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Friday, February 27, 2015

13-Year-Old Girl Sold Into Slavery, Forced to Conceive Children and Deliver Babies for Sale

In India, a 13-years old girl known as Phulmani was sold into slavery, forced to act as a surrogate mother and deliver six children by human traffickers from Jharkhand. Initially, an agent lured Phulmani to Delhi from her village with the promise of a job in the national capital. However, after a year of working domestically, the inhuman treatment began.

She said, “They treated me like a money minting machine. My will never mattered to them, all they wanted was me to deliver babies for them.” Tragically, after her babies were born they were sold and she has no way of contacting them.

Now Phulmani is 31-years-old and returned home last year after human rights activists rescued her from her captors. She decided to file a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in India because of the emotional and physical trauma the experience inflicted upon her. According to the Hindustan Times, 10,000 children are trafficked from Jharkhand every year to either work as domestic help or sex workers, but trafficking for forced surrogacy has never been heard of before.

The CWC in Gumla came across another case of trafficking for surrogacy from Lotwadugdugi village in Palkot block. The girl was trafficked to Delhi when she was just eight years old. Now 29, she returned to Jharkhand last year and alleged that she was forced to deliver at least 10 babies, said Alakh Singh, a member of the CWC.

A police officer said, “It is not a regular pattern, but we have come across a few such cases in the past. It is a major concern if such practices are happening in the state.”

Like Phulmani, some more girls from Gumla and Lohardaga districts of Jharkhand were trafficked for conceiving children, local residents claimed. Some girls were even forced to conceive babies for sale in Jharkhand, they alleged.

Jagatram Mahato, an elderly man from Arahasa village in Lohardaga, said teenagers from his village had been lured to Delhi and some northern states for forced surrogacy.

He said, “Some of them even gave birth to children in the village. Later, the agents came and took the babies.” Additionally, the girls were not paid to have the children.

NGO Shakti Vahini says it has rescued more than 100 girls from Jharkhand in Delhi. Bachapan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the NGO run by Noble Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, says it rescued almost 80,000 children across India, of whom 15% to 20% were from Jharkhand and Bihar.


Poll: Is it right that commercial surrogacy will be banned in Ireland?

NEW SURROGACY LAWS will see paid-for, or commercial, surrogacy banned in Ireland.

The government is to prepare a new law regulating surrogacy for the first time, and the heads of bill says that commercial surrogacy will be outlawed.

Non-commercial, or altruistic, surrogacy will be allowed.

In the USA, surrogacy laws vary by state. In some, commercial surrogacy is legal. It’s illegal in Australia, while both commercial and altruistic surrogacy is illegal in France and Finland, for example.

Generally, women are reimbursed for expenses in altruistic surrogacy but do not get a lump sum payment.

Also vote here:

Support for gestational surrogacy measure will require more education of lawmakers

Following two hearings earlier this month, advocates for gestational surrogacy are continuing their push for two bills that set forth standards for gestational carrier agreements, hoping to sway reticent or cautious legislators to their side.

The House and Senate versions of the Collaborative Reproduction Act — sponsored by Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery Co.) and Sen. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore Co.) — both attempt to set forth guidelines for who can be a gestational carrier, meaning a person who carries a pregnancy to term but who is not genetically or biologically related to the child being born. Both bills define requirements for who can serve as a gestational carrier, and put in place a number of safeguards, including mental health screenings for the carrier, her partner or spouse, and the intended parents, and a provision requiring each party to get separate legal representation that will represent their best interests.

There are no guidelines governing gestational surrogacy under current Maryland law, although the practice was implicitly approved by the courts in a 2003 case where the Maryland Court of Appeals overruled a lower court decision refusing to allow a gestational carrier to remove her name as the mother from a birth certificate. Maryland still presumes that the gestational carrier is the mother, but that presumption can be rebutted.

The measures were heard in the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee on Feb. 12 and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Feb. 18. Throughout the House hearing, advocates for collaborative reproduction — including lawyers who work with gestational carriers, reproductive specialists and mental health professionals — testified on behalf of the bill, educating lawmakers about the technical aspects of the topic. But many lawmakers seemed to lack an understanding of the bill, or posed questions that appeared to be aimed at derailing the measure in order to curry favor with socially conservative groups who oppose the concept of surrogacy in any form.

Several delegates repeatedly expressed concerns over the possible exploitation of gestational carriers under such agreements, but Dumais repeatedly reiterated that such exploitation would be prevented by setting up standards and model framework for agreements between intended parents and gestational surrogates. Because Maryland lacks any statute governing the matter, lawyers and medical professionals who work with gestational carriers have no binding legal requirements placed on them, although many adhere to best practices and professional standards as set forth by groups like the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Advocates pointed out that even if the bill were not to pass, gestational surrogacy has been — and will continue to be — practiced.

“The issue is not whether or not collaborative reproduction exists, but the most appropriate legal framework and whether best practice will be used to structure the process,” said Dr. Joyce McDowell, who explained the type of mental health screening that all parties to collaborative reproduction must undergo.

The biggest sticking points in the deliberations over collaborative reproduction are several amendments added to a similar bill last year. One such amendment was so burdensome and egregious, it prompted Dumais to pull the bill. That amendment would have required a court to approve a gestational carrier agreement beforehand, which Dumais objected to because approving such a provision would have made Maryland the only state to require a court to approve a contract prior to the parties entering into it. Other amendments  attached to last year’s Senate bill deal with provisions on abortion or liabilities.

As the House hearing progressed, it became obvious that some delegates were opposed to the bill, concocting a variety of scenarios where something could go wrong or where there was a disagreement between the intended parents and the gestational carrier, even though both House and Senate versions set up provisions that require all parties to undergo mental screening and meet prior to any implantation of a fertilized egg to discuss what the expectations of those involved are. Delegates who have previously sided with the Catholic Conference in their opposition to social issues such as abortion and marriage equality raised a myriad of objections, peppering witnesses speaking in favor of collaborative reproduction with questions ranging from issues like determining parentage to which party would bear the medical costs associated with the pregnancy, even raising the specter that insurance companies might one day refuse to cover such procedures.

