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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Business profile: Surrogacy service changes everything for same-sex couples

SAN DIEGO, California -- Lilly Frost is the co-founder of Surrogacy Beyond Borders, an affordable program which uses surrogates from Mexico to keep costs low for same-sex couples who want to build a family, but might find other agencies too expensive.

Her agency works with the world renowned San Diego Fertility Center (SDFC) to help gay and lesbian couples realize their dreams of having a family of their own.

Frost, who is expecting, took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News ( about how her company works, the process of using surrogates in Mexico, and how modern science can help couples who didn’t think it was possible or even affordable. Couples living with HIV can also make their dreams come true through washing, a process in which scientists can separate the fertilizing sperm from the infectious fluid.

Frost is also the founder of My Donor Cycle, a company that uses egg donors from the United States to help couples who cannot bear children for medical reasons or the restrictions that come with age. Frost explains how this service works.

“They would come to this website and choose one of our 680-plus egg donors. My Donor Cycle was really more helping older community who medically were not able to have children. The first step is that they come in here; they get full information, medical health backgrounds and full photos.”

An egg donor herself

Frost says she initially started My Donor Cycle because she was a donor herself. Her experiences in that process were inspirational in that she knew there must be a better, more personal way to interact with clients, making it a special experience.

“I got into this because I was an egg donor myself, four times before,” she said. “I felt like this is something that can be improved. There should be more hand-holding for the donors and intended parents; more of a personal process. That’s why I started My Donor Cycle.”

The personal experience was not the only thing Frost was contemplating while starting her company. She said the cost of surrogacy was too high, and that there should be a more affordable option that kept the personal, professional and scientific processes in place.

“About a year and a half ago, I became very inspired to start looking at more affordable options. Surrogacy in the U.S. can cost anywhere from about $140,000-$190,000 on average if you’re using a donor and a surrogate," she said.

"I was seeing my clients mortgaging their house, liquidating retirement accounts and things like that to afford these services. Also finding that it really wasn't accessible for most gay couples because a gay couple would like to start having children when their heterosexual counterparts are having children; ideally in their late 20s early to mid-30s, and there’s not very many people that can afford that at that stage of their lives.”

Why Mexico came into play

Understanding that same-sex couples were also looking for ways to fulfill their dreams of a family, she began looking outside of the country and found an option right next door.

“Surrogacy in Mexico had kind of started, although it had a very rocky start," she said. "There was a bunch of scandals going on — scandals mainly with companies that didn't really know what they were doing.”

Taking her experience with My Donor Cycle, Frost began work on Surrogacy Beyond Borders. This company would specialize in hiring surrogates from Mexico, keeping all of the high standards being used in the U.S. while keeping costs low as a byproduct. Frost explains her initial idea.

“So I decided to come into the market and basically bring the background and experience and the same model for the U.S. surrogacy program into Mexico. And so with that we use the same screening procedure, we use the same IVF, for egg retrieval, we use escrow to make sure that the clients funds are always being secured — we insure the process, we insure the surrogate, we insure the donor. We do full psych-evals on everyone, we make sure that everything is fully safe and secure.”

Using a surrogate from Mexico is very cost-effective to couples, same-sex or otherwise, who may just be starting out with the business of living. With student loan, home and car payments, the average young couple wanting to start a family might feel they cannot afford to expand. But Frost says that her program can ease a little bit of the financial burden by offering a safe, low-cost alternative.

“With surrogacy in Mexico, our program can range from $62,000-$80,000, and this is for surrogate and donor. The only reason it would hit $80,000 is because you’re using a donor who’s an Ivy League prior donor, lives in New York and needs to fly cross-country, and you’re using gender selection, two semen providers, creating two different sets of genetics,” she said.

Two gay men can create their own genetic offspring

The service is so advanced that two men who want to have their own genetic offspring can opt for a process that might create twins. Frost explains how this works.

“A man and his partner could say we each want a genetic offspring. So we are going to choose one donor, we are going to take her eggs, divide them into two groups, and fertilize on with one, and fertilize the other with the other. And then when we transfer to a surrogate, we’ll transfer one of each, so they have a very high chance of twins with the same donor, but with each of their genetics,” she said.

Another thing that makes Surrogacy Beyond Borders so unique is that the surrogates live together in house in Cancun under the watchful care of Program Manager David, a close and trustworthy family friend. The surrogates must remain in the villa for several months before they can be considered for active surrogacy. Keeping a close eye on the potential surrogates not only ensures well-being, but keeps them healthy and happy, she says.

“We have the surrogates in our house for about three months before we do an embryo transfer to them. And we do that in part because we want to see how stable everything is, we want to get their nutrition levels up, they’re usually anemic we want to get them on prenatal vitamins, and get their levels up for folic acid so that they’re really good carriers,” she said. “They live like queens.”

How the process works

Legally, Frost makes sure that all the formalities are addressed and each potential surrogate signs a contract. These contracts are in Spanish, she says, because no contract is legal in Mexico unless it is written in Spanish. The first contract is presented to the women once they move into the house and the second is issued when and if they are selected by the intended parents for surrogacy. The latter contract is initially written in Spanish, then translated into English. The stringent notary guidelines enforced by the Mexican government make misunderstanding the contract impossible.

So how does the process work from beginning to end? First, a semen sample is given to a fertility lab. Most people submit theirs to the San Diego Fertility Center, a partner of Surrogacy Beyond Borders. From there, science takes over.

“The donor comes in, does her screening, does the retrieval," Frost said. "We create the embryos -- that process takes about three months. The embryo’s shipped down to Mexico. We do one shipment per month. We group a bunch of sets of embryos on the same shipment: It saves on cost for the intended parents. The embryos get there … at that point they have already been matched with a surrogate. When they’re matched, they get the full health profile, they can talk to her on Skype, they can go and visit her in person if they want. It’s very transparent and open.”

Once the pregnancy is successful, the intended parents can maintain any relationship they want with the surrogate. The surrogate stays in the surrogate house in Cancun for six or seven months, then she is moved to a new location in Villahermosa in Tabasco state. Once the surrogate is ready to deliver, the intended parent comes down to Villahermosa for the birth. All babies are delivered via Cesarean section, after which they remain in Mexico for three weeks until passports and birth certificates can be finalized.

Gay couples wishing to start a family by surrogacy may want to consider using the services provided by Surrogacy Beyond Borders. Frost explains that international surrogacy can be complicated, even illegal for gay couples.

“What’s great about Mexico is the fact that it’s legal," she said. "It’s not legal in India for gay couples or Thailand. Nepal is the only other country, but it’s not actually legal there, it’s just not illegal. Because they have a very, kind of loose system set up, there’s not any laws prohibiting it; there’s no laws set up allowing for any sort of birth certificate rights or anything. In Mexico when the baby is born, whoever the semen provider is goes on the birth certificate as the father and the mother’s name is left blank. And when they come back to the States, depending on what state they’re in, they can do a second parent adoption. And so both parties can be on the birth certificate.”

After the baby is born, the intended parents make a trip to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City with birth certificate in hand. Once a DNA test determines that the child is in fact genetically related to a U.S. citizen, they are given a passport and are free to leave the country.

Agency's first birth is expected in February

Having just opened in January of last year, Frost says the agency is celebrating one birth in February, but predict as many as three births per month beginning in April, then increasing to five and up thereafter. She says the service currently has 36 clients in various stages of the process and 20 pending cycles.

With her staff in Mexico -- Michelle, the house manager, Cindy the accountant, Denise who oversees things in Villahermosa, Leon the attorney and nannies that help the mothers -- Frost seems to have all the bases covered. The process is running smoothly and thus far there have been no complications, she says.

Same-sex couples, unlike heterosexual couples, may need a little help in starting to expand their family. Surrogacy Beyond Borders can help those couples realize their dreams, keeping costs low and making it personal in the process.

Given all that she does -- running her own company, handling clients, learning about laws both domestic and internationally -- one wonders why Frost is so committed to helping others in this way.

“I love it," she says. "There is nothing better than being able to tell someone they’re pregnant, and tell someone their C-section is about to happen, and have that person go home with a baby. Seeing the joy ... and I get pictures of the baby … knowing that if I was not doing what I was doing that child wouldn’t exist. They may have some child at some point later on, but that particular child existed because of the work we put into it.”


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Battle Over Paid Surrogacy Opens New Front

The bill is personal for this New York senator

In many states, hiring a woman to carry and give birth to a child for you is illegal. But democratic New York Senator Brad Hoylman is fighting to change that in his home state. On Wednesday, he and the New York State assembly re-filed a bill called the Child-Parent Security Act to legalize compensated surrogacy in New York, and provide protections that ensure surrogates are entering into legal agreements and there’s no question that the intended parents of the child have full rights.

