SurrogacyIndia’s focus is in fertility, not infertility. Making babies, is possible. ‘Possible’ is what we believe in.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Surrogacy and Gay Parenthood Sees Small Victory In German High Court Ruling

Surrogacy, where a women uses her womb to carry a child for another couple, is illegal in Germany, but a ruling by Germany’s high court on Friday has provided gay and childless heterosexual couples a small victory when it ruled that surrogacy done abroad must now be legally recognized in the country.

The issue was brought to the court when a gay couple returned to Germany after their son was born in California via surrogacy. In the United States the two men were registered as the legal parents of the child, but upon returning home, Germany authorities would not offer the same recognition.

While surrogacy is still illegal on German soil, the court ruled that if the surrogacy took place in a foreign country that legally recognizes the couple as parents, it is “part of a child’s welfare to be able to rely on the parents to have continuous responsibility for its well-being.”

This is a win for both straight and gay couples, but the ruling is being seen as having a much larger impact in the gay community, which has been unsuccessfully fighting for adoption rights in Germany.

Up until this ruling, the only way same-sex couples could adopt a child in Germany was if it was born to one of the partners in an earlier heterosexual relationship. This ruling, however, provides gay couples with another method of parenthood until Germany decides to grant rights with fewer loopholes.


Commercialized Conception Casualties: "Brave" Baby Making?

Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, 1932), Margaret Atwood (Handmaid's Tale, 1985), and Lois Lowry (The Giver, 1993) all explored procreation and parenthood and government control of breeding.

Not even these iconic visionaries, however, conceived (forgive the pun) of the opposite: A total lack of government control in a free-for-all marketplace where regulation is unable to keep pace with reproductive science and the multi-billion dollar fertility-industry that serves some 8 million infertile women in the U.S.

None imagined genetic selection (aka designer babies) for health, gender, intelligence and looks of offspring or children born with up to four "mothers" -- mitochondrial transfer donor, genetic/egg or embryo donor, pregnant carrier and birther, and social/legal mother; nor did they imagine the sale of frozen embryos.


Surrogacy is banned in much of Europe. The United States, however, has no national regulation, just a variety of state laws. In 1988 following the New Jersey birth of "Baby M" to paid surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled surrogacy contracts unenforceable. At the time, religious leaders and ethicists denounced the practice. "Surrogacy," said the NJ Catholic Conference, "promotes the exploitation of women and infertile couples and the dehumanization of babies. In short, it traffics for profit in human lives."

Incredibly, despite these objections and the Supreme Court decision, several businesses, such as IVFNJ, Fertility NJ, Extra Conceptions, and Fertility Authority currently advertise surrogacy services in the state.

Hiring surrogates and purchasing sperm, eggs, or others' leftover frozen embryos, have become accepted as choices on a menu of options; a "right" of those who can afford it. Oprah Winfrey and others argue that surrogacy offers poor women the "right" to use their bodies to earn money just as legalized prostitution does. Legalized prostitution, however, involves consenting adults, not the creation of a third, autonomous human being who is contracted for and is not legal within most of the U.S. Furthermore, surrogacy does not provide a sustainable income for the indigent and most American surrogates claim their motive is not financial.

Arun Dohle of Against Child Trafficking is critical:

"Surrogacy is a form of modern day slavery. It has to remain outlawed and not legitimized through "regulation". ... it doesn´t protect anyone, but rather legitimizes the human trade."
Whether for personal satisfaction, altruism, or for compensation, surrogacy risks the life of the surrogate:

• Surrogate Karma Daigle of Westbury, Connecticut, developed preeclampsia that left her with heart damage.

•    Carrie Mathews of Windsor, Colorado nearly died birthing twins for a couple in Austria and owes more than $217,000 in medical expenses stemming from pregnancy complications.

•    Premila Vaghela, 30, of Ahmedabad, India, died due to complications delivering a surrogate baby for an American couple, leaving her own two sons motherless.

Despite these serious issues, surrogacy was casually introduced to American television viewers in 1998, by Lisa Kudrow's character Phoebe on Friends, as a totally altruistic, in-family (as opposed to commercial) gift for Phoebe's brother and sister-in-law. This was followed by normalizing paid surrogacy for hetero and same sex couples on shows like Modern Family, Rules of Engagement, Sisters, Glee, Army Wives, and The New Normal.

Currently a battle over the child ordered and abandoned before birth by Sherri Shepherd plays out while celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Jessica Parker and most recently Jimmy Fallon and Melissa Harris-Perry have announced the arrival of babies "via surrogacy" as nonchalantly as having a baby "via caesarian section."

Custody Disputes

India has become very popular for surrogacy because it is more economical for those seeking a child than American surrogacy, but Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Indian Minister for Health, expressed concern that the thriving, unregulated surrogacy industry "poses a great threat to the country's poor, disenfranchised women."

Indian law requires that those purchasing the services of a surrogate accept custody of the child or children regardless of any abnormality. In contrast, American surrogate contracts commonly require "abortion in case of severe fetus abnormality." One wonders where the pro-life outrage is to legal contracts demanding abortion under certain circumstances. Contracts that provide an "out" for those paying for children have led to legal disputes over custody when intended parents chose not to accept "defective" or multiple children:

One such case involves Helen Beasley, 26, who is pregnant with twins ordered by Charles Wheeler and Martha Berman of California, who demanded she abort one of the fetuses because they only wanted one child. Beasley wants to put the twins up for adoption. But under Californian law, parental rights in a surrogacy agreement go to the intended parents, not the surrogate mother.

Other litigation includes a three-year battle for visitation involving a Tennessee woman who conceived a child for an Italian couple.

Even in-family surrogacy can end up in protracted litigation. A NJ gay couple has battled years for custody of twins born to the sister of one of the men who was impregnated using a donor fertilized egg and the sperm of her brother's partner.

Questions for the Future

Many reproductive technologies involve anonymous paid "donors," ignoring the decades of struggle by adopted persons fighting for the right to know their progenitors and medical history, as well as the more recent children of anonymous sperm donors searching desperately for their genetic fathers.

Originally all surrogate births were achieved by impregnating the surrogate mother with the sperm of the intended father or fathers, or with purchased sperm. These are now referred to as "traditional" surrogate contracts. Today, most surrogate births involve a process known as gestational surrogacy where the "carrier" is impregnated with an already-fertilized egg. These children have the advantage of being genetically related to both parents who contract for them and who hopefully will raise them. Both forms of surrogacy, however, exploit the less fortunate and violate prohibitions on trafficking in human lives, particularly the buying and selling of infants.

Adoption is promoted to help orphans and foster children. What effect will creating babies through reproductive technologies have on those children? Adoption also provides some semblance of screening to protect the welfare of the children being transferred, whereas in surrogacy, only the baby carrier is screened for physical and mental fitness, but there is no screening of the intended parents. This opens the door further for pedophiles or other predators to obtain children.

Alana S. Newman of The Institute for American Values, in a compelling essay entitled "Children's Rights, or Rights to Children" concurs, writing:

"Third-party reproduction is inherently unethical, because it serves as a market to manufacture children for any adult who wants them... If it's okay to pre-sell and pre-order children via third-party reproduction, what is so wrong with buying and selling children who are already born or conceived?"
If practices such as surrogacy and selling eggs are acceptable options for those obtaining a child, are parents equally accepting of their daughters becoming surrogates or selling their eggs? Are these noble pursuits or akin to legalized prostitution? Harris-Perry says the woman she paid to bear her child has become "family" but she refers to her as a "gestational carrier" which elicits a vision of a crate for a pregnant animal.

Will baby-making simply continue in this wild-west fashion? Is having a baby a "right" for everyone and anyone who can afford it, no matter how it is accomplished, with the means determined only by what is possible?


Monday, December 22, 2014

Becoming legal parents after surrogacy – it may not be too late

Nicola Scott, a leading solicitor at specialist fertility and family law firm Natalie Gamble Associates, explores a recent ruling by a UK judge criticizing the six-month window in which you UK parents of surrogate children can apply for a parental order.

Over the last decade surrogacy has become a mainstream family building method for gay parents in the UK.

