The Hidden Costs of International Surrogacy

By Darlena Cunha – The Atlantic – December 23, 2014

When Rhyannon Morrigan and her husband Drew used an egg donor and surrogate to have their child at a clinic in Delhi, India, they knew the road would be long, but had no idea how rough. Their kids, John and Maizy Morrigan, were born at 32 weeks in India. Stuck in the paperwork limbo of international surrogacy, the Morrigans not only missed the birth but they had to wait nearly two weeks, receiving word of their infants’ health from across the globe.

John died at ten days due to a lack of oxygen. Morrigan heard of his death just as she was on her way to the airport in Seattle, ecstatic to finally be meeting her twins. Days later, she wrote on Facebook: “My son died. The fact that I have a daughter does not change this.”

When Morrigan finally met her surrogate—Mrs. S—the meeting was strained and awkward, full of unspoken emotion.

“The doctors kept beaming at us, almost desperately,” Morrigan said. “’Congratulations on your beautiful daughter’, they said. But my surrogate and I felt anything but celebratory.”

Morrigan said the birth of her children was supposed to be the end of her story, but it has actually forced her to look at surrogacy and all its complexities more carefully. She wanted a story with a happy ending in an industry which has been recently marred by scandals and fraud. Instead, she’s left worrying whether her financial contribution to her surrogate will be enough.

“I left feeling very concerned for her because I get to come home to the U.S., and we have counseling services and a lot of privilege, and while I know that her economic life will be better, I’m not sure she’ll be able to handle this emotionally by herself. She was devastated. She is my son’s mother, too.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Germany High Court Paves the Way for Surrogacy

By  Richard B. Vaughn, Esq. – December 20, 2014

Chair, ABA Family Law Section A.R.T. Committee

In a landmark ruling released yesterday, Germanys highest court essentially has paved the way for German intended parents via surrogacy to have their children recognized.


In summary:  The decision of the highest court in Germany (Bundesgerichtshof) is a milestone. Mainly it says that both intended parents – also the non-genetic parent – can be recognised as legal parents of the child in Germany. Until now Germany had a very restrictive policy about surrogacy. In some cases even the genetic parent was not recognised as legal parent. The decision marks an important and positive shift.


Here is a short breakdown of the ruling:


  1. Applicant-appellant in this case was a same sex couple and their child born by a surrogate in California. ‎The Superior Court in Place County had issued a decision holding that appellants were the parents of the child. They petitioned the authorities in Berlin to issue a birth certificate for the child listing appellants as the parents. The officer at the birth register denied that request because the California surrogate was the child’s mother for all purposes under German law.


  1. Appellants sought judicial review of this decision but the Berlin courts upheld‎ the officer’s refusal to register appellants as parents. In its decision the Berlin appellate court held that a foreign court order recognizing a surrogacy agreement was null and void in Germany as it was against public policy (ordre public). Accordingly, German law applied and under the Civil Code only the woman giving birth may be registered as the child’s mother.


  1. On further appeal, the Federal Supreme Court vacated the Berlin court’s decision and issued a mandate that appellants be registered as legal parents.


  1. The Federal Court held that the decision by the California court commands comity and German courts may not, as a rule, second-guess a foreign court’s decision (prohibition against a so-called revision au fond).


  1. The presumption of validity under the comity principle may only be overcome if a recognition of the foreign decision led to a result that was entirely irreconcilable with basic principles of German law, especially the bill of rights or basic human rights.


  1. Even though Germany prohibits surrogacy, the child born to a surrogate is entitled to have legal parents. The court observed that the child could not influence the circumstances of its birth and a surrogacy background could therefore not be grounds to deny it its legal parents.


  1. If the intended parents could not be recognized as legal parents in Germany, the child’s human rights would be infringed. It would have a mother (the surrogate) who is not recognized as the mother in her jurisdiction and who is not prepared to take responsibility for the child.


  1. Adoption was not a viable alternative.


If anyone is interested in getting the court ruling (which I only have in German), I will be happy to send it to you under separate cover.


International Fertility Law Group Inc.

UK proposes rules for embryos made from 3 people

By Maria Checng – December 17, 2014

LONDON (AP) — New rules proposed in Britain would make it the first country to allow embryos to be made from the DNA of three people in order to prevent mothers from passing on potentially fatal genetic diseases to their babies.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the department of health said it had taken “extensive advice” on the safety and efficacy of the proposed techniques from the scientific community.

“(This) will give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders,” Dr. Sally Davies, the U.K.’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Experts say that if approved by parliament, these new methods would likely be used in about a dozen British women every year who are known to have faulty mitochondria — the energy-producing structures outside a cell’s nucleus. Defects in the mitochondria’s genetic code can result in diseases such as muscular dystrophy, heart problems and mental retardation.

The techniques involve removing the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and inserting it into a donor egg, where the nucleus DNA has been removed. That can be done either before or after fertilization.

The resulting embryo would end up with the nucleus DNA from its parents but the mitochondrial DNA from the donor. Scientists say the DNA from the donor egg amounts to less than 1 percent of the resulting embryo’s genes. But the change will be passed onto future generations, a major genetic modification that many ethicists have been reluctant to endorse.

Critics say the new techniques are unnecessary and that women who have mitochondrial disorders could use other alternatives, such as egg donation, to have children.

Click here to read the entire article.

Study – Same Sex Couples Divorcing at Lower Rate Than Non-gay Couples

December 10, 2014 – The Williams Institute

A series of analyses based on data gathered from state administrative agencies in early 2014 show patterns of relationship recognition for same-sex couples across the U.S.

The first analysis shows that female couples are more likely to formalize their relationships than male couples. Female couples account for just over half (51%) of all same-sex couples in the U.S. However, data from the state agencies show that 64% of same-sex couples who entered into legal statuses were female couples. Click here for “Relationship Recognition Patterns of Same-Sex Couples by Gender

The second analysis found that, on average, 1.1% of same-sex couples dissolve their legal relationships each year. This rate is lower than the annual divorce rate for married different-sex couples (2%).  Click here for “Patterns of Relationship Recognition for Same-Sex Couples: Divorce and Terminations

Click here  to read the entire article.

Thailand: Commercial Surrogacy Ban Gains Support

New York Times, December 1, 2014

Associated Press – The interim Parliament has given initial approval to a bill banning commercial surrogacy, the practice of hiring a woman to carry a fetus to term, a lawmaker said Friday. Thailand was rocked by surrogacy scandals this year, including the case of an Australian couple who took home a healthy baby girl born from a Thai surrogate mother but left behind her twin brother who had Down syndrome, and a case involving a Japanese man who fathered at least 16 babies with Thai surrogates.

Click here to read the entire article.