Fertility Benefits – A look at the most generous employee benefits out there today

Fertility Benefits – These companies are adapting to workers’ needs, from shipping breast milk home to paying for gender transition.

Jackie Geilfuss recently submitted an unusual expense report to her employer: $6,285 for the purchase of sperm.  Some employers are covering fertility benefits.artificial insemination

Geilfuss and her wife are planning to have a baby. As a same-sex couple, they face thousands of dollars in costs to conceive a child, including the expense of donor sperm. Struggling with the financial burden, they turned to friends and family for help. Then, a few months ago, Geilfuss’ employer announced it would start reimbursing employees up to $20,000 for nonmedical costs to have children.

“This benefit is life-changing for us,” says Geilfuss, who helps employees manage the implementation of new systems at Akamai Technologies, an Internet services and technology company in Cambridge. “We were ready to be parents a long time ago, but it wasn’t something we felt was feasible. We weren’t in a financial position to do that.” Geilfuss and her wife, Jessica, began fertility treatments this month.

Akamai is among a growing number of local companies that have expanded their employee benefits beyond standard medical coverage, often looking at options to add through the lens of diversity and inclusion. Several large employers now offer new fertility benefits to help single people and same-sex couples start families. Some are adding supports for new mothers, or broadening coverage for people transitioning from one gender to another.

“It’s a really hot topic,” says Liz Spath, a Boston-based benefits consultant at the consulting firm Mercer. “They’re looking to programs like this that really drive culture. Anything that’s family-friendly and lets people bring their full selves to work is top of mind.”

Expanding benefits can be expensive, but there are many potential advantages for employers that do, including recruiting and retaining talented workers, fostering a corporate culture that appeals to clients, and improving their rankings on job sites.

“It does play a role in helping candidates understand what we’re all about and where we place value,” says Sarah Sardella, senior director of global benefits at Akamai, which now reimburses employees for costs of surrogacy, donor sperm, and donor eggs.

BostonGlobe.com, November 14, 2019 by  Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

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The Anonymous Donor Myth

The anonymous donor myth was, only a few years ago, not a concern to the many anonymous sperm and egg donors who have helped countless families around the world.

The anonymous donor myth has only in the recent past become an issue that anyone considering becoming an anonymous donor, or anyone considering using an anonymous donor, must confront and plan for.  ART (assisted reproductive technology) lawyers must also factor into their counsel with all parties to an ART agreement the reality that there simply may be no such thing as anonymous donation anymore.  This counsel must address not only gamete (sperm and egg) donation, but also embryo donation and adoption.anonymous donation myth 2

If you think about it, there really is no such thing as anonymity any more.  This year, Facebook has over 2.3 billion monthly active users.  YouTube has 1.8 monthly active users.  Twitter has 320 million monthly active users.  With other social platforms such as Instagram, WeChat and Snapchat providing information on its users to anyone who has not perfected the art of keeping an account private, there are literally millions of ways to locate and identify a person with just a small amount of information.

I was recently in Seattle for the annual conference of The Academy of Adoption and Assisted reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) where a fascinating presentation was given on just this subject.  One speaker demonstrated how, with the scant information she had provided when she was an anonymous egg donor, how it took her less than 5 minutes to find herself on social media.  She essentially did a facial recognition search which yielded a direct hit result.  And this was just possible from the picture she used in her egg donor profile.  That picture, coupled with her educational background, made a google search of her provide instant confirmation of identity.

The anonymous donor myth becomes even more implausible when you consider the influx in popularity of commercial DNA testing kits such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com.  And the implications for anonymous donors go way beyond gamete donation, but adoption as well.

The reality of the anonymous donor myth hit me hard, and in a completely unexpected way.   I was at work one afternoon when the phone rang.  It was a former client of mine with whom I had done estate and probate work.  Her voice was shaking when she called and I could tell that something was very wrong.  She told me that a relative of hers was contacted by a woman who explained that she was adopted at birth and that she had done an ancestry.com DNA test.  The test revealed that her birth mother was related to the relative of my former client.  She then related to me the story of how when she was younger she had been molested, and that molestation resulted in a pregnancy.  She gave the child up for adoption and had told no one in her family about it.  She was reliving that trauma knowing that her secret would most likely be revealed due to an inadvertent action by a relative of hers who had also had the DNA test performed and who had consented to its results being added to a national database.

anonymous donor myth 1One of the most sacred areas of law for expectant mothers who, for many important reasons, cannot keep their children is called “infant safe haven” law.  This type of law decriminalizes the abandonment of unharmed infants in specified locations, such as hospitals, police stations or fire houses.  Mothers need to know that if their personal circumstance requires them to seek the protection of an infant safe haven law; they must be able to rely on the confidentiality that these laws were designed to provide them.  If mothers fear that their identity will be revealed through DNA or Facebook searches, they are less likely to place the child in a safe space.