Opponents frequently sought to conflate the issue of gestational surrogacy with traditional surrogacy, where the carrier has a biological link to the child, or with egg donation. Some even seemed unfamiliar with the concept of surrogacy in general. Still others objected to a provision in the bill that would list the intended parents as the child’s parents on the birth certificate. At one point, Delegates Susan McComas (R-Harford Co.) and Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s Co.) even alleged that Shady Grove Fertility Center, one of the leaders in gestational surrogacy was coercing or trying to lure women with the promise of money for serving as a gestational carrier on its website, something later proven to be false by freshman Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard Co.).

Conservative-leaning members also raised the issue of abortion or selective reduction, which can sometimes happen when a woman is implanted with one or two eggs via in vitro fertilization. Although lawyers and medical professionals who work with gestational carriers noted that a match would not be made if the carrier and intended parents did not agree on what to do in a variety of scenarios, other witnesses, including the Catholic Conference and Maryland Right to Life, insisted that the law, as written, has too many loopholes that can lead to the exploitation of women serving as gestational carriers. Andrea Garvey, testifying on behalf of the Maryland Catholic Conference, even alleged that the bill would do nothing to prevent child trafficking or the targeting of financially vulnerable young women to serve as gestational surrogates, leading to a heated exchange with Dumais, particularly after she accused Dumais of being unwilling to listen to their concerns. Garvey insisted that several amendments, including the ones passed by the Senate last year, be added to the bill.

The Senate hearing, by contrast, was more low-key. Since the committee had previously voted to pass similar bills during the past three legislative sessions, there were fewer witnesses and many fewer questions asked by senators. At that hearing, supporters of the measure did note that, despite claims from the Catholic Conference that they did not outright oppose the bill, the Vatican has generally opposed any and all forms of assisted reproduction such as in vitro fertilization, the only method by which gestational surrogacy may occur.

Even though gestational surrogacy is commonly practiced in the state of Maryland, getting lawmakers to pass legislation could be an uphill battle. The goal of advocates is to pass a bill that hasn’t been significantly altered by “compromise” amendments so as to be unsalvageable, as was the case with last year’s Senate bill. The trick will be for those supporting collaborative reproduction to convince lawmakers that the bill will implement the necessary safeguards to protect all parties involved, rather than unleashing a Pandora’s box of social ills.

Dumais, as the chief House sponsor, said she will be sending around a memo to her fellow committee members and her Senate counterparts that outlines what sort of amendments would be acceptable and which would be considered “poison pills” that would doom the fate of the collaborative reproduction measures. She said she already has an opinion from former Attorney Doug Gansler (D) supporting the framework for gestational carrier agreements, and will seek a similar opinion from the office of current Attorney General Brian Frosh (D).

“The provision that would require judicial review by a circuit court judge, which was one of the amendments to the Senate bill last year, truly is a poison pill,” Dumais told Metro Weekly. She noted that only one state — Virginia — has a statute where a court may sign off on the gestational carrier agreement prior to the parties entering into the agreement, but it also contains an option to “opt out” of or circumvent that part of the process, which is almost always utilized in cases of gestational surrogacy.

Dumais said another “non-starter” amendment was a proposal to force the state Department of Health to create a registry of surrogacy agencies, which was also slipped into the Senate bill last year as a “compromise” to conservative lawmakers without any debate in either chamber, or without hearing any testimony in favor or against creating a registry.

“A number of lawmakers seemed concerned about the way in which gestational carriers are recruited,” Dumais said. “But that’s an entirely different issue. If you hate surrogacy agencies, put it in a separate bill.”

Dumais will also offer suggestions for friendly amendments that could generate support for the bill without changing its overall intent, including a provision, desired by Maryland Right to Life, that specifically states that intended parents cannot force a gestational carrier to have an abortion against her will, even if they wish to withdraw from the agreement, something that Dumais called “fine and completely appropriate.” She expressed support for a tighter and revised definition of what constitutes “reasonable medical and ancillary expenses” that must be covered by the intended parents.

Jennifer Fairfax, an attorney specializing in reproductive law testified in favor of the House bill and took an optimistic view of the hearings and promised to work with Dumais and other lawmakers to craft appropriate amendments that will make the bill’s passage possible.

“I was actually pleased that the delegates were asking questions, and trying to figure out what is going on with the bill,” she says. “I think it also informed us, as supporters of the bill, what they’re looking for and what friendly amendments we can make to get support for the bill. The hearing, at least to me, demonstrated that we need to get more information to the General Assembly. We need to show that this is all about protecting children born through gestational surrogacy.”

Fairfax also noted that the bill’s length, breadth and its very scientific and highly detailed terminology, as well as the fact that it delves into a niche area of law that is not familiar to most people, could have added to some confusion on the part of lawmakers.

“This is creating an entire new law, from soup to nuts,” she says. “It’s a good bill. It’s meant to protect kids, and I’m really optimistic that the legislature will pass it this year.”



Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter openly criticised party colleague Leo Varadkar in the Dáil today.

Deputy Shatter said that the Minister for Health is "misleading" people by suggesting he is the first Minister to try to overhaul surrogacy laws.

Minister Varadkar this morning announced he is planning an overhaul of the law to recognise the genetic parents of children born to surrogates.

Alan Shatter said that he was planning to include it in the Children and Family Relationships Bill - and he cannot understand why it has been removed.

"I wish he would stop pretending that he is presenting some new crusade to address an issue that no-one before he came along was interested in addressing," he said.

"It's misleading. It's misleading, and it's unfair to members of the media and those interviewing him who do not have the intimacy of knowledge of both the Bill that was published last January and of this legislation."


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Detail on assisted human reproduction rules needs work

A week after getting outline approval from Cabinet, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has put some flesh on the bones of his proposals for legislation on assisted human reproduction but many questions of detail remain to be answered.

There is, as the Minister has admitted, little chance of this important and long-overdue legislation becoming law during the lifetime of this Government. Given the complexity of the area, work on shaping the proposals needs to start as soon as possible.

The proposed Bill will provide a regulatory framework for a range of practices for the first time, including surrogacy, embryo donation and screening, sperm and egg donation, and stem cell research. Some of these will prove more controversial than others.

At this early stage the obvious focus of disagreement is the proposal to legislate for some forms of surrogacy. For some to even do so amounts to legitimising a practice that devalues traditional parenthood. The group Mothers and Fathers Matter, for example, said it would allow one man or two to use a surrogate mother to have a child, who would be raised without a mother, in violation of its rights.