With many of these prospective parents travelling abroad (particularly to the USA), as well as finding surrogates across the UK, the demand for surrogacy is increasing whilst the law is trailing behind trying to keep up.

Under UK law, the surrogate and her spouse (if she is married) are the legal parents of the child. This is the case even if a child is born in another country; one that recognizes surrogacy and treats the intended parents as the legal parents.

Parental orders (court orders made by the UK family court after the birth) are the UK legal solution – completing reassigning parenthood from the surrogate mother and her spouse to the intended parents.

Once a parental order is made, the child’s birth is registered in the UK and the parents are issued with a UK birth certificate. In cases involving two gay dads, the birth certificate names them as ‘parent’ and ‘parent’.

Last year alone there were 167 parental orders granted to UK parents and this year is set to see a sharp increase on that figure.

However, not all parents through surrogacy have made this crucial court application, making these figures only a shadow of the true numbers of surrogacy arrangements entered into by Brits.

For example, gay dads who have gone to the US to have a surrogate child may both be recorded as parents on their child’s US birth certificate and not realize that they are not legal parents at home in the UK.

However, there is good news. Last month the President of the High Court Family Division (one of the most senior judges in the UK) described the law’s six-month deadline for making an application as ‘nonsensical’ and said that in some cases parents may be able to apply to sort out their parenthood late. For parents through surrogacy who have not applied to court in the UK, this opens the door to resolving things fully.

Why should they do so? In simple terms, without a parental order, they are not the legal parents of their child in the UK. This creates a whole can of worms that may wriggle free at some point in the future.

The purpose of the parental order goes beyond a child’s identity. The status of ‘parents’ brings adults the ability to make crucial parenting decisions and financial responsibility, and children the acquisition of nationality status and automatic inheritance rights.

Without it, a distinct vulnerability – which could be picked up at any point in a child’s life – looms over parents and children. There might be serious problems if the parents separate or divorce, if one of them dies or if other family members contest their children’s inheritance.

They also may not have basic authority to make decisions for their child, which could raise its head at a time when their child is ill or there is some other real issue they need to deal with.

For those who have missed the deadline, now is the time to apply. For others who are at different stages in their surrogacy journey, the parental order provides a unique solution to the otherwise awkward application of UK law on parenthood.

In addition, there may be other options to bridge the unavoidable gaps that surrogacy provides for those who cannot yet obtain a parental order (such as single parents), and parents in this situation are urged to seek legal advice in order to regulate their status.

Unlike the position five years ago, parental order applications are now common, particularly in London (including in the High Court, where all parental order applications following international surrogacy are heard). There has been a string of surrogacy cases over the past five years, and no applications have been refused.

Essentially, there is no reason not to apply, and it need not even be expensive to do so (many parents represent themselves). Legal advice, no matter what stage you are at, is sensible to ensure that you are getting the most from the legal solutions available.


Surrogate babies' fate still up in air

Special report: Scandal takes new twist as birth mums apply for custody, writes Lamphai Intathep

The 12 babies born to surrogate mothers and a Japanese father in a recent surrogacy scandal are still in state care.

    They are being cared for at the Pakkred Babies' Home in Pak Kret, Nonthaburi, where they fall under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security as the case unfolds.

On Aug 5, nine babies were found at a condominium in Bangkok's Bang Kapi district along with seven nannies and a pregnant Thai woman who later prematurely gave birth to a baby girl weighing just 1,700 grammes.

Police later linked two more babies to the surrogacy scandal.

The 12 babies were found to be born to nine Thai surrogate mothers and their Japanese businessman father, Mitsutoki Shigeta, through assisted reproductive technology.

Under Thai law, a mother is automatically regarded as the legal guardian of her child, said Saowanee Khomepatr, deputy director-general of the ministry's Department of Social Development and Welfare.

But the relationship between the babies, surrogate Thai mothers, and the Japanese father remains unclear, which means the question of who will care for the children in the long term is also unsettled.

The 24-year-old Japanese businessman allegedly fathered 15 babies via surrogates in Thailand. Mr Shigeta earlier took three of the babies out of the country.

No one knows when the legal proceedings are likely to come to an end.

According to the 2003 Child Protection Act, the state can keep the babies under its guardianship. No one has been allowed to visit the babies, except the surrogate mothers.

She said the children have received good health care, suitable for their age-related needs.

Of all the babies - eight boys and four girls, aged between two months and 14 months old - only the youngest, born prematurely in September, was allowed to stay with the surrogate mother in her hometown, under the close watch of the ministry's provincial staff.

As the case has dragged on, authorities say they are willing to consider requests by the surrogate mothers to care for the children.

Ms Saowanee said six of the surrogate mothers have recently expressed an intention to seek custody of their children, totalling nine. But she said the letters which were purportedly written by the six mothers in pursuit of their application appear dubious as they all share the same writing style.

Consent has yet to be granted even though a newborn is legally the legitimate child of the mother who carried the pregnancy.

As a mother herself, Ms Saowanee knows it's better for the babies to stay with their mother and that ideally, children should not be growing up in a foster home.

"But any decision must be made for the sake of the child's benefit," she said.

Factors including the mother's actual intention, family capacity, and financial readiness will be carefully assessed. An investigation is underway to find out if the eggs belonged to the surrogate mothers or donors.

Mr Shigeta recently sent his DNA sample through his lawyer, Kong Suriyamonthon, to Thai police to prove his paternity.

Tests showed that he fathered all 12 babies.

However, that is only part of the evidence needed.

A source said Mr Shigeta's lawyer also submitted the plans to raise all 12 surrogate babies.

But the deputy director-general said if the Japanese businessman wishes to father all the babies, he must take a DNA test in Thailand to clarify the relationship between him and the babies born to the surrogate mothers.

In the meantime, the babies have to stay at the ministry's baby home until they turn six years old.

Then, they will be separated to stay at foster homes for boys and girls and start school.

Asked about the possibility of providing a new family to the surrogate babies through adoption, Ms Saowanee said the adoption process cannot proceed if the children's status and legal ambiguity are not yet settled.

"There is nothing to worry about as we have experienced and professional staff to take care of them. Their rights will be protected," she said.


Engineering Babies

In this Christmas season, Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who brought a message of hope and redemption to the world. This celebration poignantly reminds Christians of the joy of Christ’s birth to a human mother, and God’s gift of life to all humans.

Christians celebrate this profound gift of life knowing that we live in an imperfect world where salvation depends on grace and faith in God’s design for the world. God imparted the gift of life to all creatures, great and small, and to humans He provided unique abilities of reason and conscience. With these abilities humans have made great progress, especially in the advancement of science. Scientific knowledge, while improving our understanding of the natural world, has created new challenges to human understanding of the meaning of life.

A Story of Hope in Adversity

The dramatic story of Crystal Kelley, the surrogate mother of a child born in 2012, reveals both the ethical dilemmas of life in a scientific age and the hope of redemption for everyone. As recounted by (March 6, 2013), the story began in August 2011 when Crystal Kelley, then age 29, agreed to become a surrogate mother to a married couple who wanted a fourth child to add to their family. The couple had conceived their three children through in vitro fertilization and had two frozen embryos remaining from their fertility treatments. They offered to pay Crystal a fee of $22,000 to have the two embryos implanted in her under a contract to carry the embryos to term and relinquish any resulting baby at delivery. Crystal became pregnant. Both Crystal and the parents were thrilled, and the mother and Crystal communicated nearly every day.

In February, things began to fall apart when an ultrasound showed that the baby had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst on her brain and serious heart defects. Now 21 weeks pregnant, Crystal learned that the baby would need several heart surgeries after she was born and would have only about a 25 percent chance of a normal life. Following the examination, the parents wrote to Crystal’s midwife that given the “interventions” required to manage the baby’s medical problems, “it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination.” They noted that three of their children, conceived in vitro, had been born prematurely and two of them still had medical problems.

In a later meeting with them, Crystal remembers the mother crying. “They said they didn’t want to bring a baby into the world,” she recalls, “only for that child to suffer. . . . They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go.” Crystal replied, “I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do,” adding, “I told them it wasn’t their decision to play God.”