The reality is that a medical professional or facility can do their best to shield the identity of a donor, but they have no control over the actions of others down the road, like the donor herself, the intended parents or even the child who is the result of ART.  One positive reaction I see in the ART community is the encouragement, with thorough explanation, of known gamete donation.  Known gamete donation can be helpful in many ways.  If a child has a medical issue that may be genetic, with a known donor, parents may access that information more easily.  Studies have also shown that the earlier a child is told about his or her origin story, the better adapted they are.  Having a known gamete donor may make the difference to a child questioning their genetic heritage. 

The anonymous donor myth does not have to be a devastating blow to a family.  With proper professional, both legal and psychological, intended parents considering gamete donation will be able to make informed and beneficial decisions.  These decisions will have long lasting effects on the mental and physical well-being of their children.  As professionals, it is our duty to explore all possibilities with our clients and to ensure that they understand the implications of the anonymous donation myth.

By Anthony M. Brown, Esq. – August 6, 2019

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U.S. women with less income, education often lack access to infertility care

Although women from all walks of life tend to experience infertility at similar rates, a new U.S. study suggests there are wide disparities in access to treatment.

Researchers examined survey data collected between 2013 and 2016 from 2,052 women, ages 20 to 44, who were representative of more than 45 million women nationwide.PGS, PGD

Overall, 12.5% of the women reported trying to conceive for one year without becoming pregnant, the timeline doctors typically use to define infertility. Just a third of those making less than $25,000 a year sought treatment for infertility, compared with two thirds of those making $100,000 or more, researchers report in Fertility and Sterility.

“People of all races, education levels, incomes, citizenship statuses, health insurances and sites of health care use report similar rates of having infertility,” said Dr. James Dupree, an assistant professor of urology and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“Women with less education, lower incomes, non-citizens and women without health insurance and without access to physician offices did not see their doctors as often for help with infertility,” Dupree said by email. “So, patients and families should know that if they have infertility, they’re not alone, and they should go to see their doctor for help.”

Most healthy couples can conceive within three to six months, although the process can take longer for people who are older or who have fertility compromised by certain medical conditions or lifestyle habits.

Infertility rates in the study ranged from 5.8% among women 20 to 24 years old up to 20.5% among women 40 to 44 years old.

Older women were also more likely to seek help: 67.3% of women 35 to 39 years old with infertility saw a medical provider, as did 61.7% of infertile women 40 to 44 years old. Only 11.7% of women 20 to 24 years old sought treatment for infertility.

Reuter.com, by Lisa Rappaport, July 17, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Legal Basics for LGBTQ Parents

It’s never been easier for LGBTQ people to become parents.

We can now adopt and serve as foster parents in every state in the country. Thanks to advancements in assisted reproductive technology, otherwise known as ART, and innovative co-parenting and known-donor arrangements, we’re also having biological children in greater numbers. llgbtq parentingDespite this progress, a complex network of state laws, regulations and restrictions affect many of our most common paths to parenthood, meaning would-be LGBTQ. parents can face a far more complicated legal landscape than our straight counterparts. 

Legal concerns for LGBTQ people are generally impacted by three factors: the state you live in, your preferred path to parenthood and your relationship status. To gain a better understanding of each, I interviewed four experts at some of the country’s top LGBTQ legal and policy organizations.

THE GIST

  • Know the laws in your state; your legal outlook can vary widely depending on where you live. 
  • Your preferred path to parenthood (donor arrangements, adoption or fostering) will present you with a specific set of legal considerations. 
  • Other legal concerns arise depending on your relationship status: whether you’re single, in an unmarried relationship or married.
  • If you are not biologically related to your child, legal experts recommend taking steps to protect your legal status as a parent, even if you’re married to your child’s biological parent. 
  • Parenthood for LGBTQ people doesn’t always come cheap — but there are some ways to offset the costs. 
  • If you encounter obstacles, don’t give up. An experienced family lawyer is often familiar with legal workarounds, even in states with unfavorable laws for the LGBTQ community.

