Babies and broken hearts: Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry leaves a trail of disasters

This is the moment. I arrive at the Sonechko Children’s Home, a collection of rundown double-story brick buildings in a city south east of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

I’m here to meet a little girl I’ve been searching for over the past six months.

She’s been abandoned by the very people who paid for her to be born — her American parents.Australia surrogacy

Now she’s an orphan and has disabilities which require medical attention.

Marina Boyko, the flame-haired nurse who’s cared for the little girl since she was a baby, is taking us to meet her.

The door to the child’s room opens and the emotion hits hard.

My investigation began last year.

“Have any foreigners left a baby behind?” I asked.

It was a simple question and an obvious one.

“An American couple left one last year,” came the answer.

I hung up the phone to my source in Kiev and so began months of work to find a baby born via a surrogate in Ukraine and then abandoned by the American parents.

Sadly, I was familiar with this kind of story.

Back in 2014, I found Gammy, a baby boy whose birth was “commissioned” by an Australian couple.

They left him behind in Thailand to be cared for by his surrogate mother.

The couple only wanted to bring Gammy’s twin sister home.

Again, the child was left behind by his Australian parents after they decided they’d only take his twin sister home. I never found him.

These were just some of the horror stories which prompted Thailand and India to ban commercial surrogacy for foreigners.

As a result, Ukraine is quickly becoming the “hot” new surrogacy destination.

But while the country has changed, the story remains the same.

I’m now hearing there’s a child who’s been abandoned in Ukraine. I know that finding her won’t be easy.

Then I searched for a baby boy in India on assignment for Foreign Correspondent in 2015.

After countless phone calls, finally there’s a breakthrough.

With the help of local Ukrainian journalists, we find out the child we’re looking for is alive and being cared for in a town called Zaporizhzhya — a large industrial centre south-east of the capital, Kiev.

It’s a leap of faith, but we book flights from London and make the journey.

We don’t know what we’ll see or what we’ll be able to film, but sometimes being on the ground is the only way.

We’re directed to the Sonechko Children’s Home on the edge of the city, where some 200 children live.

When we arrive, it’s eerily quiet. There’s no children’s chatter or laughter, not a cry, not a squeal. It’s like they’ve been silenced for our benefit.

The staff know we are coming but they are wary. We know this first visit will be about building trust.

They invite us in and we interview them about a child they speak of with deep and genuine affection, but we are told we cannot see her as she is sick and quarantined in a nearby hospital.

August 19, 2019, by abc.net.au, Samantha Hawley

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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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Utah Supreme Court Will Now Allow Surrogacy for Same-Sex Couples

The Utah Supreme Court struck down a law stopping same-sex couples from having children through surrogacy.

Chief Justice Matthew Durrant declared in a Utah Supreme Court ruling that “same-sex couples must be afforded all of the benefits the State has linked to marriage and freely grants to opposite sex-couples,” reports Fox 13 Salt Lake City.Utah Supreme Court

The law was challenged by a gay couple who entered into a gestational contract with a straight couple, but ran into legal issues thanks to strict language in Utah’s laws governing surrogacy. A lower court judge noted Utah statute only allows surrogacy when an “intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child.”

Lower courts ruled that with two gay men, there was no intended mother.

The Utah Attorney General’s office actually sided with the couple in the case, arguing the law should be gender neutral in its application, but it took going to the high court to deal with the explicit “mother” language appearing in the law as written.

Durrant wrote it was in the interest of the state to allow all same-sex couples the same access to surrogacy services.

Advocate.com by Jacob Ogles, August 2, 2019

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JP Morgan is expanding fertility benefits to help LGBTQ employees have families

Starting next month, the bank’s employees can tap expanded benefits for fertility treatments and surrogacy services, according to an internal memo. The changes are seen as primarily helping LGBTQ employees who couldn’t access reproductive benefits that were tailored to straight couples.

JP Morgan Chase is expanding benefits to help employees pay for fertility treatments and surrogacy services, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC.benefits employees

Employees in the U.S. without a medical diagnosis of infertility can now have up to $30,000 of treatments including in vitro fertilization covered, according to the letter, which was sent to workers earlier this week. The New York-based bank also increased reimbursement for costs related to surrogacy, which involves compensating a woman to carry a child to term, to $30,000 from $10,000.

Both moves are seen within J.P. Morgan as primarily helping LGBTQ employees, because before the change, which starts July 1, same-sex couples who weren’t medically diagnosed as infertile had to pay for services out of pocket. (Workers who are deemed infertile are already covered by the bank’s medical plan). The company made the change after an investment bank employee queried an internal LGBTQ council, said spokesman Joe Evangelisti.