For him, the issue is personal and political.

New York forbids compensated surrogacy and is the only state where criminal penalties can be imposed on people who enter into a paid surrogacy agreement. That means that couples who want to use a surrogate to have a child that they’re genetically related must travel to a state where the practice is legal in order to do so.

That’s what Hoylman and his husband David Sigal did. Their daughter Silvia, now 4, was born via a surrogate in California, where compensated surrogacy is legal and parental rights are established prior to the birth of the child. “It added a lot of time and expense and uncertainty to having a child as a gay couple,” says Hoylman. “California has codified legal protections for surrogate families, and I would like to see that replicated in New York.”

Twenty-two states allow the practice and four states—New York, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey—as well as Washington, D.C., forbid it . The remaining states don’t have any rulings on the matter, meaning it’s technically not illegal but there are no laws to protect people should something go wrong, such as legal arguments over who has parental rights.

“I’ve had reports of surrogate children being born in New York illegally,” says Hoylman. “It’s a bit of a wild west scenario.”

Paid surrogacy, whether in one’s home state or elsewhere, is still costly. Basic fees for a surrogate mother can range from $32,000 to $40,000, with medical bills, legal fees, finding an egg donor and paying for insurance on top of it. For couples who travel out of state for a legal arrangement, there’s the added cost of travel throughout the pregnancy. All told, out-of-state surrogacy arrangements can cost around $100,000 on average.

One of the reasons many states are still wary of paid surrogacy is because of a 1988 ruling in New Jersey over “Baby M.” In a traditional surrogacy scenario, a woman named Mary Beth Whitehead agreed to be the paid surrogate for William and Elizabeth Stern, whom she found in a newspaper advertisement. But after giving birth, Whitehead changed her mind and tried to take the child back. Ultimately, the court gave custody to the Sterns, but Whitehead was given legal visitation rights. After that, paid surrogacy was outlawed in New Jersey, and others followed suit.

But thanks to in vitro fertilization, surrogacy today looks very different than it did a decade ago. Experts now recommend gestational surrogacy, where a surrogate fetus is implanted with an embryo made from donor sperm and egg—as opposed to tradition surrogacy, where the surrogate is inseminated with sperm. In the latter case, the carrier is genetically related to the child. Hoylman’s bill does not endorse that form.

Hoylman’s bill establishes the concept of “intended parentage” so that regardless of how a child was conceived, intended parents get rights. For example, in many cases, if a lesbian couple has a child via a sperm donor, the non-biological mother must adopt the child, something Hoylman says women find “embarrassing.”

For now, Hoylman says he has to prove that compensated surrogacy can work in New York.

“I was in the delivery room with my daughter and not everyone has that vantage point,” says Hoylman. “I am mindful that this is a longer term project.”


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Hidden Costs of Surrogacy

The Gambit, a New Orleans–based weekly paper, recently reported on a gay Louisiana couple’s quest to become parents via commercial surrogacy or, in simpler terms, contract pregnancy. Commercial surrogacy remains illegal in the state thanks to back-to-back vetoes from Governor Bobby Jindal in 2013 and 2014. As a sidestep solution, Peter Dandridge and Jeremy Moore hired a surrogate mother in India to have their designer embryo implanted in her and carried to term. Today, they are the parents of two-year old Cecilia, through a process the article calls “expensive and complicated.” It’s unfortunate that many of the real costs and complications of surrogacy are glossed over in order to justify their efforts.

Long before Moore and Dandridge traveled to Mumbai for the embryo-implantation process, they were engaged in modern-day eugenics by designing the child of their dreams. It wasn’t enough for them to have a child. The thousands of dollars that they likely shelled out for an egg donor ensured that they could custom-make their Cecilia. According to the profile, “Moore and Dandridge were able to choose particular personality traits and specific talents that might be passed on genetically.” The result: a medical student who also plays the cello and is a ballroom dancer.

After an invasive egg-harvesting procedure — a process that is ignored in this article — twelve eggs were yielded to begin the next stage of production: embryo implantation in the surrogate. Nine months later Moore and his mother were on a plane to Mumbai to witness the birth of their daughter and granddaughter. Today, Celia has an array of individuals that function in various capacities, from a biological father, a social father, a surrogate mother, and a biological mother. “Cecilia will never wonder if she’s wanted,” Moore remarked.

But, as in many areas of life, a want does not yield a right.

The big business of assisted reproductive technologies is buttressed by the false idea that anyone — single, married, gay, or straight — has a right to a child.

Moore and Dandridge — like many infertile heterosexual couples and many mothers and fathers single by choice — desired to have a child of their own. And when the limits of biology prevented them from doing so, they sought to buy.

Moore hired an agency, the now-defunct PlanetHospital, and paid a flat rate of $65,000 to cover most expenses. A standard surrogate pregnancy in the United States generally runs well into six figures, and so many couples are looking to emerging medical markets to accomplish their goals at a cheaper rate. In a similar tale, an Arizona couple about whom I’ve written here, twice used international surrogacy in India to have their three children — all for a grand total of only $35,000.

But it’s the hidden costs of surrogacy that present cause for concern. Surrogate pregnancies effectively reduce the surrogate mother to a mere vessel and her children to commodities. The entire process is roiled with ethical, medical, and legal consequences.

When couples enter into a surrogacy contract, they immediately become customers or clients to a surrogacy agency. The surrogate — who is undergoing a nine-month intensive medical commitment — is viewed merely as essential equipment necessary to deliver the product: a child.

Many of the women who agree to serve as surrogates are enticed by what are seemingly significant promises of compensation. But as the Daily Mail recently reported, the process is riddled with corruption and conflict. In a recent case, a San Diego surrogate for a Brazilian couple is now approximately $100,000 in debt from legal action to protect her and from medical costs that the intended parents refuse to pay. Along with the financial costs, she endured an emergency caesarian section as a part of the delivery process — a high-risk medical procedure that, unfortunately, is all too common with surrogate pregnancies. Moreover, it’s almost impossible for surrogate mothers to offer truly informed consent, as there have been no long-term scientific studies of the risks from hormones given to surrogates to foster egg production or implantation. The large sums of money offered to these women too often cloud their better judgment, and it’s only after the fact that they’re able to speak out and voice their regret.

And what does this mean for the “wanted” children created from this process? In addition to the genealogical bewilderment that many of these children express when they grow up, it’s hard for many of them to accept that their conception was simply arranged by contract. In other words, the creation of their life was just a part of the regular functioning of the market for children, which, regrettably, is growing.

When commercial surrogacy met its first legal challenge in the United States, in 1988, with the infamous Baby M case in New Jersey, Chief Justice Robert Wilentz, in his unanimous opinion for the state’s supreme court, wrote: “There are, in a civilized society, some things that money cannot buy. In America, we decided long ago that merely because conduct purchased by money was ‘voluntary’ did not mean that it was good or beyond regulation and prohibition. . . . There are, in short, values that society deems more important than granting to wealth whatever it can buy, be it labor, love, or life.”

Peter Dandridge and Jeremy Moore in Louisiana — and many couples throughout the Western world — disagree. Their desire for a child is admittedly “expensive and complicated.” But they barrel over those limitations to achieve what they want — as long as the price is right. And in the business of commercial surrogacy, the limits are boundless.


Greg and Elaine Smith fight to bring surrogate-born twins home from Mexico

A B.C. couple who welcomed premature twin babies by surrogacy in Mexico earlier this month is now fighting to bring them home to Canada for medical care, and has turned to crowdfunding to raise donations to help.

Greg and Elaine Smith of Pitt Meadows, B.C., found a surrogate mother in Mexico through a paid clinic, because they couldn't find one in Canada, said Greg Smith's aunt Linda Pruden.

Babies Ayden and Ariana were born prematurely on Jan. 8 at 31 weeks, weighing just three pounds each, and have since lost weight and suffered numerous complications, said Pruden, who was in Mexico when the babies were born.

"They had it all planned out the way they thought it would go perfect, but of course it didn't, and now it's just turned into a nightmare."

A crowdfunding site set up by the extended family estimates the Smiths have spent $100,000 so far on the babies' care.
Both preemies remain in the neonatal care intensive care unit at Hospital Angeles in Villahermosa, Mexico.

Their Canadian parents are scared for the babies' health and unsure how to navigate the Mexican medical system. Pruden told CBC News the hospital was requiring payment of $5,000 Cdn per day, payable every four days.

