Becoming a surrogate mother: Why I chose to do a second surrogacy

Surrogate Mom - JaimeBecoming a surrogate mother is a big decision, and many considering this decision want to know what it is like to be a surrogate. In this blog series we hope to shed some light on the surrogacy process through the experiences of our past and current surrogates, Charity, Jaime and Nicole. To read previous posts from Jaime, click here.

My first surrogate experience was flawless and the most amazing, rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my life. My agency couldn’t have picked a better set of parents for me to work with. We met, had one embryo transferred, and I gave birth to a healthy baby. After birth they mentioned briefly that they had frozen embryos and may possibly want a sibling for their son. I was open to the idea of helping them if they decided to have another child.  

My second journey came unexpectedly. I had contacted my agency to ask a billing question so when I saw the incoming call from them, I was expecting it to be the answer to my question. To my surprise, they were calling to see if I was interested in matching with a new family and doing a second journey.

Taken off guard, I was speechless. They explained to me that they had a “high profile” client, which in the surrogate world usually means someone famous, and they thought I would be a great match. I explained my first family was my priority and I wanted to check to see if they were ready for a sibling. I spoke with my first family and learned they were happy with their son and may have changed their mind about having another child. After that conversation, I agreed to meet the new family and proceed forward.

I met the new family and they were incredible. Famous? Yes, but they were very down to earth and wonderful people. This journey gave me a whole new insight into the realization that surrogacy isn’t a sure thing. I was this couple’s second surrogate and last hope for a baby. Read more

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Becoming a surrogate mother: Common questions for a first-time surrogate

Surrogate Mother - NicoleBecoming a surrogate mother is a big decision, and many considering this decision want to know what it is like to be a surrogate. In this blog series we hope to shed some light on the surrogacy process through the experiences of our past and current surrogates, Charity, Jaime and Nicole.

Even before I was pregnant with my own son, I had an interest in helping intended parents have children. I looked into agencies, read some of the forums to see what other experienced surrogates had to say about their journeys, and did quite a bit of soul-searching before I took the first steps of actually talking with an agency about a surrogate program.

After having an informative conversation with the first agency, I was still in the very early stages of learning about surrogacy and pretty hesitant and flat out fearful to take the plunge. My son was about two-years-old at that time and I decided to let the idea go quiet for a bit, choosing not to move forward and not really knowing whether I would ever really “get the guts” to follow through with being a surrogate.

I still didn’t fully understand the role of the surrogate agency and I personally didn’t know any other surrogates who I could go to with questions; plus, I felt like surrogacy was such a hush-hush topic.

I was concerned that intended parents would take advantage of me and I wondered what would happen if I miscarried and suffered complications that would keep me from having more children of my own. I wondered what would happen if intended parents were suddenly not able to afford to pay for medical bills and I wondered what would happen if the intended parents decided to suddenly back out. I’ve come to learn that these are all common questions among other “newbie” surrogate candidates.

I chose to look into what IARC had to offer when my son was five, having put surrogacy on the back-burner for about three years. At that time, I was interested in IARC but I was stressed out at work and wasn’t planning on sticking with my employer for much longer. I told IARC that I was still interested, but that I would need to go “on hold” until I found and settled into a new job. I began my search for a new job and found that, of all places, IARC was hiring a surrogate coordinator. What a coincidence!

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Surrogacy for gay couples: What you need to know

Same Sex FamilyFor intended parents, whether single or coupled, going through the surrogacy process can be a long, confusing and emotional journey, but for gay prospective parents there is an added layer of legal complications that must be navigated. This post is meant to help gay men who are considering surrogacy get smart on what questions they should be asking, who they should be talking to, and how to go about the process in the safest and easiest way.

Step 1: Find an experienced lawyer

One of the first things any gay man or couple looking to have a baby through surrogacy should do is consult with a lawyer who specializes in surrogacy and is specifically familiar with issues related to gay partnering, marriage, adoption, and parentage. These are unique issues, and not every lawyer fully understands the issues and their ramifications. Ask any lawyer you are interviewing how many gay clients he/she has represented and what the extent of his/her working knowledge is of such issues. If the lawyer doesn’t have enough experience to make you comfortable, keep looking.