The mother offered Crystal $10,000 to have an abortion. Crystal asked for more, then immediately regretted asking. She decided not to accept any money to have an abortion which was against her religious principles. Under threat of suit for breach of a contract she had signed in which she agreed to an “abortion in case of severe fetus abnormality,” Crystal contacted a Connecticut attorney who took the case for free.

In response, the parents changed their position, communicating through their lawyer that they now planned to exercise their legal right to take custody of their child—and then immediately surrender the baby to the state of Connecticut. Faced with a legal web being spun around her, Crystal left for Michigan, which does not recognize surrogacy contracts. In Michigan she found a woman and her husband who agreed to adopt the baby. Meanwhile, the legal battle continued in Connecticut, where the baby’s intended mother admitted in legal papers that the couple had used an anonymous egg donor. She was not even the baby’s genetic mother.

The baby was born June 25, 2012. The baby’s medical problems were even more extensive than suggested by early tests. Her internal organs were in the wrong places. She had two spleens, neither working properly. Her head was very small, and she had various heart defects and other health issues. Yet with all of her problems, the new adoptive parents see a little girl who has defied the odds. She makes eye contact, giggles at her siblings, grabs toys. The mother says her baby “wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm.” The adoptive mother told CNN that “with love, opportunity, and encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving.”

Crystal’s story is one of courage, conviction and redemption that reminds us of the blessings of life in this season of celebration. This story also illustrates some of the many injustices found within today’s surrogacy industry. These include the commodification of the bodies of impecunious women; the demands for abortion of less-than-perfect fetuses; the higher rate of medical complications resulting from implantation of multiple embryos and from the tendency to use relatively older women as surrogate mothers; the shifting of costs of these medical complications to third parties or taxpayers; and the purchase of babies by would-be parents who may be single men or gay couples who are not required to show their fitness to be parents. Such “parents” can deliberately design a baby who will never know a birth mother, a genetic mother, or even in many cases an adoptive mother. For a good overview of some of these issues, see Charlotte Allen, “Womb for Rent,” The Weekly Standard, October 7, 2013.

Catholic Teachings Against Surrogacy

Sister Renée Mirkes in her article “The Injustices of the Surrogacy Industry” in The Catholic World Report (August 1, 2013) articulates the importance of Catholic teaching in understanding this brave new world created by modern science. She notes that between 1978 and 1988 roughly 600 children were born to surrogate mothers in the United States. Surrogate birth rates nearly doubled between 2004 and 2008, producing a total of 5,239 babies in that period. Confronted with this new technology, the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith adopted bold language in Donum Vitae (1987) and in Dignitas Personae (2008) to defend the traditional Catholic theory of the family and the rights of the child. In Donum Vitae, Church doctrine declares, “The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage.”

Donum Vitae offers wise counsel to people considering commissioning a surrogate birth, reasoning that such an arrangement violates intrinsic human rights of the child:

On the part of spouses, the desire for a child is natural: it expresses the vocation of fatherhood and motherhood inscribed in conjugal love. This desire can be even stronger if the couple is afflicted by sterility which appears incurable. Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation. A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child’s dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered an object of ownership; rather a child is a gift, ‘the supreme gift’ and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right . . . to be the fruit of the specific act of conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.

Sister Renée Mirkes argues persuasively that the woman’s choice of surrogacy serves “neither her own good nor the good of others.” To gestate another couple’s child is “not only a self-inflicted injustice—a failure of the surrogate to give due response to her own personal integrity, freedom and dignity—but also a society- inflicted injustice, a failure by the intending couple and the reproductive medical community” to understand the depth of the injustice of surrogacy.

Damage Caused by Surrogacy

The psychological and physical effects of surrogacy on the surrogate mother and child are revealed by recent research. For the surrogate mother the preparation and implantation involve potential risks associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF), including sexually transmitted infection from the intended father’s sperm, ovarian hyperstimulation and a variety of physical maladies. IVF involves high risk of multiple pregnancy and increased risk of miscarriage, anemia, urinary tract infection, hemorrhage, caesarean delivery and placental abnormalities. Surrogate motherhood arrangements commonly use younger women to supply eggs and older women, who already have children of their own, to gestate the embryos. Pregnancy itself carries health risks which women are usually willing to incur to bear their own child, but which are arguably inappropriate to incur for the sake of a paying client. In addition to physical problems, some surrogate mothers suffer psychological trauma in relinquishing their babies. This has led to high-profile lawsuits by surrogate mothers and would-be parents.

The scientific literature on the children born to surrogate mothers, while necessarily limited for such a new trend, supports the wisdom of Church doctrine. Dr. Susan Golombok has conducted an ongoing study at the University of Cambridge comparing 30 surrogate families, 31 egg donation families, 35 donor insemination families and 53 natural conception families. The research team found that at age 10, children born to a surrogate mother had more emotional difficulties than children born to a biological mother (“Surrogate Born Children Are More Likely to Suffer Depression Than Those Carried by Their Real Mother,” MailOnline, November 4, 2014).

Patchwork of Surrogacy Laws

State law varies widely on surrogacy arrangements. Michigan, where Crystal Kelley fled to escape her onerous surrogacy contract, bans commercial surrogacy. Entering a commercial surrogacy agreement there carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Surrogacy contracts in New York are not enforced by that state. Indiana prohibits contracted surrogacy. In the District of Columbia contracted surrogacy carries a $10,000 fine. In Nebraska and Maryland surrogacy is legal only if the carrier is not compensated, called “altruistic” surrogacy. Tennessee, where same-sex marriage is illegal, allows only married couples to have surrogacy agreements. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a bill to legalize compensated surrogacy for married heterosexual couples. Many states do not address surrogacy at all.

California, on the other hand, is an especially friendly state that allows commercial surrogacy. In California situations where the surrogate birth mother does not want to give up the child, the state has the legal right to seize the child. Anyone with sufficient means can acquire a baby via surrogacy contract, including a single man, gay or straight married couples or domestic partners. No inquiry is made as to the suitability of the parent(s) to raise children.

Illinois is considered one of the most pro-surrogate states in the country, as reported by Chicago Tribune (“Surrogate Births Growing in Popularity,” October 9, 2013). Not only have Illinois residents taken advantage of the pro-surrogacy laws in the state, but clients from all over the United States and Europe are contacting Illinois groups such as the Center for Egg Options and Parenting Partners to arrange surrogate births. Illinois ranks third behind Massachusetts and New Jersey in the number of surrogate births.

Pro-surrogacy states take great pains to protect the rights of parties entering into this legal agreement (except, of course, the rights of the child, whose future reaction to his deficient parentage is not considered). The Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act of 2005 provides that after the birth of a baby to a surrogate mother, parenthood passes immediately to the intended parents, whether a traditional couple or a same-sex couple. California law is similar. The would-be parents’ names are put on the birth certificate at birth. This eliminates the need for parents to go through a court adoption process after birth.

As a consequence, surrogacy has become a big industry. The growth of the industry has been helped by positive publicity from Hollywood celebrities such as Elton John, Nicole Kidman, Kelsey Grammer, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon having children through surrogates. An international business has developed in India and other Asian countries, Ukraine and Mexico for wealthy couples and singles, both gay and straight, seeking to have children with the aid of surrogate mothers. The high cost of engineering a baby in this manner—upwards of $100,000 in the U.S. for purchasing a young woman’s eggs, creating the embryos, renting the surrogate mother’s womb, purchasing health insurance, paying broker fees and handling the legal arrangements—limits the business to rich would-be parents, some of whom seek to reduce cost by using Third World surrogate mothers.

Single and Gay Men Fuel Demand

Originally, demand for surrogate mothers came principally from heterosexual married couples where the wife was unable to bear children but was willing to mother a child conceived and born through assisted reproduction. As time went on, egg donation technology marched ahead and taboos against alternative family structures eroded, the use of purchased eggs became the norm, and not only husband-wife couples but also single men and gay male couples have fueled the demand for surrogacy. These men have made a conscious decision to become fathers without the love of a woman. This decision deprives their children of the love of a woman as well.