NYTParenting.com by David Dodge, May 7, 2019

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Desperately Seeking a Black Sperm Donor

Nikki and I did something often considered too good to be true. We stumbled across each other in a humid, dark, loud nightclub in West Hollywood during the 2014 Los Angeles Pride weekend; it was love at first sight. 

anonymous sperm donorsFast forward to 2018, when we got married and bought a house within the same week. But our dream wouldn’t be complete without one more miracle: motherhood. The medical recommendation is that women have children before the age of 35, so we decided that Nikki should carry first since she’s 33 and I’m 28. But like many folks who seek out fertility help, we had no idea how difficult it would be to find the perfect sperm donor, let alone a black sperm donor.

Nikki is an extrovert who works as a global partnership senior manager for a top technology company. If her perfect smile and big hair don’t blow you away, her optimism and ambition will take you around the universe and back. Nikki would describe me as a super creative, solutions-oriented introvert. I’m the person everyone comes to for advice, but I was at a loss when it came to finding a suitable sperm donor for our needs.

Even before we started looking, I was under the impression that there was a limited supply of black donors. Maybe that’s because I don’t know any black donors. Maybe it’s because buying sperm or conceiving a baby in this fashion isn’t considered a “black thing.” As it turns out, I was correct. Though private sperm banks are not required to share the ethnic origins of their donors publicly, as we started our search we found the number of black donors to be vanishingly small.

Below is a conversation between Nikki and me about the start of our journey to motherhood. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Nikki: I searched for a gay-friendly sperm bank, because I figured that sperm banks function like most institutions or companies.

B.A.: How do most institutions function? Are you saying that you expected sperm banks to be less prepared to assist customers who weren’t white, straight and married?

Nikki: Yes, potentially. So, I felt like I needed to specify gay-friendly sperm banks. I came across a blog that listed about 10 sperm banks with each bank’s contact information, a little blurb on why to choose that bank and how they accommodated LGBTQAI+ families. The bank we ultimately decided on offered extensive genetic testing and data, and the website had a little rainbow heart confirming their support for families like ours.

NYTimes.com, by B.A. Williams, May 6, 2019

Click here to read the entire article about seeking a black sperm donor.

The Right Way to Legalize Surrogacy in New York State


New York State is on the brink of replacing an outdated and prohibitive law that criminalizes the practice of compensated surrogacy, one of only two states that does so.

Legislation to reverse the law has been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature, and Governor Cuomo has demonstrated support for it by including it in his Executive Budget.

As a law professor who focuses on gender equity, I’ve taken great interest in issues related to surrogacy in the United States and abroad. I’ve closely reviewed laws in multiple states as well as internationally and I support New York’s legalization of surrogacy.

When a woman chooses to support a couple or individual by serving as a gestational surrogate (where she is not genetically connected to the child because she did not contribute her egg), I believe she must have the autonomy to do so – provided she is protected by the law to ensure that any power imbalance between her, on the one hand, and the intended parents, surrogacy agencies and doctors, on the other hand, is mitigated.

The proposal the New York Legislature is considering and that Governor Cuomo is advancing, the Child-Parent Security Act, does protect surrogates in many ways. While the bill clarifies the parentage of all children born through third-party reproduction, here I focus only on how it legalizes and regulates gestational surrogacy arrangements.

Protections provided by the bill include: giving the surrogate the sole right to make decisions regarding her own health or that of the fetus or embryo she is carrying; giving the surrogate the sole right to terminate the pregnancy; and ensuring that the surrogate is represented by her own legal counsel. These types of commonsense protections are critical to creating a successful and effective program. If the New York Legislature passed the Child-Parent Security Act, New York’s law would be more protective of women who choose to be surrogates than laws in many other states.

Reexamining current law is long past due as technological advances and changes in acceptance of various family structures have made surrogacy much more commonplace. When lawmakers first implemented a ban on surrogacy in New York in 1992, they did so for several reasons that are less relevant today.

For example, when the restrictive New York law was enacted, there were ethical concerns about what was then nascent medical treatment — in vitro fertilization (IVF). Today, IVF is commonly-accepted as treatment for infertility and is also used in the gestational surrogacy process.