Some European countries have banned all forms of surrogacy, but by proposing to allow only non-commercial forms Mr Varadkar is following the example of countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia.

Commercial surrogacy will be banned but the payment of “reasonable expenses” is to be allowed. This begs the question of what is considered reasonable expenses for a surrogate mother carrying a child for nine months.

The next big issue surrounding surrogacy is parentage. A child born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement can potentially have a relationship with any of five individuals: the surrogate mother; the commissioning mother; the commissioning father; an egg donor or a sperm donor.

So is motherhood related to gestation or does it arise from the genetic link? Or should it be decided on a case by case basis in the best interests of the child?

Ten years ago the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction said it should follow “intent”, ie , that the child should be presumed to be that of the commissioning couple. The Supreme Court last year took a different view, and said it should rest with the birth mother.

Mr Varadkar is proposing something of a halfway house, allowing for a transfer of parentage to take place from the surrogate mother to the genetic parents if there is agreement among the adults involved.

But what happens if the adults don’t agree? Or if an agreement made later unwinds? If the surrogate mother decides she wants to keep the child? Or the commissioning parents decide they don’t want to keep it? Also, who looks after the baby in the period before transfer of parentage? Who makes decisions on, say, medical intervention on its behalf?

None of these instances are reasons for shying away from legislation but they do point to the complexity of the issues.

Further complex issues arise in relation to the ongoing rights of a surrogate after parentage has been transferred, and the rights of children born under such arrangements to information about their birth parent on reaching the age of 18.


SC notice to govt on PIL seeking ban on commercial surrogacy

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Union government to respond to a PIL seeking a ban on commercial surrogacy, alleging that lax laws had allowed rampant commercialization of motherhood, exploiting poor women to turn India into the world's surrogacy capital.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana issued notices to ministries of home affairs, law and justice, health and family welfare, commerce and external affairs as well as the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and asked them to respond to the PIL filed by Jayashree Wad, an advocate on record in Supreme Court since 1976.

Wad gave a brief background of the litigation relating to "Baby M" surrogacy case of 1986 in New Jersey in the US in which the US Supreme Court quashed the surrogacy agreement though it gave custodial rights to the biological father and his wife. She contended that the UK parliament saw the unethical nature of the agreement and banned commercial surrogacy in 1990.

She said taking advantage of lax laws that allowed foreign couples to import embryo and transplant it in Indian surrogate mothers, there had been rampant commercialization of surrogacy in India which exploited women belonging to poor and lower middle-class strata of society.

"These women who act as surrogate mothers render their services for a fee. In the process of surrogate motherhood, a commercial element is introduced and Indian women are exploited and substantial benefit is derived by doctors, hospitals and institutions involved in it. This amounts to exploitation of women for commercial gains," the petitioner said.

Citing the December 2, 2013 notification by the commerce ministry, the petitioner said it allowed import of embryo as 'goods'. "Human embryo, which is human being in miniature form, cannot be classified either as 'goods' or 'service'. The notification is thus illegal and requires to be quashed," Wad said.

Narrating the possible impact of surrogacy on women who rent their wombs, the PIL said, "Large-scale exploitation of surrogate mothers in India involves the danger of creating a section in Indian society which may suffer mental trauma due to social conditions. Giving birth to a child causes a huge impact on a woman's body and mind due to biological and hormonal changes.

"It is in public interest that this practice be termed as pernicious and a source of introducing physical and mental trauma to women. Doctors, hospitals and institutions should also be prohibited from aiding, supporting or assisting surrogate motherhood."

The PIL cited the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic at Anand and said more and more foreigners were thronging the clinic to get a child through surrogacy at a cheap price. It said, "UN-backed study in 2012 estimated the surrogacy business in India to be more than 400 million pounds a year with over 3,000 fertility clinics."

ICMR's report has identified 1,200 IVF clinics in India out of which 504 function as clinics only and the rest serve as fertility banks. But only 150 were listed with ICMR, the PIL said.


Plea in SC to ban commercial surrogacy

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The Supreme Court today asked a host of central ministries to respond to a plea that said the country had become a "baby factory" and sought judicial intervention to ban commercial surrogacy as it amounted to exploiting Indian womanhood.

The court also asked the commerce ministry to explain under what provisions had it decided to permit import of human embryo, another point the petitioner raised in her PIL.

There is no law in India now that governs surrogacy, which involves carrying a pregnancy for the intended parents.

When the arrangement is for a fee, it becomes a "commercial surrogacy agreement", which the petitioner says should be banned.

"Yes, even some countries like South Korea have banned it. We need to look into the larger issues involved in the petition," Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana said.

The bench asked the ministries of home, law, health, commerce and external affairs to respond within four weeks. It also sought replies from the Medical Council of India and the Indian Council of Medical Research.

In her petition, advocate Jayashree Wad said the country had virtually become a "baby factory" as a large number of foreign couples have been coming to India in search of surrogate mothers.

Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade and advocate Tamali Wad, who appeared for the petitioner, said this has become a business involving doctors, hospitals and other institutions.

"The Indian ladies in question usually come from poor or lower middle class families. These ladies, who act as surrogate mothers, render their services for a fee. Thus, in this whole process of surrogate motherhood, a commercial element is introduced.... This is clearly exploitation of Indian womanhood for commercial gain," Tamali told the court.

The advocate contended that this amounted to a "violation" of Article 21 (right to life and liberty), possibly meaning that every pregnancy had an element of risk.

"Neither Parliament nor any state legislature has prohibited this practice," the lawyer added, requesting the court's urgent intervention and an "authoritative pronouncement" that commercial surrogacy was "contrary" to public policy, "unethical" and, therefore, "ought not to be permitted in this country".

Naphade said to "protect the rights of womanhood", the Centre was "under an obligation" to prohibit the entry of foreign couples or individuals who visit the country for hiring surrogate mothers.

The senior counsel also requested the court to "set aside" a December 2013 notification by the commerce ministry that purportedly allowed import of human embryo under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992, and the Foreign Trade Policy, 2009-2014.

Naphade said foreign trade and customs laws dealt with import of goods and services but human embryos were neither goods nor could be classified as services. So the notification went against the provisions of the trade act and policy. "There is no enactment on the statute book which permits the import of human embryo," the counsel added.

