Advocacy Day 2016: The Fight for Surrogacy Rights

The rights of women who choose to give the ultimate gift to a family are at stake once again as the Minnesota legislature is expected to raise surrogacy in this year’s upcoming session.

As many of you are aware, last year was a close call at the legislature for surrogacy. Although we succeeded in preventing a bill ultimately aimed at banning surrogacy from passing, this year calls for proactive measures: we must educate as many legislators as possible about surrogacy so we can continue to fight such efforts and hopefully pass appropriate regulating legislation in the future.

Please join us for Advocacy Day – Wednesday April
13, 2016

Source: AlexiusHoratius - Wikimedia Commons - This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

RESOLVE is hosting “Advocacy Day” at the Minnesota State Office Building (100 Rev Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55155) to make a strong statement that surrogacy is a family-building option that belongs in Minnesota. Advocacy Day is a time for all surrogate supporters to unite as a visible and persuasive group and share their support for surrogacy with key legislators.

We are facing a critical time where we must be at the forefront to share personal stories and urge legislators to support the ongoing viability of surrogacy as a family building option for all Minnesota families.

We will begin the day with an advocacy “crash course” hosted by RESOLVE lobbyists and followed by previously scheduled meetings with our selected legislators. Supporters are encouraged to attend as many brief meetings as they can to share their personal stories in support of surrogacy and lobby legislators to support the process.

Power in numbers

As we know, there is power in numbers and we look forward to seeing many supporters come out in large numbers for Advocacy Day. This is a momentous opportunity to show our legislators that we will not be silenced.

We will provide more detailed information as the session and Advocacy Day approaches, but in the meantime, please mark your calendars.

Please direct any questions to Chelsie Gibson at chelsie@iarc-usa.com

 

 

 

Navigating the uncertain waters of international third-party reproduction

By Steve Snyder, executive director of IARC

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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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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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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.

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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Maternity and prenatal: An essential benefit, but is it essentially covered for surrogacy?

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, if you were pregnant and without insurance, you faced an uphill battle to get medical coverage — resulting in massive bills and possible debt.
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Due to the nature of what insurance companies previously defined as “pre-existing conditions,” such essential benefits like maternity and prenatal care were left uncovered. Or worse, plans had such long waiting periods for coverage that a child would be birthed by the time coverage went into effect.

For women and intended parents entering surrogacy, the legal waters were even murkier for insurance coverage. Many times surrogates who had insurance held the assumption that their pregnancy was covered; however, many insurance policies explicitly excluded coverage for women carrying a child for another family. Intended parents also faced challenges in using their coverage to support maternity and prenatal care, leaving both the surrogate and intended parents at risk for substantial hospital bills.

The “Obamacare” effect

As intended parents and surrogates embark on a journey toward child delivery, it’s important to understand the health care coverage landscape in the age of what many call, “Obamacare.”

With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2013, the U.S. government defined 10 essential health benefits (EHB) that are mandated to be covered for all Americans enrolling in a health care plan. Within this list of 10, maternity and prenatal care is now considered essential coverage.

Steven Snyder, executive director at the International Assisted Reproduction Center (IARC®), said of the law’s enactment and its impact on surrogacy coverage, “By defining essential benefits and taking away pre-existing conditions and other exclusions that could impair maternity and prenatal care, the ACA may improve the ability of women who are acting as surrogates to have their maternity expense covered by insurance.”

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