Another growing motivation for surrogacy is acquisition of U.S. citizenship for Chinese nationals’ genetic children born to U.S. surrogate mothers (“Chinese Look Overseas for Surrogates,”, September 23, 2013). Whatever the motivation, the use of surrogacy is clearly accelerating.

Stricter Laws in Some Countries

Most Western European countries and Canada take a dim view of acquiring babies via surrogate motherhood, banning or greatly restricting the practice. Legislators in these countries often sensibly take the position that surrogacy is never in the best interests of the child, or express concern about the psychological impact on a child of splitting his mother into up to three persons (the surrogate mother, the genetic mother and sometimes an adoptive mother). See Elyse M. Smith, “Surrogacy Through the Lens of the Best Interests Principle,” Ave Maria International Law Journal (Spring 2012).

Some critics, such as filmmaker Jennifer Lahl, in her documentary film Breeder: A Sub-Class of Women, focus on the evil of the exploitation of poor women by the surrogacy industry. But an equally important issue is protecting the rights of the children as to what kinds of families they will be raised in. Adoption procedures protect children by carefully screening the adoptive parents. The varying surrogacy laws provide little or no protection for surrogate children from couples or individuals who would not be allowed to adopt. In one outlandish case outside the U.S. illustrating the perils of unrestricted surrogacy, a wealthy 24-year-old Japanese businessman reportedly has fathered 16 children through Thai surrogate mothers and plans to father many more, claiming he has the means to support them (The Guardian, August 23, 2014).

An Australian couple sparked outrage in another case after they picked up a baby girl born to a Thai surrogate mother but apparently refused to accept the girl’s twin brother, who was born with Down syndrome. The surrogate mother has successfully appealed for funds to raise the boy. The father happens to be a convicted pedophile, according to CNN (, August 11, 2014).

Pressure is building for more states and countries to pass laws legalizing surrogacy arrangements. The Catholic Church and Christian activists should be vigilant to resist the spread of a bad idea. A man who fathers a child in this unnatural way, without a wife, will never have a good answer to the child’s eventual question: Where is my mother? Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated this month, never had to ask such a question, and gave the world a model of filial love for His mother.

Cardinal Mindszenty, who was devoted to his own mother, wrote, “The most important person on earth is a mother.” The laws should not facilitate deliberately bringing children into the world with no mother.


Raipur emerging as surrogacy hub, 10 childless couples benefited

RAIPUR: 25-year-old Pratima (name changed) from Ahmedabad is expecting a baby in next two months. She used to work as sweeper on streets of Ahmedabad earning Rs 150 per day before she agreed to be a surrogate mother on the request of a couple based in United States.

After the baby is born, Pratima's life is all set to change. At least she hopes so. She would be able to provide proper education to her five-year-old daughter. Her husband is a rickshaw driver and the couple dream of having a shelter they can call home.

Pratima, who is in Raipur for spending her last months of pregnancy under care, told TOI that it wasn't difficult for her to decide for the US couple as she had seen her childless neighbours in pain, while money in exchange to bear the baby didn't seem like a taboo to her anymore. She is one among the 15 other surrogate mothers in their pregnancy at Chhattisgarh's first surrogacy home of Dr Neeraj Pehlajani's test tube baby centre in Raipur.

Vinita (name changed), 30, became a surrogate twice to bear children to two childless couples in Nagpur and Pune. "My earnings helped me buy a small home and begin a little business of my own. My husband, who was unemployed, now earns Rs 15,000 from the business," she told TOI.

Talking to TOI, Dr Pehlajani said that in last one and a half years city has emerged as a surrogacy hub for foreigners as well Indians, with more than 12 successful deliveries and 15 more underway.

"Women in Chhattisgarh are slowly opening up as surrogate mothers and couples here are also opting for surrogacy instead of going to other states for the same. In fact, Raipur is counted among hotspots for surrogacy tourism lately, with several infertile couples from USA, Europe, Africa and neigbouring Bangladesh and Afghanistan visiting the place for fertility treatment or bearing child through surrogacy," Dr Pehlajani claimed.

Raipur is getting attention for surrogacy after high ratio of infertile couples were blessed with children that too at competitive rates. The number of couples visiting Chhattisgarh has tripled in last few years. Besides foreigners, couples from Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat are frequent visitors here.

Talking about rules, Dr Pehlajani said a surrogate mother can go for three attempts and have total five children including her own. At any point of complication when decision is to be made between mother and child, it is made clear to the couple that they will save the mother.

"At Pehlajani test tube baby centre, we have tied up with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) banks who manage the deal and background check procedures. A detailed investigation is done which takes two-three months, also to ensure if intended parent doesn't wish the child for trafficking. It is followed by several health check-ups including mental, physical health, physical characters like hair and skin colour, blood group, HIV," he said.

"Fertility problems can have devastating emotional impact on couples and surrogacy being beneficial to both intended parent and surrogate mother is not only means of income but also purposeful. For the surrogate mother, the earnings mean the world. At times, couples also sponsor education and send gifts to mothers," the doctor added.

The law factor:

Surrogacy is turning into a respected profession and mothers are usually the needy ones.

In last few years, several states in country emerged as surrogacy destinations with legalized commercial surrogacy since 2008 at comparatively lower cost. Surrogacy Laws in India are also undergoing immense change. India is taking steps to position itself as a legally risk-free destination when it comes to international surrogacy arrangements. However, ART Bill, 2008 is still pending in Parliament, doctor said.

Surrogacy in Raipur:

Delivered in Raipur: 10

Under pre-natal care: 15

Childless couples & surrogate mothers from: Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi

Couples from foreign countries: United Kingdom, USA, Russia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh

Rules for surrogates

Can opt for surrogacy thrice

Can bear five children, including her own

Must have a gap of two years between each child.


Limited win for surrogacy, gay parenthood in Germany

Gay and childless heterosexual German couples seeking to have children by non-traditional means have gained a small victory. If the surrogacy is done abroad, authorities must recognize the couple as the legal parents.

In a landmark case made public on Friday, the German high court in Karlsruhe watered down legislation forbidding surrogacy in Germany.

Although women are still prohibited from using their wombs to bring another couple's child to term, Germany now has to recognize children born using such procedures abroad.

The case revolved around two gay men whose child was born via surrogate in California. The baby, born in 2010, was registered in the United States as the child of the two men. Upon returning home, the couple had been unable to persuade the German authorities to recognize the child as theirs, though the baby has been living with the fathers in Berlin for the last three-and-a-half years.

German law holds that a surrogate mother is the legal mother of the child, which presents a problem for homosexual couples or childless heterosexual couples seeking alternative ways to become parents.

The issue was brought up before the German supreme court, which ruled that the decisions of foreign authorities in such matters must be respected as "part of a child's welfare to be able to rely on the parents to have continuous responsibility for its well-being," but maintained that surrogacy on German soil remains forbidden.

The ruling also has implications for countries like India, where women have often been employed by childless heterosexual German couples as surrogate mothers.

Gay couples are generally not allowed to adopt in Germany, though the courts have permitted gay men to legally adopt their partner's children from an earlier relationship.


Infertility, surrogacy in India

Infertility is a growing problem worldwide. A World Health Organization report estimates that 60-to-80 million couples worldwide currently suffer from infertility.

In India, the WHO reports that infertility afflicts 3.9 percent to 16.9 percent of the population. Another study by the International Institute of Population Sciences in India says 15 million to 20 million couples in India suffer from infertility.

Holly Donahue Singh is a postdoctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. For the last decade, she has studied the phenomenon in Lucknow, the capital city of the largest state in India. Her commentary, The World's Back Womb? Commercial Surrogacy and Infertility Inequalities in India, appears in in this month's American Anthropologist.

Singh sat down to discuss her research.

Q: What gets you excited about your research?

Singh: It really gets us examining and maybe thinking differently about fundamental issues of who we are and how we organize human life and how we think about human life. There's a very prominent medical anthropologist named Paul Farmer, who I'm drawn back to again and again. He says, "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world." I think that's one of the key things when thinking about reproductive rights, reproductive justice because it's not only about the people who are alive, but it's also about a vision about what future generations are going to be like. And we bring all of our biases, all of our preconceptions into that, and that's as true in the United States as it is in India, as it is in Europe, as it is in Africa.