"[Greg] is just a basketcase. He's a walking emotional wreck, and Elaine is the same way."

'I think they need better care'

Both babies are on respirators after their lungs stopped working, which is a common complication with premature babies. Ariana has also suffered several infections, and a serious brain bleed, said Pruden.

The Smiths want to bring the babies to B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver for medical care, but are being told they need to wait, said Pruden.

"We don't know if we should wait, if we can wait. I think they need better care than they're being given," she said.

According to the family, the largest stumbling block in bringing the babies home is Mexican authorities haven't issued birth certificates, which are required to start the immigration process.

The hospital is telling the Smiths a notary is required before the certificates can be issued, and it's not safe for the notary to enter the NICU, said Pruden.

The family is questioning that explanation.

"Mexican lawyers have contacted us and said it's all who you see and who you bribe, and then things will be done. So that's our next step," said Pruden.

A nurse in the hospital told CBC News that Ayden would be healthy enough to travel in a few days, but Ariana was in critical condition and could not travel. She did not have information on the birth certificate.


European rights court rules against Italy in surrogacy case

Strasbourg, January 27 - The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that Italy had not acted in the best interests of a nine-month-old child born from a surrogacy arrangement in Russia entered into by an Italian couple who was placed under guardianship in 2013 after it emerged that there was no biological relationship between them.

In their ruling the judges upheld the application of Donatina Paradiso and Giovanni Campanelli that the Italian state had acted in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrining the right to respect for private and family life.

However, their conclusions did not oblige Italy to return the child to the applicants, as he was deemed to have undoubtedly developed emotional ties with the foster family with whom he had been living since 2013.

The court also ordered Italy to pay the applicants 20,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 10,000 euros in respect of costs and expenses.


Families & 'Marriage Equality'

On October 10, 2014, a North Carolina federal judge ruled that the state’s denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional. Since that day, same-sex couples who either married in another state or exchanged vows here at home have been poised to begin their lives together with the same rights and obligations afforded to heterosexual couples.

Yet, despite the unambiguous mandate of the judicial decision striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, the application of that ruling to same-sex couples attempting to raise families in North Carolina may not be so clear.


Just as with opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples have long used surrogacy as a means to have children. However, NC same-sex couples face challenges in establishing the parentage of their child that are not faced by their heterosexual counterparts.

One significant logistical issue is getting both spouses of a same-sex couple on the birth certificate.

By current statute, if the mother is married at the time of the birth of the child, the names of the birth mother and her “husband” must be entered on the certificate. In light of marriage equality, it would be reasonable to read the relevant statutes as gender neutral and requiring the same outcome for same-sex spouses. But, in Charlotte at least one local hospital, currently, will not place the names of two married men or two married women on a birth certificate as the two parents of the child. The hospital is unwilling to do so until the NC Department of Vital Records provides an updated form for the hospital to use.

Essentially, the hospital is not willing to scratch out the pre-printed “mother” or “father” designation for the second parent on the certificate and write in a second mother or father. This creates a legal obstacle for same-sex couples not faced by opposite-sex couples, despite marriage equality.

Pre-Birth Orders

Moreover, even if the names of both same-sex spouses were to be placed on a child’s birth certificate, a name on a birth certificate merely creates a rebuttable presumption of parentage and may not necessarily create the rights associated with being a legal parent.

To ensure that an “intended” parent of a child in a surrogacy arrangement is recognized as a legal parent, same-sex couples often must obtain a pre-birth court order that establishes the identity of the child’s legal parents and also directs the hospital to list the names of the same-sex spouses on the birth certificate as the parents of the child.

Stepparent Adoptions

Same-sex couples should also consult an attorney as to whether a stepparent adoption would be appropriate for their family’s particular circumstances. Stepparent adoptions are a means of establishing a legal parent-child relationship that was previously unavailable to same-sex couples.

This type of adoption provides a same-sex spouse of the child’s parent the same legal rights to the child as held by a biological parent. Stepparent adoptions and surrogacy arrangements are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In some situations, one or both may be appropriate.

Non-Marriage Equality States

While North Carolina’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage have been struck down, many states in our country continue to prohibit such marriages and refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from states where they are legal.

The resulting patchwork of marriage equality states leaves same-sex couples and their children at risk as they travel or move out of our state. For example, same-sex spouses can be refused the right to direct the medical care of their spouse’s child when visiting a non-marriage equality state.

Fortunately, you can protect your family from such vulnerabilities with the proper legal documents.

The laws and procedures for establishing parentage of a child, surrogacy agreements, and adoption have existed for many years, and their application to same-sex couples, theoretically, should be straightforward.

However, even reasonable and well-intending individuals can and will disagree over the application of these laws and procedures to same-sex couples. So, while marriage equality offers the promise of equal marital and parental rights to same-sex couples, it will take time before we will have certainty as to how those rights are to be realized in the new legal landscape of same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

Edward S. Garrett is an attorney with Sodoma Law, P.C., a family-focused law firm based in Charlotte, NC that assists both opposite and same-sex couples with surrogacy agreements and adoptions, as well as all other family-law related matters.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

She really IS the best friend: Cancer survivor who had her womb removed is given hope of becoming a mother after colleague offers to be a surrogate

~ Victoria Eames went for a routine smear test and learned she had cancer
~ Had a hysterectomy - womb removed - to prevent disease from spreading
~ Hearing she would never become pregnant 'shattered her world'
~ Her best friend Jenah Colledge stepped in and offered to be a surrogate
~ The pair will begin the process in a year in case Ms Eames' cancer returns

It was an operation that saved her life.

But for Victoria Eames, having a hysterectomy has proved life-changing.

The 32-year-old's world crashed down around her when doctors revealed she was suffering cervical cancer, following a routine smear test.
The dancer was told her womb would have to be removed to prevent the cancer from spreading.

It left Miss Eames and her partner of two years, illustrator James Lobley, 24, devastated.

They had always planned on having children, yet the operation left Ms Eames infertile.

But in the couple's moment of despair, Ms Eames's best friend Jenah Colledge stepped in, offering to act as a surrogate, giving her friend the gift of motherhood.

Ms Eames, who has since been given the all-clear from cancer, said: 'I've always wanted the traditional things, to get married, get pregnant, have children.

Lots of people want a fancy house, holidays, cars, but I just wanted the simple things - I love my family, I love James, and wanted a family of my own.

'Hearing that I would never be pregnant just shattered my world. 

'There were times after I'd been diagnosed that I'd wake up and think it was all a dream - but then I'd get the crushing realization that it was real, this was my life now.

'It's such a feeling of loss but then I feel I've gained something in some way.

'It sounds weird to say but for me this has been a positive experience.

'Now I see what I could have lost, it's like everything is better - it's almost like my life is in focus, colors are brighter, sharper, I know how lucky I am to be alive.

'As soon as Jenah found out what had happened, she told me: "Let me do this for you. Let's crack on".

'She'll never know how much what she's doing means to me - I'll never be able to thank her enough for making my life complete.'

Ms Eames, from Castleford, in West Yorkshire, runs entertainment company Pastiche Europe.

She added: 'My doctor told me the most successful chance of me surviving was to have a hysterectomy.

'I was just devastated. One hundred per cent devastated. I sobbed.

'I remember telling James that I was sorry. I felt like I'd let him down.

'We'd already spoken about pregnancy in the past. I knew he'd make a great dad but I felt like all of our plans were ruined.

'All of the things I'd hoped for wouldn't ever happen.

'When I'd been diagnosed, Jenah had offered to be a surrogate, but at the time, I told her it wouldn't come to that.

'But I rang her as soon as we got out of the meeting that day.

'She said: "Right, come on then, let's crack on. I'd do anything for you, just let me know what you need".'

On December 3, Ms Eames underwent a hysterectomy, with surgeons removing everything but her ovaries.

She was given the all-clear by doctors on December 18, and will have check-ups every three months.

She said: 'Of course I have bad days. Realising I will never be pregnant is hard.

'I notice pregnant women more now, in films, on the street.

'I know I'll have an amazing thing with Jen, but I still feel a little bit sad that I won't get to know how it feels to carry a child.

'Even the things people complain about, I'll never experience - the pain of childbirth, the morning sickness. Little things like that.

'But I look at things like 'I'm here'.'

Doctors have told Ms Eames to wait a year until she and Ms Colledge start the surrogacy process, to ensure the cancer does not return.

'The best thing about Jen offering is that I know I can trust her 100 per cent,' Ms Eames said.

'And since she's offered, I've never doubted her for a minute.

'I wouldn't do surrogacy with a stranger, because they can decide right up until you sign the papers that they can't do it.