“We recognize that there are many pathways to building a family and we’re making it easier to follow them,” the bank said in a letter signed by human resources chief Robin Leopold and general counsel Stacey Friedman.

The move is an important one because Wall Street firms tend to follow each other in expanding benefits amid a constant war for talent. While Morgan Stanley reportedly made it easier for workers in same-sex relationships to tap reproductive benefits starting this year, J.P. Morgan said it believes most of the biggest U.S. financial institutions are lagging in this category.

CNBC.com, June 26, 2019 by Hugh Son

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New York Almost Joined The 21st Century On Gestational Surrogacy, No Thanks To Gloria Steinem

New York continues to be one of the few surprising gestational surrogacy holdouts, with an outdated law based on outdated notions and outdated technology.

The New York bill in support of regulated compensated gestational surrogacy — the Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA) — had the vocal support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, passed the State Senate, and likely had the votes in the House. But it never made it to the floor before the legislative session ended last week. What the heck happened?!new york surrogacy

Some Background.

New York is one of the few states in the country that legally prevents a woman from carrying a hopeful parent’s or couple’s embryo to birth, and receiving compensation for her nine months of intense effort and … labor. Other jurisdictions that had previously banned the practice have since changed course in the last few years — including New Jersey, Washington State, and D.C. In the meantime, New York continues to be one of the few surprising holdouts, with an outdated law based on outdated notions and outdated technology.

As previously discussed in my column, while gestational surrogacy is a big part of the New York bill, the CPSA includes other key protections for parents hoping to conceive using assisted reproductive technology. For example, it fixes the state’s legal loophole that allows sperm donors who donated to a single parent to seek legal rights to the resulting child! And vice-versa, it closes the loophole that currently allows single parents to seek child support from a donor. So these were improvements all around.

 

New York’s ban stems from the disastrous Baby M case in the 1980s. That case occurred in next door New Jersey, where a woman agreed to be inseminated and carry the resulting child for another couple. This type of arrangement is generally referred to as “traditional,” or “genetic surrogacy.” In the Baby M Case, the genetic surrogate changed her mind about giving up the baby, and fled the state with child. Both New Jersey and New York quickly over-corrected and outlawed all compensated surrogacy. Since then, genetic surrogacy has largely been abandoned across the U.S., while gestational surrogacy — where the surrogate is not genetically related to the child she carries — has flourished. Note that the CPSA only aims to legalize gestational surrogacy, not genetic surrogacy, the type found in the Baby M Case. Last year, New Jersey (ground zero for Baby M) recognized that the times and medical practices have changed, and reversed its position by passing supportive gestational surrogacy legislation.

So Close! 

The momentum for the bill was building, and supporters believed that the CPSA had a good shot at becoming law this year. So, what pulled the brakes? I spoke with Denise Seidelman, a prominent New York adoption and surrogacy attorney, and part of a coalition in support of the CPSA. Seidelman shared her experience advocating for the bill. “It was one the most profoundly inspiring, and also intensely disappointing experiences. Emotions were running high on both sides of the issue.”

Seidelman explained her view on some of the factors that led to this not being the CPSA’s year. For one, she noted that the author of the original New York surrogacy ban (from 30 years ago), Helene Weinstein, is still a current member of the Assembly, and she is outspoken in her position, perhaps colored by her experiences of a generation ago.

Seidelman felt another factor in this year’s failure was the timing of a letter by Gloria Steinem, famed author and feminist, against the CPSA. Steinem’s letter was disappointing, and really a bit shocking for those familiar with how surrogacy works. Her letter referred to a 1998 NY Task Force report that came out against surrogacy, with no mention of a more recent and more relevant 2017 NY Task Force report in support of gestational surrogacy, with measured regulation. Unfortunately, Steinem spoke not from firsthand knowledge of the recent experiences of women who choose to be gestational carriers for others, but from a perspective that has long since gone by the wayside.

The letter described how the bill would risk the well-being of the marginalized women in the state — those in conditions of poverty. However, as pointed out in the rebuttal letter written by RESOLVE, the national infertility association, of the women who raise their hands to be surrogates, only about 5 percent are determined to be medically qualified, and are able to move forward. And one of the requirements is that they are financially stable. Additionally, the 2017 Task Force report found that the women who are acting as surrogates are not the marginalized of society, but those not reliant on compensation that may be received from acting as a gestational surrogate. Steinem’s letter is an imagination of the Handmaid’s Tale, but ignores the current reality of what surrogacy is, and how it works.

AboveTheLaw.com, June 26, 2019 by Ellen Trachman

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New Va law makes surrogacy easier for singles, same-sex couples

New Va law makes surrogacy easier for singles, same-sex couples.