Q: As somebody who works with infertility in India, what struck you about the news in November about the 13 Indian women who died after undergoing sterilization surgeries in a free government-run program?

Singh: It's shocking but not surprising because these kinds of camps have been going on for a long time. People in India are familiar with the '70s and the suspension of democracy and forced sterilizations that were carried out in that period. But because of that period, vasectomies got a lot of stigma attached to them, a lot of suspicion toward the government, and the slippery slope between what's birth control and what's population control. It's also very tricky. There are various levels of coercion that can be involved, and some people talk about even payment for sterilization as becoming a coercive force.

Q: During your research, what kinds of options did you see for couples with infertility?

Singh: In India, there are a lot of potential sources. A few government or public hospitals have started to offer some services, and there are various clinics in the private sector. This is something I heard in the field that family planning is not only about controlling and reducing fertility, but family planning is also about trying to plan a family, and that could take the form of assisted reproductive technologies.

One interesting example is when the tsunami hit in 2004, the state government of Tamil Nadu offered parents who had lost their children in the tsunami, and who had already been sterilized, to have that operation reversed so they could try for more children. Tamil Nadu is often used as a model for maternal, infant health, mortality, birth control, all of that.

Across India, total fertility rates, infant mortality and maternal mortality looks quite different from one state to another. Some southern states have fertility levels comparable to Europe where women have on average fewer than two children. But if you go north to states like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, it's more like three to 3.5 average births per women. There's a vast difference from one part of the country to another.

Q: Where does surrogacy fit in with infertility?

Singh: Clinics that could be offering infertility services could also be involved in surrogacy dealings because people who are infertile and looking for a surrogate could come to those clinics. Surrogacy is suddenly in the news in India because of a couple Bollywood stars who had surrogate children.

It is a complex issue. Compensation is one. It really quickly becomes about "Are you commodifying life?" Is this baby selling and baby buying? It all gets very complex in moral terms.

Also, who has rights to a baby that is born and who has obligations? They're real questions that people are attempting to deal with and that judges end up having to deal with when some of kind of dispute arises, when a child is abandoned, when a marriage breaks up in the middle of a surrogate pregnancy, as has happened, in the Baby Manjii case. A Japanese couple divorced in the middle of having a surrogate child in India.

Q: What really surprised you from your research?

Singh: One thing that really surprised me was the resilience of so many women that I talked to. I had come into this research with a lot of ideas about how women are victimized. Women are given such a hard time. Women are already starting out with a bad deal.

What really surprised me is just how many people I talked to who were really dealing with very difficult situations, which could be stigma, family problems, financial problems, pressure from lots of people. But they were still optimistic, not only about getting a child but also optimistic about continuing their lives and dealing with it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Best. Gift. Ever. Surrogacy

Augusta -  LaTeefah Young is being heralded as a blessing, leaving many speechless and calling her selfless. The 31-year old Augusta mother made the decision to give a complete stranger a gift she could only hope for.

This Christmas will be a very special Christmas for Lydia and her family. 

“Best. Gift. Ever.  It's like Jesus,” Lydia laughs.

The new mother is adding one to her family, but not in the traditional way.  She had a little help from LaTeefah Young.

“Her egg and her husband's sperm and made the baby in a Petri dish before they put it inside of me.  I was an incubator for nine months,” Young said.

Invitro Fertilization.  That was the only option for Lydia and her husband who chose not to use their full name because surrogacy is forbidden in their home country France.  

“My last pregnancy I lost my baby. The doctor said that I can't be pregnant again because I could die,” the new mother said.

Lydia found Maryland based Family Forward Surrogacy online to help grow her family safely.  The 29-year-old said she paid a total of $90,000, which included payment to Young and paying for the baby.

  Thousands of miles away in Augusta, Georgia, Young was also searching for a surrogacy company, but for different reasons.

“There are people out there that try so hard to do what comes easy for me as having a baby,” Young told News Channel 6 while describing why she chose surrogacy.

Making it easy for Lydia who can now take home a 7 lbs. 8 oz. 20 inches long daughter name Alex, Young said the process was hard as she raised her own son and daughter with her fiancée.

“My blood was low throughout the whole pregnancy. I was anemic. I could not eat. Not my appetite was nonexistent because my taste buds were gone,” Young recalled.

Young said she has no plans to be a surrogate again and Lydia said she's hoping one day her daughter can be an engineer like her mom.

“It's a joy with no words,” she said.

Lydia added she and her husband are excited to return to France and introduce Alex, who she said looks like her sister, to their family. 

Young plans to marry in April and is looking forward to resting after being a surrogate.


The search for a baby, in India, with a surrogate

The unadorned facts of Rhonda and Gerry Wile’s quest for a family cover a lot of ground on the subject of fertility. Rhonda, a nurse who had been abandoned by her first husband after a year of marriage, met and married Gerry, a firefighter who didn’t tell her he’d had a vasectomy.

Wanting children, the two spent a lot of money and time getting the vasectomy reversed. After Rhonda suffered a miscarriage, doctors discovered that she had two uteri — one of which functioned, but not well enough to carry a child to term.

The couple decided to try getting a surrogate to bear their child; because it’s so expensive in the United States, they went to Mumbai (surrogacy is booming in India) and signed up with SurrogacyIndia, where women are willing to be surrogates for a $5,000 fee.

Rhonda’s eggs turned out not to be able to produce a viable fetus, so they found an Indian woman who was willing to provide eggs.

After one was fertilized with Gerry’s sperm, the surrogate bore a healthy son. Two years later, the egg donor indicated she would be willing to make more eggs available so the Wiles’ son could have a sibling.

They agreed and, using sperm Gerry had already frozen on the previous trip to Mumbai, found a second surrogate to carry the baby. This surrogate conceived triplets; one of the fetuses did not survive, but twin girls did.

As Leslie Morgan Steiner writes in her new book, “The Baby Chase: How Surrogacy Is Transforming the American Family,” the Wiles were finally a family of five.

While telling their story, Steiner explores psychological, historical, medical and legal issues, Indian social strata and women’s status, and, over and over again, the expense of it all. And she makes a strong if controversial case on behalf of surrogacy.


'Miracle baby' born at 10:11 a.m. on 12/13/14

A North Carolina couple is celebrating the birth of their son who was born at a very unique time this weekend.

Kristi and Bryan Caruthers are calling their newborn son, Callum, their miracle baby.

Callum was born at 10:11 a.m. on 12/13/14.

The couple was told by other doctors their only hope for parenthood was surrogacy or adoption.

But the Caruthers did not give up. They found help at Johnson City Medical Center.

"He is an answer to our prayers," said Bryan Caruthers. "Its a real blessing. And to have that kind of numbers, it's just a really cool thing. He is our lucky baby."

The Caruthers said as soon as they are discharged from the hospital, they are going to buy a lottery ticket.

The next time a sequential birthday will happen again is nearly 20 years from now on 1/2/34.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guidance for other gestational carriers penned in Iowan's book

Knowing how fortunate she was to get pregnant and bring healthy children into the world, Staci Mason didn't hesitate when she offered to carry a baby for a young cancer survivor she hadn't even met.

After months of preparation, Mason became a gestational carrier and eventually gave birth to twins – the biological children of another couple. She details the complicated journey in the recently released book, "Helping Jamie: My Journey as a Gestational Carrier." The book was adapted from a journal Mason kept during the pregnancy more than two years ago.

Mason, 39, of Huxley had casually mulled the idea of becoming a surrogate after hearing her sister talk about a friend who had done so. At the time, Mason wondered if she could ever do the same. Months later, in 2010, Mason overheard her mother talking with a friend about her daughter, who lived on the West Coast and was unable to bear children following cancer.

Learning of the situation, Mason piped up: "I'll have her baby!"

The young woman, Jamie Wolds, who grew up in Iowa, became pregnant with her first child in 2009. Six weeks into her pregnancy, she miscarried, but the tragedy led to an early diagnosis of uterine cancer. Despite the heartbreak, the miscarriage had ultimately helped save her life.