'They're carrying something that is so important to you, so I'm glad a friend can do that for me.

'And she'd kill me if I did it with anyone else.

'She's just an incredible friend and she'll never know how much it means to me.'

Ms Eames has known her best friend for nine years, since the two worked as entertainers together for a company in Leeds.

University student  Ms Colledge, 30, who has a 12-year-old daughter called Grace and lives in Sunderland, said: 'As soon as I knew how serious it was I came up with the idea and when it did progress I stuck to my decision because it's the right thing to do.

'Nine months out of my time can make a difference to her whole life.'

She has organised a 'Kind Hearts Give Back' charity dinner at New Dock Hall at the Royal Armouries in Leeds on Sunday March 1 from 7pm.


Surrogacy: The difference a due date makes

The UK Government has finally changed the law to allow parents of children born through surrogacy the same rights to leave and pay as other parents. However, rather than bring the new law into effect immediately, the Government has only applied it to babies 'whose expected week of birth begins on or after 5 April 2015'. This presents some problems, not least because, as I describe below, the difference in employment rights for intended parents is vast.

Some couples I have advised find themselves in the situation of one day having the benefit of the new law and then a few weeks later having that option removed. A second scan, for example, changes their baby's due date from 7 April 2015 to 2 April 2015. Suddenly, their employer is no longer obliged to allow them any leave to care for their newborn child (and all the added benefits, such as keeping their job open, that other parents enjoy).

A genetic father is arguably entitled to two weeks paternity leave, but cannot take advantage of additional paternity leave unless the surrogate fulfils certain conditions about when she terminated her maternity leave. Other than that, parents of children born through surrogacy go from having the same rights as other parents to having at best an entitlement to discretionary unpaid leave (known currently as parental leave) for 18 weeks only.

Some intended parents are told by their employers they are only able to take annual leave, giving them a matter of weeks to care for their newborn child before having to return to work. The impact of a change of due date around the beginning of April is therefore huge, not only on the parents of children born through surrogacy, but also on the child.

I am not a scientist, nor a healthcare professional of any kind, but my own experience has taught me due dates are not always accurate. Neither of my children were born remotely close to their due dates and would be considered late term. I have also been told by couples that despite being very sympathetic, midwives (who agree due dates are not that reliable) say they are unable to change an updated due date following a scan.

A little internet research has lead me, and couples I have spoken to, to see that there are a number of different methods used to estimate a baby's due date. As a rule of thumb, women are told their due date is 40 weeks from the first day of their last period, but this based on an assumption of every woman having a 28-day cycle and ovulating on the 14th day of her cycle. This method may be used to give an initial due date but ultrasound scans may then alter the date. There is a difference of opinion as to whether scans performed later into the pregnancy (during the second and third trimester) should lead to a change in the due date, and this decision may depend on the size of the discrepancy between the estimated due dates.

What does seem to be clear is that the due date is an estimate only, borne out by statistics which show only a very low percentage of babies are born on their due date. I have advised intended parents to talk through this issue with their midwives and doctors, but often parents are only aware of the issue after the due date has changed - and this could leave healthcare professionals in a difficult position if they are asked, for example, to change a due date that has been written on a MATB1 form.

My view remains that the current law, which provides little or nothing by way of employment rights for parents of children born through surrogacy, may be unlawful. That said, bringing a successful legal challenge is difficult, not least due to the costs involved and the inherent risks in litigation. Thankfully many employers are sympathetic and forward thinking, and after brief negotiation agreements can be reached. Sadly this is not always the case and the impending change in the law now poses a new problem for intended parents.

Bring on 5 April 2015 and the start of proper equality for all parents and their newborn children!



A landmark judgement acknowledging a same-sex couple as legal parents of a child fathered through an overseas commercial surrogacy arrangement has highlighted the legal maze same-sex couples enter regarding adoption and parenting in Australia.

The Family Court recognised a gay man as the father of a child born overseas through commercial surrogacy and gave him and his partner equal parenting responsibilities.

The NSW couple moved to Victoria to enter into the overseas commercial surrogacy agreement, since it is illegal to do so in NSW.

Paul Boers, a family law specialist who volunteers with the Fitzroy Legal Service, said
the case has paved the way for an intended parent in a commercial surrogacy arrangement to obtain a declaration of parentage, which will now allow a step-parent adoption for the other intended parent who is not biologically related to the child.

The irony for the couple is that if they wanted to pursue a step-parent adoption they would have to move back to New South Wales to do so, because same-sex adoption is not legal in Victoria.

“The complex and contradictory laws between the states and territories highlight the absurdity in how residents are treated legally depending where they live,” Boers said.

“For instance, if they applied to the Family Court in New South Wales for the same orders as New South Wales residents, illegality aside, they would not be able to get the declaration of parentage because of the state of the law in New South Wales.”

The couple, who did not wish to be identified in the interests of protecting their child’s right to privacy, said:

“Starting a family had been something we’d both wanted for many years but it was not until the last three years that we could see a real and possible pathway to parenthood.

“It was by no means an easy path – and certainly tested our relationship in ways that we would never have even imagined, however it has been a really rewarding experience,” they said.

MCV understands Chief Justices are calling for commercial surrogacy to be made legal within Australia.

The Victorian Government made an election promise to look at the adoption laws for same-sex couples, and cemented that position during Midsumma Carnival.


Surrogate mum calls for change in the law

Britain's first surrogate sum, who lives in Milton Keynes, is calling for a change in the law to encourage more women to help childless couples.

Kim Cotton gave birth to a baby 30 years ago after being signed up by an American surrogate agency to help a Swedish couple. Then in 1991 she carried twins for an infertile friend.

She went on to set up a support group called Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS) and now wants the surrogate process changed so that more people have the confidence to use it.

At the moment the biological parents have to obtain a Parental order after a child is born to become its legal parents. That leaves a huge amount of uncertainty for them and the surrogate mother as either could withdraw from the agreement at any time during the pregnancy or even after the birth before the order has been signed.

Kim wants legally binding agreements to be introduced at the start of the process so that all parties know where they stand.

She says it can be fantastically rewarding for all concerned yet the uncertainty surrounding it and misinformation about what is involved means many prospective parents and surrogate mums aren't willing to take the risk.


Australia Simplifies Overseas Child Adoption.

SYDNEY:  Australia said today that it was simplifying the process of adopting children from overseas, setting up a single body to manage applications while working on new arrangements with the United States, Poland and Vietnam.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said a new "one-stop shop" - the Intercountry Adoption Support Service - will have staff advocating on behalf of prospective families and dealing with local state authorities and partner countries.

Australia has one of the lowest levels of intercountry adoption in the world, according to a government report last year.

"For too long adoption has been in the too hard basket, for too long it has been too hard to adopt and for too long this has been a policy no-go zone," the Australian leader said in a statement.

"It shouldn't be that way because adoption is all about giving children a better life."

The new service - which could start as soon as April - will also seek to reduce the length of time parents have to wait to adopt children, currently an average of five years.

The announcement came just a week after a baby boy at the centre of an international debate about surrogacy was granted Australian citizenship.

Baby Gammy was reportedly abandoned in Thailand by a Perth couple who went home with just his healthy sister.

While commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, growing numbers of people are travelling to countries such as India and Thailand to engage women to carry their babies.

Adoption levels have fallen to a record low in Australia, Abbott said, with just 317 domestic and international adoptions finalised between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, nine per cent lower than the previous year and 76 per cent down from 25 years ago.

Australia has intercountry arrangements with 14 countries, and the government said it was establishing new adoption programmes with the US, Poland and Vietnam, and working on schemes with four other countries.

The four countries were not named by the government, but the Sunday Telegraph said they were Latvia, Kenya, Bulgaria and Cambodia.


'Don't worry, I'll have a baby for you': Heartwarming story of a woman who was told she would never be a mother, her best friend who loaned out her womb and a total stranger who donated her eggs

~ Miranda Hill was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at 21-years-old, which would result in her suffering a stroke if she fell pregnant
~ Her best friend Megan, who had always joked about having a baby for her, offered to carry her child
~ When Miranda's egg count was revealed to be too low, they enlisted the help of Queensland mother Jemma Bacon through IVF Australia
~ Megan is due to give birth to Miranda's son, created with her husband's sperm and Jemma's egg, in four weeks

A woman who was told she would never become a mother because she suffers from a heart condition is to have her dream of a family come true - thanks to a total stranger who offered to donate her eggs and a friend who is acting as a surrogate.