New Va law makes surrogacy easier for singles, same-sex couples.  Changes to rules about surrogacy in Virginia take effect Monday, as part of a raft of new laws effective July 1.new Va. surrogacy

The changes allow single people or same-sex couples to enter into surrogacy agreements in Virginia. The law previously limited surrogacy agreements to those where the child would end up with a married man and woman as parents.

The change was sparked by a four-year fight by Jay Timmons, a former chief of staff for Gov. George Allen, and his husband, Rick Olson, to get full legal custody of their son, Jacob. A Wisconsin judge, who has since resigned, attempted to take away their parental rights.

The couple had gone through the surrogacy process in Wisconsin due to what appeared to be clearer laws guaranteeing their rights.

“There was literally not one night where we didn’t feel like we would wake up and have somebody knocking on our door to tell us that they were taking our child away,” Olson said.

He called the law “a monumental milestone in a four-year horrific journey.”

Jacob turns 4 this summer. He has two older sisters.

Gestational Surrogacy Dead for Now in NYS

State assemblymembers hesitate amid women’s rights concerns about gestational surrogacy in NY 

Efforts to pass gestational surrogacy in the NY State Legislature have withered in the lower chamber and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie confirmed on June 20 that the bill is dead for now, citing concerns about women’s rights and fears of commercialization.surrogate lawyers, surrogate lawyer, surrogate attorney, legal surrogate, surrogate legal

Heastie, however, indicated that lawmakers and advocates would continue crafting the legislation in the coming months in such a way that would attempt to quell lingering reservations about the issue.

The movement to pass gestational surrogacy, which involves a surrogate carrying a baby who has no biological relation to her, became a key issue in the LGBTQ community’s efforts in Albany during the final months of the session because the current ban on compensated surrogacy in New York disproportionately affects same-sex couples. The measure passed the State Senate, but ran into roadblocks in the lower house, even as Governor Andrew Cuomo aggressively campaigned for the issue and enlisted the help of Bravo TV show host Andy Cohen, who had a baby son through surrogacy.

In the lower chamber, though, out lesbian Democratic Assemblymember Deborah Glick of Manhattan infuriated some in the LGBTQ community and drew cries of betrayal when she expressed hesitation on the measure after previously vowing support for it. She told The New York Times earlier this month that gestation surrogacy is “pregnancy for a fee, and I find that commodification of women troubling.” She also suggested that gestational surrogacy isn’t necessarily an issue for the wider LGBTQ community because many folks are unable to afford the tens of thousands of dollars to have kids that way.

But Democratic Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester County, who led the bill in the lower house, told Gay City News with roughly one week left to go in the session that she was working to garner support for the bill. That effort never came to fruition.

“While there are strong feelings about surrogacy on all sides, I want to make it clear that no single member is in a position to stop this or any bill,” Heastie said on June 20 in a clear effort to spare Glick from being singled out. “Many members, including a large majority of women in our conference, have raised important concerns that must be properly addressed before we can move forward.”

He continued, “We must ensure that the health and welfare of women who enter into these arrangements are protected, and that reproductive surrogacy does not become commercialized. This requires careful thought. While our work for this session is nearly complete, I look forward to continuing this conversation in the coming months with our members and interested parties to develop a solution that works for everyone.”

Deborah Glick Key Hurdle on Gestational Surrogacy

Stonewall Democrats rip lesbian lawmaker Deborah Glick for betraying a pledge

Out lesbian Assembly member Deborah Glick of Manhattan is said to be pushing back against an 11th-hour push to legalize gestational surrogacy in New York, angering the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and others in the community just months after she told that club she supported the measure.Deborah Glick

Glick, who did not return multiple phone calls for this story, landed the endorsement of Stonewall in her re-election bid last year after telling the club in a questionnaire that she supported legalizing gestational surrogacy.

But she remained tight-lipped when reached by Gay City News on June 10 about her position on the bill, saying that she would need to call back, though she never did. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the time, but two days later told The New York Times — which reaches a broader audience — that gestational surrogacy amounts to “pregnancy for a fee, and I find that commodification of women troubling.”

The bill, which has been increasingly shrouded in controversy over women’s rights issues, now faces gloomy prospects in the lower chamber. Stonewall’s president, Rod Townsend, expressed disappointment over Glick’s apparent about-face and the bill’s loss of momentum after he expected it to pass this year.

“It’s been on our endorsement surveys for years and going back to 2014, no one seeking our endorsement has supported keeping the ban on the books,” Townsend told Gay City News. “To hear that Assemblymember Deborah Glick, a champion and member of our community, has reversed her stated support on the issue is a shock to our members.”

He continued, “Folks want to start their families without having to leave the state and jump through legal hurdles. We know and admire the assemblymember, and we feel betrayed.”

The bill cleared the State Senate under the leadership of out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, who championed the measure in the upper chamber and issued emotional pleas for the legislation by sharing stories and photos of his own experience having two daughters through gestational surrogacy.