The petition also dealt with what it called the growth of the embryo in the womb. It said foreign couples "import" - directly or through IVF centres - embryo, "which is a human being in miniature form" in the womb of the Indian mother. "This amounts to trafficking in human beings."

It spoke of the possibility of "physical or mental trauma" of surrogacy on those who carry the pregnancy. "In all probability, the Indian society at large would look down upon such women. After all, giving birth to a child even in a nor.


Surrogacy law: Questions & Answers

Q. What will the plan mean for people who are infertile?

A. New laws are planned to regulate the whole area of infertility treatment in Ireland. Growing numbers of women are attending clinics here to help them have a baby.

It's early days, though. The Heads of the Bill have not even been drawn up yet and no legislation will be in place before next year's election.

Q. So what is the point of announcing these proposals?

A. It will lead to consultation with different parties, including doctors, parents and legal experts. It will build up a body of work which will inform the proposed legislation.

Q. What are the plans relating to surrogacy?

A. Health Minister Leo Varadkar said surrogacy will be regulated domestically for the first time.

It will be permitted where the motivation is altruistic, in cases where a sister or friend carries a child for another woman.

A legal agreement can be reached to make the non-birth mother the baby's legal parent.

It will not allow for commercial surrogacy, where the woman carrying the child is paid a fee.

Q. What about the hundreds of Irish women who avail of surrogacy abroad in countries such as India and the USA?

A. The minister said the parents will not be penalised. But if commercial surrogacy is legal in another country there is nothing authorities here can do. The legislation will have to work out how these babies are recognised when they are brought home.

Q. What other areas will it cover?

A. It will oversee embryo donation, the screening of embryos for serious genetic diseases, egg and sperm donation and stem cell research.

Q. Will it make it more difficult for people to get fertility treatment?

A. The clinics in Ireland are well-run already but any area of medicine benefits from having a watchdog.

Embryos can be donated to other couples for research. But embryos cannot be created for research.


Why refuse maternity leave in surrogacy birth? Bombay high court asks

MUMBAI: A 35-year-old Central Railway (CR) employee who had newborn twins through surrogacy last year, has approached the Bombay high court to challenge the refusal of maternity leave by her employer. Accepting that the issue is important and needs to heard, a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice A R Joshi on Tuesday issued notices to the Central Railway and the Centre to respond to the petition and explain its stance within four weeks. "This is a deserving case," observed the bench.

"The rationale behind granting maternity leave is not just for the mother to recuperate after delivery, but also give her time to bond with the child," said the petitioner's advocate Sandeep Shinde. "Even rules concerning adoption have a provision allowing parents to avail maternity and paternity leave after they adopt a child. The railway's refusal in cases of surrogacy births, therefore, is not justified."

Sheela Chablani (name changed) had opted for surrogacy to deliver her biological children. The twins were born in February 2014. She approached CR seeking maternity leave to take care of her children. But the railway authorities rejected her application saying there was no provision of maternity leave in the service rules for women who have had children through surrogacy. She then applied for child care leave. The CR allowed it, but placed a condition that if the railway board does not approve the leave, it would be considered as leave without pay. She has been on child care leave since last February. As the board has not yet approved the leave, she moved the HC and questioned the discriminatory and arbitrary stand of the railways.

In her petition Sheela claimed that the railways' stand was irrational and violated her rights. "The railways' decision to confine maternity leave only to a mother who has delivered a child is discriminatory," said Shinde. The petition cited a Madras high court judgment, where the port trust was directed to grant maternity leave to a woman employee who had had a child through surrogacy.


Surrogacy Agency Pleads Guilty To Ripping Off Would-Be Parents Who Paid for Egg Donations

The owner of a Glendora egg donation and surrogacy company has pled guilty to a federal wire fraud charge and admitted defrauding would-be parents, egg donors and surrogates over the course of more than three years.

Allison Layton, a 38-year-old resident of Star, Idaho, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge George H. Wu.

Layton, who owned and operated Miracles Egg Donation and sometimes used the name Allison Jarvie, lived in Glendora during the course of the scheme.

Between August 2008 and January 2012, would-be parents—who in the surrogacy and egg donation world are known as intended parents—paid thousands of dollars for egg donation and surrogacy services that Miracles promised to coordinate.

Layton took money—often tens of thousands of dollars—from the intended parents, but, instead of putting the funds into escrow accounts to be withdrawn only for certain costs related to the surrogacy or egg donation, Layton used the money for her own personal expenses or to cover unpaid costs related to other clients.

As a result of Layton’s misappropriation of client funds, egg donors, surrogates, attorneys and others often were not paid for all the services they provided and intended parents often did not receive all the services for which they had paid. At least one investor in Miracles also lost money.

When the donors, surrogates and intended parents sought to recover their money and costs, Layton would lull them into believing they would be repaid through false assurances that payments had already been made or would be made soon.

As a result of the fraud scheme, more than 40 victims lost more than $270,000.

As a result of her pleading guilty to wire fraud, Layton faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Layton is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wu on May 28.


HC raps CR for not granting maternity leave to surrogate mother

The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday came down heavily on the Central Railways for not allowing maternity leave to its employee, a surrogate mother.

A division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice AR Joshi was hearing a petition filed by a 36-year-old lady who works as a nurse at a CR-run hospital.

She got married in 2004 and underwent IVF in 2007 on two occasions but lost her baby. In 2012, she was advised to try surrogacy that got over in 33 weeks.

The petitioner applied for maternity leave in January 2014 as she was expected to deliver in the first week of February.

In their reply, the railway authorities asked her if she had sought the permission from them before opting for surrogacy. She replied saying that she can claim maternity leave for surrogacy under the Indian Railways Establishment Board that provides for Child Adoptive Leave. However, she was not granted leave.

On January 29th last year, she delivered twins and again wrote a letter to the medical officer seeking leave under Child Care Leave. The officer forwarded it to the railways but the authorities remained silent on the matter.

The court on Tuesday rapped the Central Railways and asked 'why was the leave refused? If a mother who adopts a baby can get maternity leave of about 180 days then why is there no provision for surrogate mothers? Why should surrogate mothers be left out from maternity care?'

Government pleader Sandeep Shinde for the petitioner said 'the refusal of leave violates the right of the child to develop a bond with the mother.' The petitioner prays for maternity leave on equal footing as provided to mothers who adopt children under Child Care Leave.