Miranda Hill from Engadine in Sydney's south, who calls her situation a 'love story', will have a little one to call her own in four weeks when her best friend gives birth to a baby boy created with her husband's sperm and a Queensland mother's donated egg.

The 32-year-old was first diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition that doctors warned could result in her suffering a stroke if she carried a child, at the age of 21.

'When I was 21, having a baby wasn't high on my priority list,' Miranda told Daily Mail Australia.

'My best friend, who is now my sister-in-law [Megan Hill], when we realised it would be hard for me to have a baby, would always joke "don't worry, I'll have one for you" and I'd just laugh at her and didn't think it was possible.'

After marrying Megan's brother-in-law Chris in 2009, who Miranda describes as the man of her dreams, she realised that her desire to have a baby and raise a family was a physical impossibility.

'I sort of kept my pain really private between my husband and I – it's hard to be upset when another woman in your life has a baby or announces their pregnancy. You don't look nice when you're the one with tears in your eyes because you're sad about your situation,' she said.

'My husband talked me through it – he's a man of few words but when he does say something he really means it.

'He said to me: "If I can't have a baby with you, if I can't raise them with you, then I don't want to do it at all".'

Instead, the couple focused on their nephews and nieces, spending extra time with each of them and getting very involved in their lives.

But it was during one particularly difficult Christmas in 2012 that Miranda received an offer that her heart couldn't refuse.

'I'd had a particularly hard Christmas not being a mum and being around lots of babies – they bring a lot of joy but it can also be a heartache – and Megan said: "look, I've finished my family - my daughter's four, my son is two - so let's do this, I'm ready again",' Miranda said.

'Megan is a really pragmatic woman –she wouldn't say something she didn't mean.'

'Now she's very set on this idea that ''this is my nephew, I'm carrying my nephew".'

The two women began their research and found that their dream could be made a reality through IVF Australia – until Miranda was hit with another crushing blow.

'I found out I needed an egg donor. My egg supply was extremely low, I'd probably be able to retrieve one egg and I would have to also carry out some genetic testing to make sure I wasn't going to pass on the heart condition I live with,' Miranda said.

'But I found Egg Donation Australia online and they're a huge group of women who donate their eggs because they want other women to become mothers too – it's beautiful.'

Miranda was introduced to Jemma Bacon, a single Queensland mother-of-one who is a strong advocate for egg donation and has given 11 embryos to women struggling to conceive, and a friendship flourished between them.

'We went to Brisbane to meet her and her little boy Cooper and we just really clicked, we've known each other for 18 months but you wouldn't know it – the first time we spoke on the phone we spoke for two hours solid,' Miranda said.

'She has an amazing attitude, she just wants to give someone else the chance to be the mum that she loves being.'

Jemma, who has been very involved with the pregnancy and flew down from her Yeppoon home to attend Miranda's baby shower, said she chose to donate her eggs to the desperate couple herself.

'I had seen her thread and they're just so supportive - the love she gave everyone even though they were going through a hard time themselves was beautiful,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'It feels like your best friend is having a baby, that’s how invested you are. There's pride and joy and elation.'

The trio are now four weeks away from the birth of Miranda's little boy and the excitement is starting to show: the mother-to-be has completed setting up her nursery while Megan keeps the others updated on the size of her stomach and Jemma issues jest apologies to the heavily pregnant surrogate for 'knocking her up'.

'The moment Megan had the embryo transfer and two weeks later the blood transfer, the nurse rang me to let me know it had worked and I went into shock. They had to call me back in the afternoon to ask if I was OK.

'It's something you hope for but don't dare believe it will happen.

'We passed the 12 week scan with flying colours and at 20 weeks, when we found out he was a boy, that's when I realised "this is real, he's coming and he's going to live in my house and call me mum".'

Miranda has now made her story public to inspire other mothers like her, that 'there really is no end to the road – there are so many options these days'.


Hugo: the baby a gift of love from one woman to another.

BABY Hugo does not know it yet, but he came into the world in one of the most unusual and wonderful of ways.

He was nurtured in the womb of a woman who was not his biological mother.

Before Hugo’s birth, Jess Junkeer and Fiona Clothier were just acquaintances, but they would soon share the most intimate experiences by becoming one of just a few dozen Victorians undertaking a local surrogacy arrangement.

It began four years ago, just months after Jess, now 30, married her husband Geoff.

She was exhausted and bloated, and losing weight and blood. Within a week of seeing her doctor she was confronting cervical cancer and surgery.

“Our life was turned upside down so quickly,” Jess said.

But the worst was yet to come. When she woke from surgery to take out the tumour, doctors told her that the cancer had spread so they had to remove her cervix.

“My husband and I were completely destroyed,” Jess said. “We had been talking about starting a family and now I was coming to terms with having cancer, but the hardest part to digest was that I couldn’t carry my own children.”

Fortunately, before her chemotherapy and radiation started, Jess was referred to Melbourne IVF for fertility advice. There was just enough time to retrieve and freeze eggs, in the hope she would one day find another woman to carry her baby.

Melbourne IVF medical director Dr Lyndon Hale said their surrogacy patients typically had a medical condition that prevented them from carrying a baby, no uterus or an inability to get pregnant.

The hardest part was finding a surrogate because they cannot advertise or pay the woman, which he said would actually prevent more people from going overseas where the regulations were less stringent.

Counselling, psychological assessments, police checks and legal advice are all required in Victorian surrogacy arrangements.

Jess and Geoff were always going to seek out a local surrogate, but they never expected it would be so undeniably arduous for both the commissioning parents and surrogate with the process taking at least a year.

“It baffles me that we have not adopted a more cost-efficient and less emotionally draining process, similar to countries such as America,” Jess said.

“That’s why so many childless couples have no alternative but to explore avenues overseas.”

They never had to go down this path, thanks to Fiona 35.

She first heard of the couple’s plight through a friend — who just happened to be Jess’ older sister.

One day Fiona received an email directly from Jess, as she was one of the few people the couple knew who was under 40 and had already completed her family.

For Fiona and her husband Dean, their answer was immediately obvious.

“It was the natural choice and it felt right, if we could help we would,” Fiona said.

One of the biggest deciding factors was that Fiona had four complication-free pregnancies and that the baby would not be genetically hers.

It took three attempts to implant one of Jess’ fertilised eggs into Fiona.

“It was the most magical moment,” Jess said.

Fiona made sure all her children were aware that she was carrying a baby for Jess.

Even her three-year-old, Evie, would pat her stomach and say: “That’s Jess’ baby.”

Both women had to acknowledge the fear that Jess may not want to part with the baby once he was born, but by recognising it was a possibility, it allowed them to deal with it.

From Fiona’s point of view it was “always their baby”.

The exhaustion of pregnancy also helped remind Fiona that she didn’t want to go back to nappies and night-time feeds.

Other people’s positive reactions to her role as a surrogate also spurred her on.

“I didn’t have one single person, whether it was in the supermarket or at school, that was concerned or questioned what I had done,” she said.

When Hugo was born, Jess helped deliver him and Geoff cut the umbilical cord, before the wriggly newborn was placed on Fiona’s abdomen.

Then it was time to give Jess and Geoff their most precious possession.

For Jess, it was the happiest moment of her life.

She had been given hormones so she could breastfeed, allowing her to bond with Hugo immediately.

That night Jess and Fiona stayed in adjacent rooms in the maternity wing of the Grand Hyatt.

Now, despite now returning to their lives on different sides of the city, the women remain connected. It’s a bond they feel will last forever.

For Fiona, Hugo is like her little nephew.

And as much as he was a gift to Jess and Geoff, Fiona believes being able to offer them their only chance to have a child of their own was also a present to herself.

And for Jess, Fiona will always be her Wonder Woman who has given her the chance to achieve the impossible.

“No words could ever be enough to express how grateful I am to Fiona and Dean, we just feel so incredibly lucky,” she said.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

In Response: Women’s Health Center provides safe, legal services

Since Roe v. Wade was decided Jan. 22, 1973, a woman’s right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy has been the law of this land. Although we defend the right of Jay Steinke, who serves on the board of the Lake Superior Life Care Center in Duluth, to express his opinion, as he did with a commentary in the News Tribune (Local View: “Roe v. Wade anniversary brings pain,” Jan. 15), we must address some of his emotional and false statements.

At the Women’s Health Center in Duluth, we provide safe, legal abortion services that are in 100 percent compliance with pregnancy-termination restrictions and procedures, as dictated by the Minnesota Legislature and court system.