The issue heated up significantly in the final weeks of the legislative session, with Governor Andrew Cuomo intensively campaigning for it with multiple events in both New York City and Albany. The bill’s lead sponsor in the Assembly, Amy Paulin of Westchester, told Gay City News on June 10 that she and her colleagues were seeking to whip enough votes while simultaneously sweetening the pot with extra healthcare and legal protections for the women who would carry the babies.

Some have expressed concern that gestational surrogacy creates a class divide in which wealthier couples take advantage of lower-income women who serve as surrogates. Glick also told The Times that she is not certain that gestational surrogacy is an issue for the broader LGBTQ community, saying, “This is clearly a problem for the well-heeled,” a reference to the tens of thousands of dollars in cost associated with the process.

GayCityNews.com, by Matt Tracy

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Both Parents Are American. The U.S. State Department Says Their Baby Isn’t.

James Derek Mize is an American citizen, born and raised in the United States. His husband, who was born in Britain to an American mother, is a United States citizen, too.  Now the State Department is dictating the citizenship of their child.

But the couple’s infant daughter isn’t, according to the State Department.

She was born abroad to a surrogate, using a donor egg and sperm from her British-born father. Those distinct circumstances mean that, under a decades-old policy, she did not qualify for citizenship at birth, even though both her parents are American.

“It’s shocking,” said Mr. Mize, 38, a former lawyer who lives in Atlanta with his husband, Jonathan Gregg, a management consultant. The couple received a letter denying their daughter’s citizenship last month.

“We’re both Americans; we’re married,” Mr. Mize said. “We just found it really hard to believe that we could have a child that wouldn’t be able to be in our country.”

Their case illustrates the latest complication facing some families who use assisted reproductive technology, like surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, to have children. For years the techniques have set off provocative legal and ethical debates about what defines parenthood. Immigration and citizenship are the latest frontier in those debates.

At issue is a State Department policy, based on immigration law, that requires a child born abroad to have a biological connection to an American parent in order to receive citizenship at birth. That is generally not a problem when couples have babies the traditional way, but can prove tricky when only one spouse is the genetic parent.

The policy has come under intense scrutiny in recent months amid lawsuits arguing that the State Department discriminates against same-sex couples and their children by failing to recognize their marriages. Under the policy, the department classifies certain children born through assisted reproductive technology as “out of wedlock,” which triggers a higher bar for citizenship, even if the parents are legally married.

In one instance, a married Israeli-American gay couple had twin sons in Canada using sperm from each of the fathers. The biological son of the American received citizenship, but his brother, the biological son of the Israeli, did not. In February, a federal judge sided with the couple, calling the State Department’s interpretation of the immigration law “strained.” The department is appealing.

The government is also fighting a similar suit from a lesbian couple in London, who did not use a surrogate. One is American and one is Italian. They took turns conceiving and carrying their two children. Only the child born to the American mother was granted citizenship. Last week, a federal judge allowed the case to proceed, calling the family’s predicament “terrible” and “outrageous.”

More Than 100 Rabbis and Cantors Urge NY State to Legalize Surrogacy

The 118 Rabbis and other clergy members urged the passage of the NY Child-Parent Security Act, surrogacy.

The 118 Rabbis and other clergy members urged the passage of the NY Child-Parent Security Act  (surrogacy) in a letter Tuesday to the state’s House speaker, Carl Heastie, and Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, both Democrats. Among the signatories are rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements.rabbis NY surrogacy

The bill, which has the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would legalize paid gestational surrogacy, in which a woman is compensated to carry a child not conceived using her eggs. Proponents say it allows those facing infertility and LGBTQ couples to have children, while detractors say the practice is immoral. The measure also would ease the process through which parents who enlist a third party to conceive establish a legal relationship with the child.

The letter — organized by the Protecting Modern Families Coalition, an alliance of organizations in support of the legislation — references Jewish tradition in arguing for the bill’s passage.

“From birth to Bar/Bat Mitzvah, marriage, and burial, at the core of most of the major Jewish life cycle events is family,” it reads. “As rabbis, we know the visceral, central importance for so many of our congregants of building a family.”

Among the signatories are Rabbis Sharon Kleinbaum of the LGBTQ synagogue Congregation Beit Simchat Torah; Rick Jacobs, who heads the Reform movement; Dov Linzer, president of the liberal Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school; and Rabbi Avram Mlotek, an Orthodox rabbi who announced last month that he will perform same-sex weddings. The UJA-Federation of New York and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform movement’s rabbinical arm, also joined the letter.

The Jerusalem Post – JPost.com, BY JOSEFIN DOLSTEN/JTA, May 15, 2019

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