Despite the ban, today New Yorkers do work with surrogates to build families. They are just required to employ surrogates living in other states. This results in legal challenges, risks, and costs for the intended parents, including confusion regarding what laws are applicable to the situation.

GothamGazzette.com, February 21, 2019 by Sital Kalantry

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A new study suggests an LGBTQ millenials ‘Baby Boom’ is in our future

LGBTQ millennials are leading the way when it comes to the growth in LGBTQ families according to a new survey from the Family Equality Council, an LGBTQ rights organization.

LGBTQ millennials

The survey found that 63% of LGBTQ millennials between the ages of 18-35 are looking at starting a family or adding to their current one. What’s more, results from the LGBTQ Family Building Survey show that 77 percent of LGBTQ millennials are either already parents or are considering having children. This is 44 percent higher than LGBTQ people over the age of 55. 

The data points to a shift in the LGBTQ community in the wake of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which secured marriage equality in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling fueled speculation that we’d see a dramatic shift in LGBTQ family growth as a result.

Additionally, the survey revealed that 48 percent of LGBTQ millennials are actively planning to grow their families in the future, narrowing the gap between them and the 55 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents. In a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, only 35 percent of LGBTQ adults were shown to be parents, compared to 74 percent of non-LGBTQ adults.

That means in the last five years, the gap between queer and non-queer people wanting families went from 39 percent to 7 percent. Likewise, transgender survey respondents were found to be equally likely to grow their own families as their non-transgender peers.

by Gwendolyn Smith, LG BTQNation.com, February 10, 2019

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ABA Adopts Resolution Taking a Stand for LGBT Parents

The American Bar Association, ABA, the nation’s top voluntary bar association for lawyers, has adopted a resolution taking a stand for LGBT parents in the aftermath of states enacting laws enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in adoption.

ABA resolution

According to the LGBT Bar Association, Resolution 113 was adopted at the ABA midyear meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The 14-page resolution says although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 same-sex couples have the right to marry, they still face discrimination in adoption in forms of anti-LGBT state laws and policies.

Among the laws cited the resolution are recently adopted state laws allowing taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse placement into LGBT homes over religious objections. Those laws exist in North Dakota, Virginia, Michigan, Mississippi, South Dakota, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.

The resolution also cites continued litigation in which the rights of LGBT parents are in jeopardy. Among those cases is Pavan v. Smith, in which Arkansas refused to place the names of lesbian parents on their child birth certificates. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that policy violated its decision on same-sex marriage (although U.S. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch penned a lengthy dissent containing the ruling didn’t apply to birth certificates.)

The ABA resolution adopts the resolution in the wake of the Trump administration granting a waiver to South Carolina allowing religious-based adoption agencies in the state, including Miracle Hill Ministries, to continue receive funding from the Department of Health & Human Services even if they refuse to place children in LGBT homes or with other families contrary to their beliefs.

ABA resolution

“Any discriminatory law which restricts an LGBT individual’s right to parent not only disregards these precedents, but also contradicts longstanding research,” the resolution says. “Decades of medical, psychological, sociological, and developmental research overwhelmingly conclude that sexual orientation has no bearing on an individual’s ability to be a fit parent. This resolution therefore reaffirms the equal parenting rights of LGBT individuals.”

According to a study from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, LGBT families are significantly more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to have adopted or foster children. One in five same-sex couples, or 21.4 percent, are raising adopted children, compared to just 3 percent of different-sex couples, and 2.9 percent of same-sex couples have foster children compared to 0.4 percent of different-sex couples

The resolution states adoption of the resolution sends the message ABA “stands with LGBT individuals and their families against the increased threat to their ability to raise children.”

“This ABA policy position would enable further advocacy in this area by providing authority for other organizations, legislatures, and courts to consult when confronted by LGBT parenting issues,” the resolution says. “The policy would also allow the ABA to directly advocate on behalf of LGBT families and make clear its stance that laws which permit discrimination against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional.”

by Chris Johnson, pride source.com, January 29, 2019

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44 siblings and counting

A lack of regulation has created enormous genetic families.  Now they are searching for one other.