Our physicians and trained staff ensure each woman completely understands all of her options and is fully comfortable with her decision, whatever it is. It is simply not true that “young girls” are coerced by “friends, family and men” to have abortions; our protocol and personnel ensure this does not happen. Furthermore, our clients range in age from teens to well over 40, and they come from multiple ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The reality is that for some, there is little chance of support — emotional or financial — from their impregnator, family or society after the pregnancy.

In addition to providing safe, legal abortion services, both pharmaceutical/medical and surgical, the Women’s Health Center provides families with complete family-planning services, including dispensing to qualifying clients free birth-control pills, implant devices and IUDs. We maintain satellite family-planning clinics in five counties and serve the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin and all of Minnesota north of the Twin Cities. We believe this is crucial to reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies and, thus, of course, abortions.

If abortion became illegal, it would not go away. Again, women and girls would die in back alleys at the hands of “butchers.” The rich would fly to other countries. And those less fortunate either would choose unsafe abortions or be forced against their will to carry an unwanted pregnancy — even victims of rape and incest.

To be pro-choice is to be pro-safety and against needless maiming and the loss of life for American women of child-bearing age.

The abortion “issue,” as Steinke called it, is a matter of rights and freedom. The right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy rests with the woman; her rights as a living, breathing, sentient human being prevail over the rights of a non-viable embryo. We agree, and we trust each woman to be able to make this difficult decision.

Therefore, it is our responsibility, according to the law of this land, to be sure that women have access to medically safe abortions and care, including birth-control information and methods, most of them free. We do this at the Women’s Health Center. It is not profitable, and it is not glamorous. But as citizens of the United States, it is our right — and it is the right thing to do.

The Roe v. Wade anniversary is not “stealthily” ignored or disregarded, as Steinke implied. Rather, it is honored nationwide by supporters of choice. Happy anniversary, Roe vw. Wade.


First surrogate mum: ‘I was naive - but no regrets’

A city woman who gave birth to a daughter for a couple she never met has called for a change in surrogacy laws.

Kim Cotton was Britain’s first surrogate mum when she handed over the newborn tot 30 years ago to an infertile Swedish couple.

A few years later she carried twins for a friend with fertility problems.

Despite admitting she felt “cheated” over the first arrangement, for which she was paid £6,500,Kim has no regrets about being a surrogate.

“I still think its a wonderful thing to do... Surrogacy is very empowering. It’s a wonderful, fulfilling feeling to bring a life into the world,” said the grandmother of five.

She used her own egg to conceive for the Swedish couple but the baby was made a ward of court while still in hospital.

Kim, now 58, signed a contract agreeing never to contact the child - an action she now describes as ‘naive’.

“It was absolutely shocking. It’s a feeling I can’t put into words. I was heartbroken.”

She hopes ‘Baby Cotton’ will now contact her through Facebook or other social 

“I’ve always felt it would be lovely if she wanted to find me,” she said.

Kim set up Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS) in 1988 . Though she still firmly believes in the principle, she believes the laws surrounding it should be tweaked.

She says couples should be forced to obtain a legal Parental Order before they can take home a surrogate baby. She is also calling for a more formal support network for surrogate mums, who are now paid between £12-15,000 in expenses.


Removal of ceremony dampens gay unions

GAY registered relationships have fallen steadily since the Liberal National Party took away “the party” from civil unions in Queensland.

Formal same-sex relationship registrations have fallen two-thirds in the three years since the Newman government announced snap changes watering down civil unions by scrapping state-sanctioned ceremonies.

In 2012, when civil unions were rushed through parliament by the former Bligh Labor government, 466 couples affirmed their relationships.

Following the Newman government changes in mid-2012, another 138 homosexual couples formalised their relationships.

In 2013, 227 gay couples registered their relationship. Last year, that had dropped to 184. To January 13 this year, four relationships were registered.

Throughout the period, 4677 heterosexual couples have also registered their relationships.

An LNP spokesman said the government had “no plans” to amend registered-relationship laws or to make any changes regarding other social issues, including surrogacy and euthanasia.

“Our focus is growing the economy, boosting jobs and providing the services Queenslanders need,” he said.

Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has reiterated her vow to reverse the LNP’s 2012 changes to civil unions and reinstate the previous provisions.

“This means that commitment ceremonies will be reintroduced,” she told The Australian.

“Both same-sex and de facto couples will still be able to register their relationships.” Ms Palaszczuk also committed to maintaining laws on altruistic surrogacy and no euthanasia.

Despite Premier Campbell Newman’s personal support for gay marriage in the lead-up to the 2012 election, the government changed Queensland law to remove ceremonies as “provisions that may be perceived to mimic marriage”.

It was a compromise position. During the campaign, Mr Newman vowed to explore repealing civil unions entirely, but noted concern not to throw into “legal limbo” the couples who had already signed up for the partnerships.

Queensland’s civil-union laws are now in line with NSW and Victoria in having no official ceremonial recognition. Couples in the ACT and Tasmania can opt for a ceremony.

The legislative changes followed lobbying from the Australian Family Association during the election campaign and a private meeting between Mr Newman and the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, the day before the legislation was introduced.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rejected baby Gammy granted Australian citizenship thanks to surrogate mother

Thai surrogate mother has obtained Australian citizenship for baby Gammy. Gammy has Down’s syndrome and lives with surrogate mother after being abandoned by Australian parents.

Baby Gammy was born with Down’s syndrome to Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua along with his twin sister, Pipah.

Gammy’s biological father, David Farnell and wife Wendy Farnell took Pipah back to Australia in 2014, leaving Gammy behind. The Farnell’s were heavily criticised in the media for taking one baby and leaving the other.

Gammy now lives with mother Chanbua and her family in Thailand. Chanbua applied for Australian citizenship for her son with the Australian embassy in Bangkok in August as he required medical treatment for a series of health problems.

On 20 January Gammy was granted Australian citizenship as David Farnell, his biological father, is Australian. Gammy is now eligible for an Australian passport and will have access to healthcare in Australia.

Chanbua claimed that the Farnells wanted Gammy aborted when they discovered that he had Down’s syndrome, reported BBC News. In a TV interview The Farnells said that they wanted a refund from the Thai surrogacy agency when they discovered the news.

David Farnell said the following in the interview on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes on Sunday night:

“It was late into the pregnancy that we learned the boy had Down’s. They sent us the reports but they didn’t do the checks early enough. If it would have been safe for that embryo to be terminated, we probably would have terminated it, because he has a handicap and this is a sad thing. And it would be difficult – not impossible, but difficult.”

Chanbua claimed that she had not allowed Gammy to return to Australia with the Farnells. Farnell confirmed this in the interview.

“The surrogate mother wanted to take our girl and we were getting scared that we were going to lose her. We had to try and get out as fast as we could.”

In August it was revealed that David Farnell had child sex convictions. In the interview he openly expressed regret about his past.

“I have been convicted of child sex offences and I hang my head in shame,” he said. “And I am deeply regretful for that. I am so, so sorry to those people. I was convicted and I went to jail.”

The Farnells retain custody of Pipah under strict court conditions.

When asked if his daughter was safe in his care in light of his past, Farnell swore that he was no longer attracted to children.

“I don’t have any thoughts about this at all. That is 100% the truth. I cannot do this again. I can’t do this. I know that I do not have any urges at all of this nature. For 30 years I’ve known this. I don’t have any urges.”

Gammy’s case drew donations from around the world which have been used to pay for his hospital bills and a new home for Chanbua’s family.


Australia gives Down Syndrome baby left in Thailand citizenship

A baby at the centre of a Thai surrogacy scandal has been granted Australian citizenship, authorities said Tuesday, after his birth mother said he was abandoned by a Perth couple who went home with his healthy twin sister.

Baby Gammy sparked a global debate about the legal and moral issues surrounding surrogacy when reports emerged in August that he was left behind by the pair, who returned to Australia with his sister Pipah.

The couple have denied abandoning the boy, who has Down's syndrome, saying they had wanted to bring him home and left Thailand fearing the surrogate mother would seize their daughter.

"The department can confirm that an application for baby Gammy's Australian citizenship by descent has been assessed and found to have met all criteria for the grant," an immigration department spokeswoman said in a statement.

"It is not appropriate for the department to make any further comments on this case."

Surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua, who is in her early 20s, confirmed her son had been granted Australian citizenship.

"He got citizenship four days ago. The Australian embassy called me on Friday to ask me to come and collect the documents," she told AFP by telephone from her home in Chonburi province, 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of the capital Bangkok.

Pattaramon, also known as Goy, said she has no immediate plans to take her son to Australia but applied for citizenship with the help of the Australian charity Hands Across the Water as a safeguard for his future.

"I want him to be near me here (in Thailand) so that I don't have to miss him," the 21-year-old mother said.

