tradition doesn’t see you as married.

When another state legalizes gay marriage, as New Hampshire did recently, civil-rights activists cheer. But practicalities are another matter, and same-sex couples–especially those who want to raise their children with religion–may find that the laws intended to protect them may also create new domestic challenges previously unforeseen. That two men or two women would want to marry and raise children in a church that views their love as sinful would be, in the eyes of some, puzzling at best. (I’m focusing on the Roman Catholic tradition here, but any orthodox religion presents similar trials.) Many people feel that religion is essential to them, however, and that family life would be emptier without it. Gregory Macguire, author of the novel Wicked, has had all three of his children baptized in the Catholic Church. He recently watched proudly as his youngest child had her first holy communion. “As the daughter of two dads, she sat in the first pew in her beautiful, white, borrowed gown,” Macguire told me. “And then she sang, ‘I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, down in my heart’.”

Macguire lives in Concord, Mass., and is legally married now–but wasn’t when he and his partner started adoption proceedings for each of their three children (from Southeast Asia and Latin America) more than 14 years ago. In an ironic twist, gay-marriage laws now make foreign adoption more difficult for gay couples. Adoption agencies and lawyers say no foreign countries knowingly give babies to gay couples for adoption. Same-sex couples who want to adopt internationally have traditionally circumvented this prohibition with the following fudge: one half of the couple adopts as a single person. Once back home, the couple goes to court and establishes co-parenthood in states that will allow it. A legally married gay couple doesn’t have the option of a fudge: truthful responses to questions about marital status on adoption documents crush the couple’s chances of ever adopting abroad. That’s why Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders advises couples to wait to get married. “If international adoption is important … then they need to postpone forming a legal relationship,” says Bruce Bell, who runs GLAD’s help line.

And then there’s the question of adoption agencies with traditional religious affiliations. In Britain, Catholic-run adoption agencies are in an uproar for having to comply with a 2007 law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. Because the Catholic Church stands so firmly against gay marriage–and reaffirmed this opposition in a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith–any Catholic agency that helps same-sex couples adopt children is, in a sense, helping to foster a lifestyle that it believes is fundamentally immoral. (The 2003 document was explicit: allowing same-sex couples to adopt children “would actually mean doing violence to these children.”) Now, with the 20-month transition period over, the British agencies are having to choose between retaining their Catholic affiliation or their function as adoption agencies.

Lest one think this couldn’t happen here, it already has. In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston agonized about whether it could submit to the state’s nondiscrimination policies. “What the Catholic Church has tried to say,” explains the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who, at the time, headed Catholic Charities, “is that gay men and women ought to have their civil rights protected. I think on the whole we’ve pretty much stood for that in terms of wages, jobs, access to living accommodations … Where you meet the neuralgic point is the definition of marriage.” Hehir says that he and Boston’s Archbishop Seán O’Malley understood that the church’s teaching left no wiggle room. They shut the adoption agency down.

But there are many ways of procuring children, and once procured, the Catholic Church–on a pastoral level, at least–has had only occasional problems baptizing and educating them in the tradition. “Church law always favors the salvation of the person and is very biased in favor of the person asking for the sacrament,” says John Baldovin, a sacramental theologian at Boston College. What canon law actually says is this: any baby can be baptized if the parents agree, and if the infant has a reasonable hope of being raised in a Catholic home. The experts disagree, obviously, about whether two mommies or two daddies are able to do this. Macguire firmly believes he is, and he can imagine severing his relationship with his church over the enforcement of any hard line. What he can’t imagine is being anything but Catholic.

With Jessica Ramirez