The court has sent notice to the Central Railways and directed them to file a reply in four weeks.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can benefits be denied to mums whose babies are born to surrogates? Bombay High Court to decide

Can a woman employee who had a baby through surrogacy be discriminated upon when it comes to granting of maternity benefits? The Bombay high court will decide on the issue after a nurse who was denied maternity leave by the central railway (CR) took up the issue with it. The CR contention was that as per its rules and regulations there was no provision to grant leave to a woman employee who got a baby through surrogacy.

A division bench comprising justices VM Kanade and AR Joshi has issued notices to the Central government and the Railways, asking them to respond in four weeks.

The 36-year old woman, married in 2004, could not conceive for a long period. Her petition states that in 2007 she underwent IVF on two occasions. However, she lost her child in 2008 when she was six months pregnant.

A doctor advised her to try surrogacy in 2012. Accordingly, she and her husband executed an agreement of surrogacy.

On January 27, 2014, when the surrogate completed 33 weeks of pregnancy, the woman applied for maternity leave. The surrogate was to deliver in February.

The Railways turned down her application. The divisional manager also asked her to clarify whether she had sought permission from the Railways before opting for surrogacy.

She replied in March 2014 that she was entitled to maternity leave as per Rule 551(C) of the Indian Railway Establishment Board which provides for 'child adoptive leave'. However, she was not granted surrogate leave.

She informed the Railways on January 29, 2015 that she has been blessed with twins and she should be granted child care leave from June 11, 2014, to June 10, 2015.

Her counsel, Sandeep Shinde, said the medical director informed that her application is sent to the Railways' Board for approval as the Indian Railway Establishment Board Rules were silent on child care leave for surrogate mothers.

However, she can proceed on leave pending approval. In case, her application is rejected then the leave would be considered as 'unpaid' leave.

Shinde argued that a woman who adopts a child is granted maternity leave. "Even fathers are granted paternity leave in adoption cases, then why not to such mothers (who get baby through surrogacy)?" asked Shinde.

Shinde cited a judgment of Madras HC wherein a woman who got child through surrogate mother was granted maternity leave.

Her petition prays that the Railways' letter refusing her leave be quashed and she be granted maternity leave.

The HC will hear the matter on March 24.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A labor of love: Brian Rosenberg ’87 builds an online community for gay fathers

Sometimes it’s hard finding a place to call home. When Brian Rosenberg ’87 couldn’t find a place of his own, he didn’t give up — he built one.

The social activist is co-founder of Gays With Kids, an online community and resource center for gay fathers and other gay men considering parenthood. Established in 2014, the website is one of the first of its kind, aiming to bring together gay individuals from all walks of life in order to share the experience of modern fatherhood, and tackle the tough issues that gay parents face in their day-to-day lives.

“It’s a labor of love. I want every gay dad around the world to feel welcome and represented, regardless of his path to fatherhood or where he lives,” said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg’s passion is drawn from his own experience as a father, a process with inauspicious beginnings. After opening a restaurant in Florida following graduation from Connecticut College, Rosenberg relocated to Boston in 1992. The next year, after coming out as both gay and HIV-positive, he met his future husband and website co-founder, Ferd van Gameren, a graduate student from The Netherlands.

The couple eventually moved to New York City and, several years later, began to explore the possibility of becoming fathers. They settled on the path of adoption, but after an initial plan to adopt fell through, they considered surrogacy. They came across the Bedford Research Lab in Massachusetts, which has conducted research that has made it possible to produce surrogate children with HIV-positive men. They then found a surrogacy agency and fertility clinic to work with alongside Bedford.

Several days after signing a contract with the surrogacy agency, they received an unexpected phone call: A three-day-old baby boy was available for immediate adoption in Brooklyn, N.Y.

While they felt completely unprepared, Rosenberg and van Gameren didn’t hesitate to welcome the little boy, whom they named Levi, into their family. Six months later, the new dads and their son moved to Canada, since van Gameren’s U.S. visa was coming to an end. (The Defense of Marriage Act prevented Rosenberg from sponsoring van Gameren to become a permanent resident of the U.S..)

Seventeen months after Levi’s birth, the couple welcomed twins, Ella and Sadie, through surrogacy.

The couple soon found that the arduous process of becoming fathers was nothing compared to the challenge of raising three children. “But we knew we couldn’t be the only gay dads going through this experience,” he said.

They started Gays With Kids with stories of their own experience, and it has continued to grow. Today, the website has more than 50 bloggers and contributing writers who cover everything from the adoption process to dating tips for single gay fathers, as well as touching personal stories for gay fathers.

“Nobody else was really covering these topics,” Rosenberg said. “It is really important to us to cover what the mainstream and gay press aren’t covering.”

And the website is making a difference. Rosenberg said it’s not often a day goes by when he doesn’t hear from thankful fathers who have found the support they needed from Gays With Kids. Its Facebook page is full of messages and photos from gay fathers around the world. “We are fathers, parents, people who love their children as much as the next father, mother, parent, person … What a beautiful thing you're doing,” reads one such post.

Rosenberg credits his liberal arts education from Connecticut College with his penchant for involvement. In addition to running Gays With Kids, he’s also been a longtime HIV/AIDS awareness activist, volunteering with the Boston-based AIDS Speakers Bureau and formerly working at the Fenway Community Health Center, an organization that provides health care and advocacy to the LGBT community.

“A liberal arts education helps you learn how to be a leader and how to truly value other people," he said. “Those are skills I’ve used throughout my life."


Report: Woman Wants to Birth Dead Daughter's Baby

(NEWSER) – It's not unheard of for a woman to act as a surrogate mother for her own grandchild, but a 59-year-old British woman is reportedly hoping for what may be a world first: becoming a surrogate for her dead daughter, who succumbed to bowel cancer four years ago while still in her 20s, reports the Daily Mail. She's not having any luck in the UK, though, where apparently no clinic is willing to fertilize the woman with her daughter's eggs (she froze three in 2008). The anonymous woman reportedly says it was her daughter's dying wish to have her become a surrogate, but it's not in writing. The mother is now trying to export the eggs to a clinic in New York that has apparently agreed to attempt in vitro fertilization for roughly $90,000, but her request to actually export the eggs out of the country has been denied three times, so the case is going to be heard in the UK's High Court.