The pregnancy itself had been a miracle — Wolds never should have been able to conceive. As part of her cancer treatment, she would need a radical hysterectomy and could no longer carry children.

Prior to surgery, doctors were able to harvest eggs from Wolds, eventually resulting in 12 frozen embryos awaiting a carrier.

Although the two women had never met and lived hundreds of miles apart, their parents were good friends. They soon formed a lasting bond.

"It was odd how it all came together. When my mom mentioned it, it took off. For Jamie, it was: Someone's serious about it. For me, it was: Somebody needs me to do this. It all fell into place," Mason said.

Wolds continues to be thankful to Mason, supporting her book and providing the foreword.

"I was awakened through this entire journey that life is a precious gift and that it is up to us what we do with it. I hope after reading this story you know that carrying a child for someone who cannot do so is one of the most beautiful gifts one could ever give another human being," she wrote.

Mason admits she felt a maternal pull to help, and hearing the pain a young woman suffered after losing a baby moved her to help. There were times when she questioned her decision, but faith, family and friends became her support network.

Throughout the process, Mason met with a therapist to talk about her emotions. But she was unable to talk to other women who had done what she was doing. That's one reason she wrote the book. At times, frustration set in sorting through the complications of insurance and legal matters, she said.

"I didn't have anybody to talk to about it. I didn't have any resources. Looking back, all of those things that seemed like roadblocks weren't that bad," she said.

She hopes the book provides courage to those interested in becoming gestational carriers and encourages those who are unable to bear children to seek out alternatives that will allow them to become parents.

Even before the book was released, the story had an impact on other families. An Iowa woman read the story about the special delivery of the Wolds twins in Heath Connect magazine, published by Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames where the twins were born, and chose to carry a baby for her sister.

Anyone considering becoming a gestational carrier or surrogate should strongly consider talking to a therapist so they are adequately prepared, Mason said.

"(The therapist) was able to give a lot of validity to the things I was feeling going into the journey. I was very nervous about it. I was very fearful that we'd go into the transfer and have a miscarriage and have to start over," she said.

Being watched by many people, Mason was under tremendous pressure. Wolds and her husband, Ian, had entrusted her with a great responsibility and the decision impacted her own family as well. For Mason, the physical changes posed the biggest challenge.

"I think that's because I purposed to not become emotionally involved while I was pregnant," she said.

She set a strict role for herself early on, distancing herself emotionally from the twins. To prevent an extreme emotional attachment, she never referred to the babies as "hers" and thinks of them more like a niece and nephew.

"I just didn't do it. I knew I couldn't let myself go there," she said.

She also let Wolds set the tone for the journey. Mason, who was busy raising three teens of her own, said she has always made known that she doesn't think of the twins as her children.

After Hannah and Carson were born in July 2012, the biological parents immediately took over and Mason was happy to turn over parenting duties to them. She was tired of being pregnant, but visited the newborns daily while they were still in Iowa for a few weeks.

The first few months, she also used FaceTime to connect with the family. As the twins have grown older, the families resumed their own routines and communicate sporadically now.

Once the Wolds family is ready, Mason welcomes becoming part of the twins' lives in some way.

"I know I did the right thing. I think often about those two little kids and what they're going to do some day and accomplish and the kind of parents maybe that they will be. It's something I'm very proud of. Some day when my grandkids talk about me, I hope it's a part of my story that they include," she said.

The experience opened up Mason's eyes to the despair and emotions of infertility and cancer, giving her a chance to walk alongside a young woman dealing with those issues.

"There's no reason for me not to wake up every day and just feel grateful for what I have. I think that really nailed that into my soul," she said.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Women giving birth using their own mothers wombs

Two women have made medical history by giving birth using wombs donated by their own mothers.

The two new mums - both from Sweden - are the first to give birth using the wombs that brought them into the world.

The pioneering procedure gives hope to 15,000 British women who can’t have children either because they were born without a womb or have had it removed.

Henrik Hagberg, a professor in fetal medicine at King’s College London, said: “It is an absolutely extraordinary gift. It is probably the best thing you can do for your daughter.”

The babies were born by Caesarean section a month ago and are understood to be thriving at home with their mums, who had embryos frozen and placed into the donor womb a year after the transplant.

The news came two months after Dr Mats Brannstrom, the pioneering surgeon behind the transplant procedure announced the birth of Vincent, the first baby to be born to a woman whose friend donated her womb.

Dr Brannstrom said: “In the future, it is not going to be a problem to get a donor – not like a kidney, heart or liver.”

British doctors are due to submit documents for ethics approval to carry out the first five womb transplants in the UK next year, and there are already 60 women on the waiting list.

Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, praised Sweden’s womb transplant programme, saying: “If it carries on like this it may have a massive impact on things like surrogacy.

“Women would much prefer to have their own baby and be pregnant than watch another woman be pregnant.”


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Man sexually abused two children born via Thai surrogate, NSW court hears

A man has gone on trial in New South Wales accused of sexually abusing two children born via a Thai surrogate.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is charged with committing acts of indecency against the children, both under the age of 10.

He has pleaded not guilty.

In opening statements, the prosecutor told the jury the case was based on allegations the man encouraged one of his children to touch him while the other was present.

The court heard that after the matter was reported to police, officers discovered several computer disks owned by the accused containing deleted files of child pornography.

The defense argued the real issue is whether the event "actually happened at all".

The jury of 10 men and two women were urged to pay close attention to the children's evidence.

The accursed barrister said they must be satisfied that what they hear is truthful and reliable and not the result of "suggestion, concoction or imagination".

He also questioned whether the accused knew about the images found on his computer disks "given they had been deleted".

The Crown opened its case with one of the child victims as the first witness.

In a recorded police interview played to the court the child said the accused promised them a sticker if they did what he wanted and would smack them if they refused.

The man sobbed uncontrollably at times as he watched the interview.

The child referred to him as 'my horrible dad' and said their mother told them he would live in jail forever.

The child will be cross-examined on Wednesday.

The trial is expected to run for the rest of the week.


Zara Marie Decotter excited for this Christmas

     Zara Marie Decotter a baby girl came in this world by her parents love and surrogate mother from SurrogacyIndia. She is pretty excited for this Christmas and started decorating her atmosphere for the celebration

Monday, December 8, 2014

Two Women Have Wombs Transplanted From Their Mothers; A First For UK Doctor

Two mothers from the UK donated their wombs to their daughters. The daughters are the first pair to give birth using the womb from which they were born.

According to the Daily Mail, this procedure will help over 15,000 British women who were born without a womb or had it removed, but still want to have children. Nine women had their wombs transplanted, of which these two mothers too donated. Out of the nine, seven have succeeded. Four of the women became pregnant while three of them have had babies.

Allan Pacey of the British Fertility Society said that it was a good success rate for a new surgical procedure. He added that if things went on this way, then it might have a huge impact on things like surrogacy. He also said that women preferred to have their own baby than watch another woman be pregnant.

Both the babies born are boys and were born in Sweden. One of the two daughters who received the womb, a 29-year-old Swede, lacked a womb at birth and the other one, a 34-year-old woman, had her womb removed as a part of treatment for cancer. The first baby born weighed 5lb 8oz and the other weighed 5lb 15oz. Both the babies were born a month early and were delivered through a Caesarean section.

A professor in foetal medicine at King's College London, Henrik Hagderg, was present at the first birth and praised the grandmothers for their gift to their daughters as they had to undergo the process of hysterectomy. He said that it was an absolutely extraordinary gift and was the best thing one could do for a daughter. He added that the mothers were doubting if everything could go well and that one usually doesn't take anything for granted when they have experienced problems in the past.

Professor Hagberg said that the procedure which takes about ten hours could be shortened, making the procedure more attractive. He said that he was an optimist and was sure that it looked promising.

The medical director of Create Fertility in London, Professor Geeta Nargund, said that there was no doubt that the birth of the two babies was encouraging as well as that it was evidence that the project was successful. She said that it was promising for women who need womb transplants but was something that would happen only in specialist centers and would not be widespread like IVF.