Step 2: Find an experienced agency

For the greatest success and certainty in your surrogacy program, find a reputable and experienced agency. Finding an agency that is run by an experienced attorney simplifies both of the first two steps. (For a list of other qualities to look for in an agency, read this post.) Again, gay men should look for an agency that is knowledgeable about specific challenges related to surrogacy for gay intended parents. For example, gay surrogacy occasionally needs professionals experienced and familiar with surrogacy for HIV positive intended fathers and the use of sperm washing to keep the participants safe. (To learn more about sperm washing, read this post.) The right agency will understand such issues and serve as a guide and advisor to the gay intended parent throughout the entire process to make sure all steps are followed at the appropriate time and in the appropriate order. This is the best way to insure a safe and successful outcome. Not all agencies are astronomically expensive. Some take into account that raising a child is an expensive endeavor in and of itself. Carefully compare and contrast agencies, their costs, and the services they provide. 

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Thai Surrogacy Case Raises Important Questions About Rights and Safety

By Steve Snyder, executive director of IARC

457221529The recent case of Pattaramon Chanbua has propagated a lot of criticism of unregulated surrogacy. Surrogacy is widely unregulated globally. Even within the U.S., surrogacy laws are disparate across state lines. In the current context of national and international law, this case serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of securing a reputable agency led by a lawyer experienced in fertility laws to protect the rights and interests of all parties involved in the surrogacy process: the surrogate, the child (or children) and the intended parents. Secondly, the case reveals four sensitive considerations in the matter of regulating an industry that involves the elaborate emotions and physical well-being of many parties.

The Case

For those unfamiliar with the case, it involves a Thai woman named Pattaramon Chanbua who was contracted by an Australian couple as their surrogate. One of the children conceived was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and from there the case gets complicated. Many of the facts of the case vary across the wide-spread coverage and have yet to be verified by a reliable source. For details on the case, read these articles from The Wall Street Journal and PBS that summarize the complexity and conflicting reports of the case.

The Issues

This case brings to light four important questions to consider:

  • What should be done to prevent horrible tragedies such as this?
  • What role, if any, should the third parties that facilitate surrogacy agreements play in screening and refusing service to those deemed “bad” parents?
  • Should intended parents have the right to manage the pregnancy?
  • Do intended parents have the right to refuse a child after the birth?

Let’s tackle these questions one-by-one.
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The Importance of Second-Parent Adoption

By Steve Snyder, executive director of IARC

Surrogacy has proven to be a blessing for many same-sex couples. However, the legal 115752075complications regarding parental rights have threatened many intended parents. For example, Huffington Post recently reported a story about two gay dads denied legal parenthood of their sons due to complicated gay marriage and parental laws. As is emphasized in this tragic case, surrogacy laws vary from state to state; in Minnesota, for example, the laws surrounding surrogacy are even somewhat of a gray area. For this reason, it is crucial for same-sex couples considering surrogacy to use legal aid and a reputable surrogacy agency to ensure that both parents have legal custody of the child.

Varying Surrogacy Laws by State

In the Midwest alone, surrogacy laws deviate greatly between states. Illinois law expressly allows gestational surrogacy agreements (where the surrogate mother is not the biological parent) but does not address traditional surrogacy agreements (where the surrogate mother is the biological egg donor). North Dakota considers traditional surrogacy agreements void and unenforceable, though gestational surrogacy agreements are enforceable. Many states throughout the U.S. have never explicitly had a court case involving the rights of an LGBT couple.

The variation in laws exists, in part, because some states believe the biological mother should have the opportunity to keep the child, should she wish to do so, while other state courts have argued same-sex couples who have already entered into a legal contract to assume parental rights should have the legal right to carry out their adoption.
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What You Need to Know about Surrogacy Compensation

How to Find a SurrogateAs people consider becoming a surrogate, questions about compensation are often at the top of the list. This post helps answer initial questions regarding surrogacy compensation.

There are two financial aspects that go into a surrogacy program.

  • Compensation for time and commitment for being a surrogate
  • Reimbursement for expenses that are related to the surrogacy

How much surrogates are compensated

Many agencies, including the International Assisted Reproduction Center (IARC), allow surrogates to select their own fee. For first-time surrogates a typical fee is between $16,000 and $20,000, and experienced surrogates generally request an average fee of $25,000.  

There are people, however, who decide to be a surrogate for less because they’ve decided it’s important to them to help a couple have a family who might not be able to afford the higher fee. As you consider your own surrogacy journey, it is important to consider the reasons you are choosing to be a surrogate and set your fee accordingly.

