Navigating the uncertain waters of international third-party reproduction

By Steve Snyder, executive director of IARC


Intended parents who wish to have children through third-party reproduction, but face highly restrictive and conflicting laws and regulations in their home countries, are increasingly crossing international borders to have their genetic children abroad. 

Although the world is getting smaller and international borders are becoming more and more blurred, conflict among nations is developing over the nationality and citizenship of children born via international surrogacy arrangements. Intended parents must be aware of the complications that can arise when crossing borders for third-party reproduction.

Unintended Consequences
This new prevalence of international reproduction cases has led to numerous unintended consequences that arise from conflicting international parentage and immigration laws. Before intended parents from the U.S. decide to go abroad for third-party reproduction, it is important to explore the laws in both the U.S. and in the country where the child will be born surrounding establishing legal parentage, acquiring desired citizenship, and obtaining a birth certificate and passport (for more information, visit the U.S. Department of State website). 

Establishing Legal Parentage
Countries have different rules regarding the local parentage of children born through third-party reproduction.  For example, a child born via surrogacy in the U.S. has U.S. citizenship based on birth in the U.S.   Whether the child has the dual citizenship of his or her genetic or intended parents varies from country to country.  A child born via surrogacy in India does not have Indian citizenship.  Whether he or she has the citizenship of the genetic or intended parents again varies depending on the parent’s home country.  Such issues and variations can cause disconnects between intended parentage and citizenship and actual parentage and citizenship that may prevent the child from returning to the parent’s home country or obtaining the parents’ citizenship.  This is often profoundly affected by whether the genetic components that are used are the intended parents’ or a donor’s.
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What to look for in an agency

IARC agency staffFor couples and prospective parents in need, an agency is a crucial guide through the surrogacy and egg donor process and will be your advocate through any legal pitfalls and medical uncertainties. For surrogates, an agency with years of experience and a laundry list of services is a key protector in this profound, life-changing experience.

Hopeful parents and prospective surrogates alike should ask questions of their agency, but it can be difficult to know what questions need asking. When you’re searching for an agency, there are things to look for that can demonstrate that agency’s knowledge, experience and dedication to you.

How long has the agency been around?

Anyone can start a surrogacy agency—there are no federal regulations that determine how and by whom an agency can be run. Your agency needs to demonstrate awareness of the guidelines published by mental health, medical and legal professionals that are in place to make this process safe and secure. IARC does not just follow these guidelines—we strive to lead the way in creating new regulations that benefit the industry as a whole.

You should also expect your agency to have years of diverse experience serving surrogates and couples alike. Our agency has facilitated over 1,000 programs over the past—not a single one has been the same as another. As each unique program is completed, we learn more about how this field works, what surrogates need throughout their program to feel valued and secure and what intended parents need to find success.  With over 20 years of experience, we truly are one of the most experienced egg donor and surrogacy agencies in the country.

Surrogate evaluation

A good agency will fully screen surrogates before they are matched with intended parents. If an agency says that the matching process can be sped up by not paying the prescreening costs out-of-pocket, they’re doing it wrong. Screening takes the same amount of time, whether it is done prior to being matched or after. IARC recognizes how much time, energy and emotion intended parents and surrogates put into the matching process. We want all parties to understand what the issues are and make sure that everyone is being treated respectfully.

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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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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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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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