Thai legislature approves ban on surrogacy

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s interim parliament has given initial approval to a bill banning commercial surrogacy, the practice of hiring a woman to carry a fetus to term, a lawmaker said Friday.

Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals earlier this year. One involved an Australian couple who took home a healthy baby girl born from a Thai surrogate mother, but left behind her twin brother who had Down syndrome. The other case involved a Japanese man who fathered at least 16 babies via Thai surrogates.

National Legislative Assembly member Chet Siratharanon said the bill passed its first reading on Thursday, and a finalized version was expected to be ready for consideration within 30 days. The interim government, installed after a military coup in May, vowed to outlaw commercial surrogacy and punish offenders with up to 10 years in prison.

Thailand is one of the few countries in Asia where commercial surrogacy is not specifically banned by law. The Medical Council of Thailand has a regulation stating that doctors cannot perform surrogacy for pay and may risk losing their license. But that penalty has rarely been enforced and there are no rules covering surrogacy agencies or surrogate mothers, leaving room for commercial surrogacy to occur without oversight.

Thailand has become a go-to destination for couples from Australia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and a low-cost alternative to the United States. The cost of a baby by surrogate in Thailand is less than $50,000, compared to about $150,000 in the United States.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Surrogates find little emotional support

CHENNAI: Dressed in a loose nightgown to conceal her baby bump, Kala, along with three other women, sat expressionless as a doctor explained the process of fertilization to a room full of expectant couples. They had been through this over a dozen times, but for these surrogate mothers, the presentations were little more than a bunch of drawings with a lot of colourful pointers. What they longed for was someone to talk to and an ear to listen.

While legal and medical counselling for surrogate mothers in many fertility clinics entail a couple of rounds of discussions that end in signing a sheaf of papers, salve for their emotional wellbeing often goes ignored. Very few clinics have full-time counsellors and experts say these psychologists often work in the interest of hospitals and commissioning parents.

"Surrogacy is a complicated arrangement, not just legally but emotionally as well," said Deepa Venkatachalam of Sama, a New Delhi-based resource group that works with issues of women and health. A research undertaken by the group in Delhi and Punjab found that none of the medical centres had counsellors. "Counselling was in the form of informal interactions and was directed towards ensuring that the surrogate relinquished the child to the commissioning parents while diligently following the instructions given to her," said Deepa. In Chennai, it is often the doctors who play the role of quasi-counsellors.

Even the ART Bill, which has been pending in Parliament since 2010, provides little in terms of emotional succour for those who rent their wombs. "The draft Bill mentions counselling should be available to patients accessing assisted reproductive technologies on the risks involved, but it doesn't mention anything about counselling for surrogate mothers or the commissioning parents," said Deepa.

Like the intended parents, surrogate mothers undergo emotional upheavals - the turmoil of informing their own children, the fear of becoming emotionally attached to the unborn child, the anxiety over being stigmatized if word got out.

"Many see surrogate mothers as sex workers of sorts, ignoring the altruism behind the act," said Kathiravan Venkatachalam of Start India, which counsels surrogate mothers. He said in most cases money was top priority for surrogate mothers in the beginning. His team explains the possible risks involved in the procedure and ask them to return after a month. "Of the 100 I counsel, only 10 come back. But once they commit themselves they are incredibly strong. The baby gains priority over money," he said.

He admitted that although he sent surrogate mothers to hospitals after counselling, problems arose later. "Sometimes the intended parents treat them as their employees and exercise their authority just because they have paid for their wombs," said Kathiravan. "They insist on tests the surrogates are not comfortable with, make them stick to a diet they dislike," he said.

Commissioning parents need counselling as well. Some couples also send just enough money for the surrogate mothers, ignoring their family. "How can they eat a hearty meal when their children are starving? All these issues need to be addressed through constant counselling - before, during and after delivery," he said. Experts say counsellors should also help the surrogates plan their finances with the money they get.

Doctors at fertility clinics say they rarely feel the absence of a counsellor as they are best placed to know the emotional status of surrogate mothers. "All the mothers who come to us are already mentally prepared. We counsel them every time they come for medical check-up," said Dr Geetha Jeganathan of G G Hospitals.

For many surrogates, their solace is often another surrogate. "When one surrogate mother leaves the hospital after delivery, she advises the other. We believe her because she's the only one who has been through what we have," said Hema (name changed), a surrogate in her second trimester.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Door opens to foreigners for surrogacy

KATHMANDU, DEC 04 - A Cabinet meeting has passed the proposal tabled by the Ministry of Health and Population, opening the door to foreign couples to have babies through surrogacy in the country.

Surrogacy is a process where people wanting babies pay for another women to have their baby delivered. Doctors say two methods—traditional and gestational—are presently followed for surrogacy. In traditional method, the sperm is artificially inseminated in the mother’s womb who goes on to deliver baby on behalf of the couple while in a relatively advance gestational method, the sperm and egg from a father and mother is first fertilised through In-Vitro Fertilisation and the embryo is placed in the surrogate mother’s womb.

The decision is likely to attract foreign couples who prefer to give birth in Nepal since the country is considered a ‘safe and cheap’ destination. At a time when the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill to tighten surragacy is on the table at the Parliament of India, willing couples now have the option to give birth in Nepal.

Dr Guna Raj Lohani, chief of curative division said that they have developed a work-plan following the cabinet decision to ease the visa process, adding that a foreigner willing to give birth through surrogacy has to furnish documents that the sperm and ovum of the respective parents have been fertilised and that the embryo is implanted inside the woman’s womb. “Once the required documents are in place, we provide an official recognition to the baby,” said Dr Lohani. The birth certificate of an individual without citizenship has to be verified by the ministry before issuing a letter to the Department of Consular Services for visa purpose.

Officials at the ministry say that at least five certificates of babies born through surrogate mothers, a majority of them hired by Israeli parents, have been verified before the rule came into existence. “We stopped issuing such letters after we learnt about the surrogacy practices in the country,” said a ministry official.

According to Dr Lohani, a majority of the foreigners had hired surrogate mothers from India before the babies were delivered in Nepali hospitals. But some say Nepalis take surrogate mothers to India for delivery for fear of social stigma. Sources claim that Nepali surrogate mothers are paid between Rs 300,000 and Rs 400,000 for delivering a baby while the rate for Indian women ranges from $6,000 to $10,000.

The issue of surrogacy in Nepal first came to the fore in March 2011 after a case was filed at the Kathmandu District Court over the property rights of a baby delivered through surrogate mother. The court had ruled that the child “is equally entitled to inherit parental property.”

The ministry is working to develop an Act or Directive on surrogacy. Chief of Law section at the ministry, Babu Kaji Baniya, said that legalising surrogacy itself has been disputed in several countries. “We are working to develop a law on the issue in order to strictly regulate our health system,” said Baniya.

Dr Bhola Rijal of Om Hospital warned that given the poor government regulation, Nepal might develop into a hub for commercial surrogacy.

“It was only after the Indian government imposed a ban to use surrogate mother that many such centres popped up in the Valley,” said Dr Rijal. “The government has to be clear as to who can deliver baby from surrogate mothers.”


Second Opinion: Surrogacy laws must put children first

The recent Supreme Court judgment that the woman who gives birth must be the mother named on the birth certificate was fair and best for children. The Irish Human Rights Commission submitted that “the State, having failed to regulate or restrict the right of persons such as the third- and fourth-named respondents [the egg and sperm donors] to found a family by way of surrogacy, the State cannot deny such persons parental status or prevent the first- and second-named respondents [the twins] from being members of that family”.

Fortunately, for motherhood, fatherhood and children, the Supreme Court decided otherwise. The State was not, in fact, denying the donors of the egg and sperm the right to found a family, it was simply saying they could not be named on the birth certificates as the legal parents and would have to adopt the children born through surrogacy in the normal way.

This is reasonable. Thousands of people in Ireland have adopted children, become parents and founded families through legal processes. Donating eggs and sperm and using a surrogate mother does not automatically make anyone a parent.

Lack of regulation should not be conflated with freedom and choice. There are some things that are just plain wrong, and surrogacy is one of them. It devalues the foetal-maternal relationship, subordinates the child’s or children’s rights, redefines motherhood and turns pregnancy and babies into commodities.