"But if all of my family, including me die and if Gammy is left behind alone, at least the Australian government will help him."

She added that Gammy is in good health and turned one in December.

The baby has moved into a new home in Chonburi province about 90 kilometres south-east of Bangkok using money donated by well-wishers across the globe, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Gammy's biological father, David Farnell, a convicted sex offender, is under investigation by the authorities in Western Australia regarding the wellbeing and safety of Pipah.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, prompting growing numbers of infertile couples to head overseas to countries such as India and Thailand to fulfil their dreams of having a family.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One woman's selfless act of surrogacy for her gay best friends

Having children for most gay couples typically means adopting or paid surrogacy, but Benjamin and Eduardo Kaufmann-Malaga found an alternative option.

The California couple enlisted the help of their best friend, Esme Shaller, who volunteered to have their baby for free.

Starting a family was always a lifelong dream for the Kaufmann-Malagas.

"We knew that having kids would be a fantastic thing and we really wanted them," Benjamin Kaufmann-Malaga said on "Good Morning America."

"It looked like an impossible dream," Eduardo Kaufmann-Malaga added of the challenging process.

That's when Shaller stepped in, turning that impossibility into a reality.

"I really loved being pregnant. I had two really easy pregnancies, with both of our girls, and we didn't want a third child of our own -- but I thought I could be pregnant one more time," she said on "GMA." "That's when we started talking about this as a possibility."

The Kaufmann-Malagas sat down with Shaller and her husband, Gary, to work out the logistics. They decided the baby would not be biologically hers and that they would use donors.

"Ben and Eduardo have been a couple pretty much as long as we have, and they're great friends of ours. As soon as we mentioned it, I was like, 'Oh yeah, this is right, this feels right, we've got to do this,'" Gary Shaller said on "GMA."

Once the decision was made, the couples worked to make sure everything was squared away legally.

"We had to hire several lawyers and write down a contract to make sure that everything was spelled out," Ben said.

Experts say having legal representation in these unconventional situations is crucial.

"No. 1: Get a good understanding for what's going to happen after the child is born," family lawyer Steve Mindel said on "GMA." "No. 2: Make sure that the insurances are in place. And No. 3: [Put] the right medical team and legal team to fit into place."

The couples then moved forward with the process, and during Shaller's nine months of pregnancy, she said her maternal instinct never kicked in.

"During the pregnancy, it was surprisingly not emotional; it was exciting and fun," she said. "But I wasn't blissfully looking at my belly or anything like that. I knew it was not my child, and he never felt like my child, so it wasn't a deep emotional process."

Now, the Kaufmann-Malagas have their baby boy, Linus. Ben Kaufmann-Malaga goes by "daddy," and Eduardo Kaufmann-Malaga is "papa," and it's all thanks to Shaller's generosity.

"It was always very clear from day one that we were going to be parents. Esme was the guardian of our child for these nine months," Ben Kaufmann-Malaga said. "We always had an amazing friendship, and I think this is one in a long list of amazing things that she's done."


Funding of IVF fertility treatments

Sir, – Dr Mary Wingfield calls for State funding for IVF fertility treatments (January 19th).

Proposed legislation regarding this and related surrogacy requires openness regarding risks to women. IVF treatment babies have a higher frequency of adverse outcomes than babies born after normal conception.

Risks to women include potentially fatal ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, cysts, molar pregnancy and coagulation abnormalities leading to thromboembolism, stroke and myocardial infarction. Excessive ovarian stimulation with fertility drugs during a single stimulated IVF cycle may result in up to a fivefold increase in plasma oestrogen concentration. Excessive oestrogen secretion has been implicated in ovarian, womb and breast cancer. Perusal of the internet indicates many clinical studies which report worrying concerns regarding breast cancer occurrences and IVF treatments.

IVF treatments are central to surrogacy and women should be fully informed about early and potential long-term risks of these treatments. – Yours, etc.


New Job Perks: Fertility Procedures

UNDATED -- Technology is allowing employers to offer specialized health care coverage. Some employers are offering fertility services as a job perk to female employees.

Apple and Facebook will freeze the eggs of employees so they can wait until later in life to have children.

Facebook told our news partner USA TODAY-- the company will even pay up to $20 thousand for the procedure. Facebook also offers adoption and surrogacy assistance and "a host of other fertility services for male and female employees." And Apple offers offers egg freezing and storage, extended maternity leave, adoption assistance and infertility treatments.

According to USA TODAY, a typical round of egg-freezing costs about $10,000, with $500 or more in fees each year for storage. Two rounds are usually necessary to harvest about 20 eggs, which is considered ideal.

As far as caring for kids when the arrive, some Google offices provide on-site daycare.Facebook does not, but it does offer couples who give birth or adopt $4,000 in "baby cash."


Adoption wait grows as kid numbers drop.

New Delhi, Jan. 20: Couples looking to adopt an infant in India have to brace for a long wait, with the queues much longer now than they were even five years ago.

For two infants in the 0-2 years age group available for adoption in Haryana, there are 169 couples waiting. For 20 such children in Bengal, there are 597 couples waiting. For 12 infants in Delhi, the number of couples waiting is 750. In Maharashtra, which has the highest number of children in this age group - 225 - there are 508 couples on the waiting list.

These statistics from the Child Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) reflect the dwindling number of infants in adoption centres.

Five years ago, the average ratio across the country would be around 60 infants to 100 prospective parents.

The drop in numbers has raised the spectre of illegal adoption networks, which, the government and social workers fear, are keeping the youngest children outside institutionalised care.

"Five years ago, we used to get around eight to nine infants abandoned with us every month. Now, around seven to nine appear every year," said Lorraine Martin, a Delhi-based social worker in charge of adoptions in Palna, a recognised adoption centre.

This is the figure that most agencies The Telegraph spoke to quoted as the average.

"I regularly get calls from couples on the waiting list informing me that they have got their baby and asking me to strike them off the list. How do they get a child without going through the system? They never explain. This is a major cause for concern," said Martin.

Soumeda Medhora of the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption, a Calcutta-based agency, says such calls have become frequent at her agency too.

CARA has sounded the alert.

In a public notice in newspapers three days ago, addressed to all hospitals, maternity homes and nursing homes, the nodal body governing all adoptions in the country instructed them to turn over any abandoned child to the local police station, an authorized agency or the child welfare committee.

"No person or institution shall run an adoption agency or carry out adoption placement of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children without a certificate of recognition from the competent authority," the notice added.

In another advertisement, CARA cautioned parents: "Do not hand over the child to any unauthorised person".

For adoptive parents, too, the agency had a word of caution: "Always adopt from a government-recognised adoption agency."

Social workers say that while there are no statistics to show exactly how many infants are abandoned annually, the figures for the total number of children across different age groups abandoned and the number of children adopted indicate that very few enter institutionalized care.

A 2011 study conducted by an NGO found 20 million orphans. Of them, only 0.3 per cent children were orphaned. The rest - 99.7 per cent - were abandoned. Going by the adoption figures available with CARA, only about 0.04 per cent of abandoned children are adopted through official agencies.

Medhora from the Calcutta-based agency says that "illegal adoptions" is one of the reasons for the mismatch between the figures.

"Many adoptions are not done through licensed adoption agencies. Adoptions done through hospitals and private adoptions do not figure in the statistics. There are also adoptions which are done within the family," she said.

An official of the women and child development ministry said that it "is to crack down on such illegal adoptions that we have tried to link hospitals, nursing homes, child care centres to the adoption agencies in the new Juvenile Justice Act".

But while the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act deems such adoptions illegal, adoptive parents appear to prefer a clean break with no legal paperwork.

"We were on the waiting list for some time, but we got our baby through a nursing home where an unwed mother gave birth. We then got a birth certificate in our names from the nursing home. We have told our relatives that we had the baby through surrogacy," said a couple in Delhi who didn't wish to be named.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Thailand Defends Care for Children in Controversial Surrogacy Case

In Thailand, there are new developments in the unusual case of a Japanese businessman who is believed to have fathered at least 15 babies through local surrogate mothers. The mothers are now trying to regain custody of some of the children who were taken by the state.

Thailand's social development and human security ministry is denying allegations that some infants in its custody are being treated improperly.

That is alleged in a lawsuit filed in December by nine Thai surrogate mothers, who also claim authorities are preventing them from seeing their children.

The babies were allegedly fathered by a wealthy 24-year-old Japanese businessman, Mitsutoki Shigeta.

The sensational case cast into the spotlight Thailand's shadowy surrogacy industry, which has become a magnet for foreigners seeking to become parents by paying local women to carry and give birth to their children.