While it's technically possible for a post-menopausal woman to become pregnant thanks to hormonal supplementation, reports ABC News, the chances of becoming pregnant are lower and the risks to the older woman's health are greater. The main complications are gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and miscarriage. But it can be done: A woman recounted in the New York Times the story of her 61-year-old mother giving birth to her son in 2011. Still, the unidentified woman in this most recent story says she wants to honor her daughter's wish; if this final legal bid to export the eggs fails, they will be destroyed in 2018, a decade after being frozen. (A 49-year-old woman who gave birth to her own grandson in 2012 said it was like "babysitting for a few months.")


Spiritual confirmation plays important role in fertility choice

She has four beautiful children of her own, but for Kara Ford, a desire to help others enjoy the blessings of parenthood has led her through an amazing journey.

Ford, 31, an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been a gestational surrogate for two couples. Last year she delivered a baby girl for one couple, and is currently carrying twins for Chris and Sarah Tuttle. All are Latter-day Saints as well.

Ford didn't exactly understand surrogacy, but read an article about it just after she had her fourth child. "I woke up in the middle of the night and knew that is what I was suppose to do."

Ford was talking about "gestational surrogacy" -- the fertility process when a couple's combined sperm and egg are fertilized and transferred into a gestational carrier to be an incubator for the baby as it grows to term.

Another form of surrogacy -- where a man's sperm is combined with the surrogate's egg -- is actually not legal in Utah due to the extended legal requirements. With no genetic ties, the intended mother of the baby would need to go through an adoption process.

Ford was grocery shopping soon after her early-morning experience and met a couple there. They started visiting and by the end of the conversation, she had offered to carry their child.

"I prayed about it, and went to the temple," Ford said. "I needed to make sure I was doing the right thing."

She went to her LDS bishop. He went to the handbook. There was one line for guidance: "The church strongly discourages surrogate motherhood."

"[The bishop] told me that he was not going to tell me that I could or couldn't do it," Ford said. "He was leaving it up to me."

Ford went ahead with the pregnancy. Soon a new bishopric was put into place. Her old bishop was now in her Stake Presidency. She was 15 weeks pregnant.

She was called to the stake president's office. He was inclined to not let her have a temple recommend, but took it to higher authorities for direction. The inquiries made it to the First Presidency, Ford said.

"They wanted to make sure they were doing things right," Ford said. "Every situation is so individual."

Ford was doing what she was inspired to do. A few days later she was called to her bishop's office.

"My bishop said, 'We got word back. What you are doing is great, and we have been told to give you your temple recommend,'"Ford said.

It was important for Ford, and her leaders, to hear the First Presidency approve of what she was doing, she said.

"When it's right, I think Heavenly Father wants it," Ford said. "I have received blessings doing it. It's service. It's a miracle."

Ford never thought she would do it again, but then Chris and Sarah Tuttle came into her life. The Tuttle's had been trying various fertility treatments for seven years.

"It was Heavenly Father's plan for us," Sarah said. "I am one of those people who love and respect priesthood leaders, but I believe in personal revelation. We told our bishop what we were doing and he was incredibly supportive."

To read the Tuttle's journey and for more information, photos and stories visit

Not all Christian beliefs are the same when it comes to fertility treatments. The LDS Church's handbook is very limited. The four words most used are, "The church strongly discourages ...

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, John M. Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center said, children are a gift from God. A document known as Donum Vitae addressed the morality of many fertility procedures. It concluded that some methods are moral, while others -- because they do violence to the dignity of the human person and the institution of marriage -- are immoral.

On the official website for the Jehovah Witnesses it said, "The development of the IVF opened the way to other procedures that definitely conflict with God's thinking as reflected in the scriptures. When fertilization involving eggs or sperm (or both) from someone not within the marital union occurs, this amounts to what the Bible terms as sexual immorality."

In visiting protestant websites the consensus is that God's gift of children through science is good, should be used and explored for those unable to have children and is not considered a sin.


Thailand bans foreigner surrogacy

Thailand has passed a law banning foreigners from paying Thai women to be surrogates, after two high-profile cases sparked debate last year.

The legislation also bans the use of agents, or any promotion of women willing to carry babies for others.

Last year the case of a little boy born with Down's syndrome put Thailand's surrogacy industry in the spotlight.

His Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua said his Australian parents abandoned the boy but took his healthy twin sister home.

Under the new law, only married Thai couples or couples with one Thai partner who have been married at least three years can seek surrogacy, and commercial surrogacy is banned.

Anyone caught hiring a surrogate mother faces a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

Agents touting surrogate mothers would also face imprisonment if caught.

Baby factory
The case of the Australian boy - named "baby Gammy" - made headlines around the world after his Australian parents took his healthy twin sister home and left him in Thailand.

He remained with surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua, 21, and was later granted Australian citizenship so he can have access to medical care.

Concern about the industry worsened when a Japanese man was found to have fathered more than a dozen babies by different Thai surrogates, a case later dubbed "the baby factory".

Commercial surrogacy was supposedly banned by Thailand's Medical Council in 1997.

Nevertheless a booming surrogacy industry has sprung up, attracting many foreigners.

According to Families Through Surrogacy, an international non-profit surrogacy organisation, the UK has the highest number of people in Europe seeking surrogacy overseas and the second-highest globally after Australia.

The organisation estimates that hundreds of UK residents travelled abroad in 2014 to Thailand and the US - the two most common surrogacy destinations.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said last year that up to 150 Australian couples were expecting a child by a Thai surrogate mother in 2015.

Families Through Surrogacy estimates that parents travelling to Thailand pay approximately 1.7 million Thai Baht ($US52,000), comparable to estimated costs in the US, Mexico and India.

Lawmaker Wanlop Tangkananurak said the law - which was first read in parliament in November - aimed to prevent Thailand from being "the womb of the world".


Professionalise surrogacy, say New Zealand academics

Two New Zealand academics have proposed that surrogacy become a profession like nursing or teaching which is fully integrated into the health system. Writing in the journal Bioethics, Ruth Walker  and Liezl van Zyl, of the University of Waikato, contend that both commercial and altruistic surrogacy have so many potential moral, legal and emotional complications that a complete change in the framework is needed.

Their discussion centres on decisions about whether to abort a surrogate mother’s foetus if there is a substantial abnornamlity. It would be unethical for commissioning parents to request abortion for a minor abnormality like a cleft palate, but in cases of severe abnormality, “abortion would be the morally responsible thing to do”.