It is essential to ask the agency you work with how it collects and distributes the fees. At IARC, the fee is collected before the embryo transfer occurs and is saved in a secure account so surrogates are confident the funds will be available throughout the surrogacy.
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Intended parents, donors and their legal rights: Time to rewrite the law

By Steve Snyder, executive director of IARC

As third-party reproduction becomes more frequent to help infertile couples become parents, the old presumptions of legal parentage need to be re-evaluated.

Currently, those presumptions remain based on certain birth and genetic assumptions that do not take parental intent into account. For example, in most states — unless the donor donates to a heterosexual married couple under the supervision of a licensed physician with certain written consents in place — the donor’s presumptive legal parents are not terminated no matter what the parties’ intent is.

Steve Snyder, Executive Director IARC

Those presumptions are now outdated in cases of sperm and egg donation because of medical, reproductive and social advancements. Many families are being created strictly as the result of the procreative intent of aspiring parents who cannot provide all reproductive components.

In such cases, the law should establish and protect the legal parentage of those who intend to procreate, but it does not yet do so universally and uniformly.

Legally, we’re not in Kansas anymore

This disconnect between procreative intent and parentage law is occurring in Kansas. William Marotta, a sperm donor who answered a Craiglist ad, provided his sperm to a lesbian couple to create a child to legally raise as their own. The donation was memorialized in an express donor agreement.

However, because Marotta and the couple did not use a licensed physician, the sperm donor’s parental presumption was not effectively terminated. Consequently, any interested party could establish the donor’s legal parentage despite the parties’ contrary intent.

It wasn’t until the child’s intended legal parents applied for state aid for “their” child, however, that the county attorney became an “interested party.” The law mandated that the county attorney must identify and pursue all presumptive legal parents for reimbursement for the state aid provided to the child.

Under the statute, Marotta remained a presumptive parent, and the county attorney has successfully established the sperm donor as the child’s legal father for support purposes. According to the court and Kansas law, he is now considered the father to a child. This is contrary to the intent of all other relevant parties and the express donor agreement.
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Snyder responds to opponents of proposed surrogacy regulations in minnesota

Steve Snyder, Executive Director IARC

Earlier this month, Steve Snyder, executive director of IARC, wrote an opinion piece for the Pioneer Press in response to opposition to proposed legislation that would help regulate surrogacy in the state of Minnesota (S.F. 2627 and H.F. 291).

Steve’s response, “Taking exceptions: ‘How many surrogates did you interview?’”, supports the need for regulations and legislation for surrogates. It helps readers understand the important role surrogates play in the process of child birth for intended parents, describing the ultimate gift surrogates give infertile couples: a family.

Steve stated, “The few surrogates who criticize the process are typically those who self-match and go through the process without the guidelines and protections afforded by working with experienced physicians, psychologists, and attorneys — the very guidelines, protections, and professional support required by the pending legislation.”

To read the complete op ed, click here or visit twincities.com.

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Importance of estate planning and surrogacy: How to avoid confusion if tragedy strikes

When surrogates and intended parents first form a partnership, the prospect of welcoming a child into the intended parents’ lives is exhilarating. With this excitement comes a need to talk about planning for the possibility of a tragedy befalling the intended parents; much confusion can be avoided during a crisis if both the surrogate and intended parents engage in estate planning.

Although estate planning is never a requirement, when it comes to assisted reproductive technology (ART), it is recommend that surrogates and intended parents address estate planning at the appropriate times. For the intended parents, this is before the transfer occurs; for the surrogate, this is at approximately 5 to 6 months of gestation.
Learn why estate planning is important in surrogacy

Laws around estate planning differ from state to state, with some states lacking clear legal guidance around ART. As a result, it is important to work with a lawyer who is familiar with your state’s laws regarding both surrogacy and the transfer of legal authority over children upon the death of a parent.

This includes knowing about appropriate paperwork. Only certain documents expressly authorized by each state’s statutes can successfully transfer that legal authority, and a surrogacy agreement does not suffice in most states, including Minnesota. Therefore, to have an enforceable transfer of guardianship for either party — surrogate to intended parents or intended parents to their designated guardians — upon their respective deaths and before transfer of parental rights, it typically must be set forth in a properly executed will or other statutorily-authorized document.

Within a will or other statutorily-authorized document, it should be clearly stated whether the child in utero is the child or descendant of the person making the will — whether surrogate or intended parents. This will ensure that the child doesn’t accidentally, by rules of normal statutory construction, get included in the wrong family or trust and helps to avoid other unintended financial consequences in the transmission of assets following a death.
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