Kianni Arroyo clasps 8-year-old Sophia’s hands tightly as they spin around, giggling like mad. It’s late afternoon, and there are hot dogs on the grill, bubble wands on the lawn, balls flying through the air.lesbian moms

The midsummer reunion in a suburb west of the city looks like any other, but these family ties can’t be described with standard labels. Instead, Arroyo, a 21-year-old waitress from Orlando, is here to meet “DNA-in-laws,” various “sister-moms” and especially people like Sophia, a cherished ­“donor-sibling.”

Sophia and Arroyo were both conceived with sperm from Donor #2757, a bestseller. Over the years, Donor #2757 sired at least 29 girls and 16 boys, now ages 1 to 21, living in eight states and four countries. Arroyo is on a quest to meet them all, chronicling her journey on Instagram. She has to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep them all straight.

“We have a connection. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there,” said Arroyo, an only child who is both comforted and weirded-out by her ever-expanding family tree.

Thanks to mail-away DNA tests and a proliferation of online registries, people conceived with donated sperm and eggs are increasingly connecting with their genetic relatives, forming a growing community with complex relationships and unique concerns about the U.S. fertility industry. Like Arroyo, many have discovered dozens of donor siblings, with one group approaching 200 members — enormous genetic families without precedent in modern society.

Because most donations are anonymous, the resulting children often find it almost impossible to obtain crucial information. Medical journals have documented cases in which clusters of offspring have found each other while seeking treatment for the same rare genetic disease. The news is full of nightmarish headlines about sperm donors who falsified their educational backgrounds, hid illnesses or turned out to be someone other than expected — such as a fertility clinic doctor.

And while Britain, Norway, China and other countries have passed laws limiting the number of children conceived per donor, the United States relies solely on voluntary guidelines. That has raised fears that the offspring of prolific donors could meet and fall in love without knowing they were closely related, putting their children at risk of genetic disorders.

By Washington Post, September 12, 2018

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Guardianship for Children – Priceless Peace of Mind

Creating a guardianship for Children may be the most important reason for creating an estate plan.  With a thoughtfully chosen guardian, parents can rest assured that their children will be ok if something were to happen.

A guardianship for children in a Last Will and Testament is the only way to ensure that your children will be with whom you choose in the event of a death of a parent.  To dispel a common misconception, naming someone as a godparent through a church ritual has no legal weight when a guardian is required after the death of a parent or parents.  I would argue that the exercise of choosing that person is good for the parents as it has them thinking about why someone may be a good choice as a guardian for their children, but that exercise is just that until the choice is declared in a properly executed Last Will and Testament.guardianship for children

To be crystal clear, only a child guardian designation made in a properly executed Last Will and Testament is a valid designation of a guardianship for children

Becoming a parent forces that person to think in the long-term.  Imagining your children’s lives without you is certainly not easy but imagining their lives without you and without any clear direction as to where they should live or who they should live with is far worse.

Hypothetically, if no guardianship for children is established in a properly executed Last Will and Testament, the court will look to see if there are any family members who would petition the court to take on that responsibility.  That person, while being a close family member, may not be the person that a parent would choose for their child.  Also, the court prioritizes the closest living blood relatives, so if you have not made your wishes known through a properly executed guardianship for children in a Will, then a more distant family member who may be the better choice would have an uphill battle in court.

Another fact that most parents do not realize is that when there is a guardianship for children properly established in your Last Will and Testament, the designated guardian still must petition the court to be made the legal guardian of the child.  This process is streamlined when the deceased parent has made a clear guardianship for children designation, but that designee must still follow the protocols of having the guardianship established in court.

singleIf no guardianship for children has been properly executed, then the closest living blood relatives must petition the court to be named legal guardian, creating an often time consuming and emotional journey for all involved, especially the children.

While this article focuses on how to properly execute a guardianship for children, I also want to remind readers of the different ways that parents can provide financially for their children if a parent, or parents, die.  Basic estate planning is essentialEstate planning with children in the mix offers new options, and challenges.

Remember also that you can name a guardianship for children even before they are born.  Carefully crafted Wills may refer to “future born children,” as well as defining children to include adopted children, children in utero, children you are in the process of adopting and children who are created through assisted reproductive technology. 

Now that you understand the process, the real work begins.  Being able to have these conversations among parents is crucial. Agreeing upon an appropriate guardianship for children may take time and effort, but it may be the most important decision you will ever make for your family.

 

Anthony M. Brown, Esq. September 7, 2018

 

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