Often, however, the intending parents and the surrogate mother quarrel over the fate of the baby. In a commercial model, parents often demand that the baby be aborted, which treats the surrogate as a mere vessel and denies her right to bodily  integrity. In an altruistic model, the intending parents can just walk away if there are problems, leaving the mother with the baby or the decision whether to abort.

What the authors proposed is the creation of a professional cadre of registered surrogates working within a government instrumentality, with set fees and civil servants who can support the mother and parents if there are difficulties. “The professional model emphasizes the ethical dimension of surrogacy,” they believe.

“ … payment should not be tied to the delivery of a healthy infant. Although many critics of commercial surrogacy claim that it is the payment itself that is pernicious, we argue that the flaw lies in the way payment is managed. For example, in cases where the surrogate agrees to an abortion she should still receive full payment so that she is not penalized for doing the right thing. The intended parents are not buying a baby but (committed) service, which may include an abortion. Her financial situation should not be a factor in her decision whether to have an abortion.

"Further, in the professional model the intended parents would be the legal parents from the moment the baby is born. This ensures certainty for both parties, and best serves the needs and interests of the child. The intended parents should not be able to abandon the baby any more than the surrogate should be able to withhold it from them."


Surrogancy Fraud: Surrogacy Agency Pleads Guilty to Ripping Off Would-Be Parents

LOS ANGELES – The owner of a Glendora egg donation and surrogacy company pleaded guilty late this afternoon to a federal wire fraud charge and admitted defrauding would-be parents, egg donors and surrogates over the course of more than three years.

Allison Layton, a 38-year-old resident of Star, Idaho, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge George H. Wu.

Layton, who owned and operated Miracles Egg Donation and sometimes used the name Allison Jarvie, lived in Glendora during the course of the scheme.

Between August 2008 and January 2012, would-be parents – who in the surrogacy and egg donation world are known as intended parents – paid thousands of dollars for egg donation and surrogacy services that Miracles promised to coordinate. Layton took money – often tens of thousands of dollars – from the intended parents, but, instead of putting the funds into escrow accounts to be withdrawn only for certain costs related to the surrogacy or egg donation, Layton used the money for her own personal expenses or to cover unpaid costs related to other clients.

As a result of Layton’s misappropriation of client funds, egg donors, surrogates, attorneys and others often were not paid for all the services they provided and intended parents often did not receive all the services for which they had paid. At least one investor in Miracles also lost money.

When the donors, surrogates and intended parents sought to recover their money and costs, Layton would lull them into believing they would be repaid through false assurances that payments had already been made or would be made soon.

As a result of the fraud scheme, more than 40 victims lost more than $270,000.

As a result of her pleading guilty to wire fraud, Layton faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Layton is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wu on May 28.

The investigation into Layton was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Give Me a Crash Course in . . . new family laws

What’s new to know about the Irish family? It’s changing, and the Government believes the law needs to reflect this. One child in three is born outside marriage. There are 186,000 single mothers and their children; 29,000 lone fathers and their children; and 60,000 cohabiting couples and their children. There are families with two mothers or two fathers. And that’s before we consider the permutations made possible by modern donor-assisted reproductive technology, including surrogacy and, soon, “three parent” families.

Why do we need a law for this? Existing rules about parentage, guardianship, custody and access are looking a bit threadbare given the changes mentioned above. Unmarried partners in particular have suffered a lack of legal rights in certain circumstances, such as relationship breakdown. Few would argue with giving grandparents greater access to children when this happens, and anything that reduces the need for expensive court applications for guardianship is also welcome. Although this is the first piece of legislation in this area for decade, it’s important to realise it isn’t the first time the State has “re-engineered” the family. Adoption law, for example, assigns parentage to an adoptive mother, despite the lack of a genetic link. The same question arises now in relation to surrogacy.

What has the Bill to say about surrogacy? A surrogacy arrangement is where a woman carries a pregnancy for intended parents. The resulting child may be genetically related to the surrogate (where she has been impregnated) or not (where IVF is used to create an embryo). Also, it can be commercial (the surrogate gets paid for her nine months of carrying) or altruistic. Laws to do with surrogacy vary hugely — some countries ban all forms, others ban commercial arrangements, and others still permit it. They also differ on who is regarded as the mother of a child born through surrogacy – the “birth” mother or the “commissioning” mother. In Ireland it looks as if only noncommercial surrogacy where the child has a genetic link to the surrogate will be permitted.

At least they’re moving fast on that. I hear the Children and Family Relationships Bill will be law by the end of next month Actually, they’ve hived off the surrogacy provisions to another Bill, which hasn’t even been drafted yet and is unlikely to make it through the Oireachtas in the current term. No one has said so explicitly, but it may have been felt that controversy about surrogacy could colour the debate on same-sex marriage. That referendum is due later in the spring, and there is a bit of a press on to get the rest of the legislation out of the way before then.

Why so? The Government is worried that the referendum could be defeated or that it could provoke a divisive debate. The present Bill tidies up one outstanding issue by providing for adoption by same-sex couples. Once it is passed, Ministers want to be able to say the child-protection issues have been dealt with and to conduct the referendum debate on the equality issue.

What are they worried about? Isn’t everyone in favour of these changes? It isn’t quite so simple. First, there’s a lot in the Bill, and although some measures might enjoy widespread acceptance, other mightn’t. Second, the debate hasn’t really got under way and public opinion hasn’t been tested. Third, a number of groups have expressed opposition, on the basis that a child has a right to a mother and a father rather than some other permutation that the Bill proposes to recognise.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Thailand bans surrogacy for foreigners in bid to end 'rent-a-womb' tourism

Thailand's interim parliament has passed a law that bans foreigners from seeking surrogacy services to end a "rent-a-womb" industry that made the Southeast Asian country a top destination for fertility tourism.

Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals last year, including allegations that an Australian couple had abandoned their Down Syndrome baby with his Thai birth mother taking only his healthy twin sister back to Australia with them.

Another case involved a Japanese man who fathered at least at least 16 babies using Thai surrogates in what local Thai media called the "baby factory".

Thailand gave preliminary approval in August for a draft law to make commercial surrogacy a crime. The draft passed its first reading in November and became law on Thursday.