The director of an Australian non-profit group, Families Through Surrogacy, Sam Everingham said it would be appropriate for the children to be removed from government custody.

“If the father is not appropriate then being with the surrogate mothers is really the ideal situation. But we want to stress that this is an unusual case. And parents who have got current arrangements in Thailand shouldn’t be concerned about this for their own surrogates,” said Everingham.

The Shigeta case, along with the publicity resulting from a surrogate baby with Down Syndrome being left behind in Thailand by an Australian couple, prompted the government to crack down on the thriving commercial surrogacy industry last year.

The kingdom's legislature, appointed by the military-controlled junta, also is considering a new law that would impose a ten-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of involvement in paid surrogacy.

Surrogacy advocates, such as Everingham, lament how the extreme cases that drew international headlines have led to the new restrictions.

“The case of Mr. Shigeta was a pretty appalling example of abuse of international surrogacy by foreigners. And it’s one of the reasons which led to the acceleration of the closure of access to surrogacy in Thailand by foreigners,” said Everingham.

Thailand, due to low cost and availability, was a preferred destination for surrogacy arrangements, especially by same sex couples, Everingham said.

“Many countries, such as Australia, don’t provide easy access to surrogacy. These states don’t allow commercial arrangements. They don’t allow paid advertising for surrogates so it’s very hard to connect with a surrogate in many states in Australia and even in many states in the U.S. So it forces many, many people offshore,” he said.

Thai officials say they are in the process of determining whether the surrogate mothers of the children now in the care of the state are suitable to take custody of them.

Public prosecutors have postponed until February 17, pending further information from police, a decision on whether to indict a physician linked with the Japanese businessman.


Surrogacy doc indictment postponed

Public prosecutors have once again postponed a decision on the indictment of Dr Pisit Tantiwattanakul, whose All IVF Clinic provided a young Japanese businessman with multiple surrogacy services.

Charoendet Salayapong, a public prosecutor at the Pathumwan court said police investigators reported on Jan 6 they would postpone the delivery of their report for another 15 days. A decision on an indictment had earlier been postponed in November.

Public prosecutors in October instructed police to elaborate on the exact location of the surrogacy services at Dr Pisit's All IVF clinic in Ploenchit area, Bangkok, because the clinic has two floors.

They also instructed police to collect opinions on surrogacy from the Medical Council of Thailand.

Dr Pisit, 41, was due to report to public prosecutors on Thursday. Mr Charoendet said the doctor showed up on Wednesday and was told to report back on Feb 17 to learn whether he would be arraigned in court.

Police investigators have yet to gather opinions from experts at the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Mr Charoendet said.

The All IVF Clinic offered multiple surrogacy services to 25-year-old Japanese man Mitsutoki Shigeta, who reportedly fathered 15 babies by Thai surrogate mothers. Nine babies born to six women, including three sets of twins, were disovered in a raid on a condominium in Lat Phrao area of Bangkok last August. The Japanese father fled the country.

Police charged Dr Pisit with operating the clinic without authorisation and failure to comply with medical service laws. The offences carry possible punishment of up to three years in jail and/or fines of up to 60,000 baht. Dr Pisit denied all charges.

It is the fourth time a decision on whether to indict him or not has been delayed.


DC Council Introduces Surrogacy Bill

Measure would legalize, set up framework for surrogacy arrangements in the District.

Families that wish to have children by utilizing surrogacy agreements are currently prohibited by District Law, but there’s fresh hope thanks to a bill unanimously co-introduced last week by 11 sitting members of the D.C. Council, which seeks to put a legal framework in place.

The bill, known as the Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2015, establishes certain criteria or requirements for any “collaborative reproduction arrangements.” It seeks to establish a legal relationship between a child conceived or carried to term through a surrogacy agreement and its intended parents, whether or not they are married or whether or not they are biologically related to one or both parents. The measure, as introduced, reflects input from various community groups, including LGBT advocacy organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Family Equality Council, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Under the bill, potential surrogates — who must be at least 21 years old and have given birth to at least one live child — will complete both medical and mental health evaluations before being approved as a surrogate. Intended parents must have, with their surrogate, completed a joint consultation with a mental health professional regarding any issues that could arise out of the surrogacy agreement, as well as guarantee to pay all “reasonable and ancillary expenses” related to carrying the child to term. The bill also puts in place additional safeguards for the child, the surrogate, and the intended parents, including a “character” provision that prohibits anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving “impunity of character or honest, including any action pertaining to fraud” from profiting, either directly or indirectly, from services related to recruiting, matching or providing other services to individuals interested in setting up surrogacy agreements. People who violate that provision may be fined or imprisoned for up to two years.

A similar bill was introduced by former Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) in 2013 and received a hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, chaired by then-Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who is now the director of the D.C. Department of the Environment for the Bowser administration. Judiciary Committee members heard hours of testimony during a June 2013 hearing on the bill, which attracted support from the LGBT community, former surrogates, and family law experts, among others, but also encountered harsh criticism and opposition by some women’s rights groups, which objected to the idea of surrogacy agreements that would compensate women for using their bodies to bear children for others. The bill wasn’t voted upon in 2013, and was never raised during 2014, an election year that saw both Catania and Wells, as well as fellow Council members Bowser and Jack Evans, run for mayor.

For many advocates, both inside and outside of the LGBT community, D.C.’s laws governing surrogacy are significantly out of date, and need to be amended.

“Compared to the 50 states, District law is among the most restrictive with regard to surrogacy agreements, which is out of step with our commitment as a city to equality and family,” Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said in a statement after introducing the bill. “I believe surrogacy should be an option for District residents who wish to have children.”


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Surrogate mums sue ministry.

Six Thai women who carried surrogate babies for Japanese businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta are suing the Social Development and Human Security Ministry for the return of their children.

On Tuesday, the ministry permanent secretary Vichien Chavalit mistakenly said the lawyer for Mr Shigeta was pursuing the case.

But he said yesterday it is actually the Thai mothers who have filed the suit with the Central Juvenile and Family Court.

The six women carried a total of nine babies, with three giving birth to twins.

The suit accuses the ministry of illegally taking away the babies.

Mr Vichien said the infants have been placed in the protective care of Pakkred Babies' Home in Nonthaburi, in accordance with the Child Protection Act 2003.

The ministry has to ensure that everyone is protected and the facts about this surrogacy case must be disclosed," he said.

"We do not intend to take away anybody’s child but our responsibility is to protect them as best as we can."

The lawsuit, lodged in December, claims the ministry illegally separated the babies from their mothers, provided them with improper care and refused the mothers’ requests to raise the babies themselves.

Suwanna Pinkaew, director of the Bureau of Women and Child Welfare Protection, said all nine babies were getting good care.

Every child being cared for at the babies’ home is receiving quality childcare and their development has greatly improved. The mothers are not prohibited from seeing their babies but must follow the home regulations, Ms Suwanna said.

She said the six mothers requested custody of the children last year, but consent has not yet been granted because an assessment of their readiness, including job stability and family situation, is still in progress.

Ms Suwanna said the lawyer for Mr Shigeta had told officials at the babies' home that the Japanese grandfather of the children will visit them this month, but no formal notification letter has been submitted.

A source at the ministry questioned if the six mothers had sent applications seeking custody of their children to the ministry themselves.

The same handwriting appeared on all the forms.

Officials believe someone may be directing things from behind the scenes.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Surrogacy Rampant amid Bans

Chinese authorities are being urged to take vigorous measures against the surrogacy business.

An investigation by state broadcaster China Central Television has found illegal surrogacy agencies in Beijing, Wuhan and Guangzhou that help their clients find ova, surrogate mothers, and unlicensed clinics for the surgery.

Some ova providers are students from universities or even high schools.

China's health authority banned surrogacy and trade of sperm, ovum and embryos starting from 2001 but weak enforcement has undermined the effort.

Bioethicist Zhai Xiaomei urges joint action by government departments, as well as legislation.

"The regulations issued by the health authority are far from enough due to the limited enforcement power of the department. What we need is a comprehensive law to address the issue of assisted reproduction."

On the other hand, Liu Ping from Peking University Third Hospital calls for a flexible management.

"The regulation should be more flexible. Surrogacy should be an alternative way to have a child for a family, in which the wife can't get pregnant."

The investigation reveals a surrogate birth could bring in 400,000 yuan, or about 65,000 US dollars, in profit, while a surrogacy firm's revenue could exceed 10 million yuan.

Meanwhile, health experts also warn that fertility medications and ovum collection procedures could lead to irreversible damages to sexual organs.