Instinctive bonding

Surrogacy is about meeting the needs and wants of adults by objectifying and subordinating the welfare of surrogates. Pregnant women bond with the babies they carry, whether the children are genetically theirs or not. This bonding is instinctive and millions of years old, and to pretend it can be switched off in a surrogacy arrangement is nonsense.

A 2013 European Parliament report, A Comparative Study on the Regime of Surrogacy in EU Member States, shows surrogates have to reinvent themselves in order to cope with the psychological impact of relinquishing the child to the commissioning parents.

The impact can include guilt, loss, pain and despair. Surrogates deploy “cognitive dissonance reduction strategies” to mitigate the effect, with long-term consequences for the mothers and children. Cognitive dissonance is based on the theory that everyone has an inner drive to have their beliefs, attitudes and behaviour in harmony.

When instincts urge one action and the real world urges another, most people invent a comfortable illusion called denial. Everyone does it to some extent. Smokers do it by convincing themselves they will be one of the lucky ones who will not develop cancer. Women who agree to be surrogate mothers lie to themselves for nine months to avoid cognitive dissonance. Egg and sperm donors delude themselves by believing donating genetic material makes them parents.

Motherhood begins during pregnancy. Fatherhood also begins during pregnancy, and prospective fathers usually feel protective towards the woman carrying their child. Men who donate sperm to a woman who is not their partner experience cognitive dissonance.

Ireland is not the only EU country to have no laws regulating surrogacy. The European Parliament report concludes: “It is impossible to indicate a particular legal trend [on surrogacy] across the EU, however all member states appear to agree on the need for a child to have clearly defined legal parents and civil status.”

Cross-border surrogacy

Some European countries, including Germany and Finland, forbid surrogacy, whether altruistic or not. Others, such as Ireland, have made no legal provision for it although there are guidelines relating to cross-border surrogacy. The Netherlands and Belgium allow it. In most EU member states motherhood is attributed on the basis of parturition – the woman who gives birth. Formal adoption by the genetic parents must then take place, if legally permitted.

Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says “Men and women of full age . . . have the right . . . to found a family”. should not be interpreted as meaning a right to have one’s own genetic children at any cost, including the health cost to surrogate mothers, the infants who do not survive the procedure, and society. The issue is whether the right to found a family through assisted reproductive technologies overrules other people’s rights such as those of the surrogate mother and child or children.

Although the need to be a parent of one’s own genetic child or children is deeply rooted, this does not mean the State must enact laws to enable that need to be met through surrogacy. Any surrogacy laws enacted in Ireland must put children’s rights and needs first.

Jacky Jones is a former HSE regional manager of health promotion and a member of the Healthy Ireland council.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Surrogacy in the shadows

Two decades after registering the first surrogate delivery in the country, Chennai is emerging as a hub for couples seeking a womb on rent. Fuelling this growth are the city's healthcare infrastructure and proliferating fertility clinics. In a series, TOI explores various facets of this growing industry - speaking to doctors and surrogate moms, looking at the legalities, and analysing issues of health and technology

K Viji, 28, signs one page after another of the huge sheaf of papers kept in front of her without asking any questions. "I just agreed to be the surrogate mother for a couple who is paying me money, to send my kids to school. I do not want to ask any questions. What if they get upset and pick someone else," she asks with a wideeyed expression. When asked what would happen if the couple leaves with the baby but without paying her, pat comes the reply: "They desperately want a baby. Why would they cheat?" India being the hub of commercial surrogacy, one would think the government would have set a legislative framework in place, making the concept and its implications clear to all those involved. However, a majority of surrogacy cases right now are governed not by law but by faith, the contracts being seen as a mere show of legalese.

"Though India is the choice destination for surrogate mothers, we have just guidelines and no law to govern surrogacy. The closest to a legal framework that aims at regulating surrogacy is the Indian Council of Medical Research's 2008 draft -Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill and Rules 2008 - which tries to address foreseeable complexities. But the bill has been pending for six years now,"said Hari G Subramaniam of Indian Surrogacy Law Center.

The ART Bill lays down that medical expenses for the surrogate mom should be borne by the commissioning parents.

It mandates medical insurance for her and makes compensation the responsibility of the couple. In order to regulate the commercial nature of the practice, it proposes to stop clinics that perform the procedures from supplying and taking care of surrogate moms themselves.

"The ART Bill makes it compulsory for prospective parents to carry proof that an infant born to a surrogate mother will have automatic citizenship in their home countries," said infertility specialist Dr Kamala Selvaraj. Surrogacy arrangements in India have been fraught with chaos with cases reaching the doorsteps of courts, mostly regarding surrogate babies being denied citizenship in the countries the commissioning parents come from.

The Bill also envisages an obligation on the commissioning parents to accept the child even if there is any abnormality, surrendering of all rights by surrogate mothers and the birth certificate having the name of the genetic parents.

"This would ensure commissioning parents do not abandon a baby and also strips the surrogate mother of rights to claim the baby after delivering it," said Dr Kamala.

Surrogacy in India is clearly still on shaky legal ground but in the absence of a law, experts quote Contract Act, Guardians and Wards Act 1890 and Civil Procedure Code procedure, said advocate M Antony Selvaraj, chairman of All India Jurists Association. "Surrogacy agreements are now treated like any other contracts and principles of the Indian Contract Act 1872 and these contracts are valid documents," he said.

Any new law brought in to govern the industry should have provisions for a surrogacy tribunal or court to handle issue arising out of contracts, he says. To avoid confusion, Hari says the commissioning couples should approach registered ART banks and not private IVF clinics, as is currently the case."This will address a lot of malpractices by private banks. Once the bill is passed, the margin of errors would reduce significantly," he said.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Conceived in a lab, born 4 years later

GURGAON: Thirty eight-year-old Poonam (name changed) couldn't have asked for more on her 20th wedding anniversary. Poonam, who moved from the Millennium City to Canada three years ago, was blessed with her first child on Monday in a city-based private hospital. 

Holding her first child in her arms was a cherished moment for Poonam. She said, "Despite my medical condition, I had intense desire to be a mother. I'm glad embryo freezing made it possible. A surrogate helped carry the embryo in her uterus, but I'm the biological mother of my daughter and my husband is her biological father." 

Even after going through five unsuccessful IVF (in-vitro fertilization) procedures, two in India and three in Canada, she didn't lose hope. Eventually, she decided to go for surrogacy, using an embryo doctors had preserved four years back. 

"Poonam has been undergoing treatment for various ailments over the last 10 years. After undergoing treatment for genital tuberculosis, she decided to conceive on her own. But her uterus was in no condition to carry a baby. This led to many unsuccessful attempts. Finally, in 2014, she agreed for surrogacy," said Dr Sonia Malik, head of IVF at Max Hospital, Gurgaon. She reached India on Saturday, when doctors informed her that the baby was expected to be delivered earlier than scheduled. Her husband is expected to reach India soon. 

"IVF has changed my daughter's life. It provides an option to couples who are unable to carry a baby," said Poonam's father. 

In her case, vitrification was used, wherein spare embryos are frozen to help the mother conceive in future. It involved fertilizing Poonam's ovum with her husband's sperm in a laboratory dish in 2010, freezing it, and transferring the embryo into the uterus a surrogate mother in 2014. 

"The embryo has to be preserved in a liquid at an extremely low temperature. Fertilization is a quick process, which takes place within a few minutes of taking out sperm from the male and eggs from the female. While in majority of cases, embryos don't survive frozen for more than two and a half year, in this case, it was good enough to be implanted even after four," said Dr Malik. She informed that success rate in such procedures is about 52%. 

The baby girl, born via a Caesarean section, weighed 3.99 kg. She had to be delivered at 35 weeks, as her weight had increased inside the womb. "Her weight is absolutely normal. She is healthy and will be allowed to go home on Wednesday," said Dr Meenakshi Sauhta, obstetrician at Max. The cost of the embryo transfer was Rs 30,000, while IVF procedure cost a little over Rs 1.5 lakh. About Rs 10 lakh was involved in arranging the surrogacy.