"This law aims to stop Thai women's wombs from becoming the world's womb. This law bans foreign couples from coming to Thailand to seek commercial surrogacy services," Wanlop Tankananurak, a member of Thailand's National Legislative Assembly, told Reuters.

The law bans foreign couples from seeking surrogacy services and stipulates that surrogate mothers must be Thai and over 25.

"The important part is if the couple seeking surrogacy services is Thai or the couple is mixed-race, they can find a Thai woman to be their surrogate providing she is over 25," he said, adding that violation of the law carries a "severe prison sentence".

Critics say making commercial surrogacy illegal could push the industry underground, making it harder for patients to access quality physicians and medical care.

Thailand's junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, disbanded the upper house Senate following a May coup and placed all law-making authority in the hands of an interim parliament hand-picked by the military rulers.


Star woman pleads guilty to California surrogacy services fraud

A Star woman who owns a Glendora, Calif., egg donation and surrogacy company pleaded guilty late Thursday afternoon to a federal wire fraud charge and admitted defrauding would-be parents, egg donors and surrogates over the course of more than three years, Idaho’s U.S. Attorney’s Office reports.

Allison Layton, 38, who lived in the San Gabriel Valley during the course of the scheme, owned and operated Miracles Egg Donation and sometimes used the name Allison Jarvie, according to a Thursday evening news release.

Layton faces up to 20 years in federal prison when she is sentenced in California on May 28.

Between August 2008 and January 2012, would-be parents paid thousands of dollars for egg donation and surrogacy services that Miracles promised to coordinate. Layton took money – often tens of thousands of dollars – from the intended parents. But, instead of putting the funds into escrow accounts to be withdrawn only for certain costs related to the surrogacy or egg donation, she used the money for her own personal expenses or to cover unpaid costs related to other clients, according to the news release.

As a result, more than 40 victims lost more than $270,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports. Egg donors, surrogates, attorneys and others often were not paid for all the services they provided and intended parents often did not receive all the services for which they had paid. At least one investor in Miracles also lost money, the news release said.

The investigation into Layton was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The horrors of surrogacy get barely a whisper in Victory Gardens' lightweight Samsara

India's unregulated, billion-dollar child surrogacy business is booming. The country has some 1,200 assisted reproductive technology clinics, which lure perhaps 100,000 women to rent their wombs to foreigners. As the standard marketing pitch goes, the fees these impoverished women earn can change their lives. But often they're cheated out of money they're promised, then denied medical care for postpartum complications. Hoping for a way out of poverty, they often end up more hopelessly mired in it.

The exploitative horrors of the Indian surrogacy trade get barely a whisper in Lauren Yee's snappy, lightweight new comedy Samsara, given a relentlessly entertaining premiere under Seth Bockley's direction. But Yee spends a lot of time concerned about whether using an Indian surrogate can heal the troubled marriage of likable Americans.

Craig and Katie, the childless couple at the center of this tenuous comedy, pay an Indian surrogacy agency $20,000, about a third of which goes to surrogate Suraiya. She has a mean aunt, a dream of becoming a doctor, and little else worth Yee's attention. When she's almost ready to deliver, Craig flies to India alone, whimpering that he'll miss Katie terribly. Given what Suraiya's likely going through, it should be cause for minor friction.

Yet by the climax of these 90 blinkered minutes, it's become the defining crisis of the play (by contrast, Suraiya's fate after her disastrous delivery gets hardly a mention). For Craig, Katie's unwillingness to "really be here" is a mammoth transgression, and Yee treats Katie's absence as emblematic of some deep dysfunction both individual and sociological (even though Yee provides ample justification for Katie's decision: the couple's financial straits and Katie's well-justified terror of flying).

So why does Katie's absence become a crisis? For the same reason most every crisis arises in this play: because it's convenient for the playwright. When it's time for a bit of trouble—Katie confronting Craig's inadequacy as a husband, Craig freaking out about the reality of surrogacy, Suraiya questioning her role—Yee injects it without context or development. And just as quickly, it can vanish: one moment Craig can't face Suraiya, the next he wants to take her out on the town. Certainly human behavior can be contradictory, but Yee can't create a suitably complex reality to make human behavior credible.

That's largely because, like so many contemporary playwrights, she places fantasy, whimsy, and self-conscious theatricality above fundamental cogency—or political reality. She gives Katie an imaginary Frenchman sidekick who encourages her to unleash her passions, and she turns Suraiya's fetus into an impetuous, wisely naive child who begs Suraiya to let him never be born. It's cute and occasionally poignant, but it rarely illuminates anything surprising or insightful. And its assault on internal logic is decisive.

Worse, all the whimsy obscures the distressing political and cultural issues surrounding the Indian surrogacy business. While obvious, finger-pointing moments of racism and cultural imperialism arise, the play's final image makes clear what really matters: Craig and Katie are going to be OK.


New law will make it illegal to pay for surrogate mothers

SURROGACY FOR MONEY will be illegal under new proposals that will be drafted by the Minister for Health.

Speaking on Claire Byrne Live last night, Minister Leo Varadkar said that, while surrogacy is not currently illegal, “there is no legal framework for it” and laws are needed.

“Among the proposals that I will be putting forward is that we will ban commercial surrogacy, which is surrogacy for money,” he said.

That we won’t allow what’s called “sex selection”, choosing the gender of your child, unless there’s a particular reason to do so around a disorder that is inherited only by a particular gender. We’re going to say that you have to have a genetic link to the child if you’re going to use surrogacy.

The minister also said that he hopes the the legislation will not allow anonymous egg and sperm donation adding that there will be “a register of donor conceived children so people will know who their biological parents are”.

Laws surrounding surrogacy were originally drafted as part of the Children and Family Relationships Bill but the minster said it made more sense for them to be part of a bill governing assisted human reproduction.

The Children and Family Relationships Bill covers a wide range of different parental rights around issues such as guardianship and adoption. It is due to be presented to cabinet this week by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Supreme court
The debate surrounding surrogacy has gained extra impetus after the Supreme Court ruled last year that only the birth mother can appear as the legal mother of a child. While issuing the ruling, the Supreme Court was critical of the lack of legislation around surrogacy.

Speaking on the same show, columnist and Iona Institute director David Quinn said that the case demonstrated to him that surrogacy shouldn’t be allowed:

“Because of issues like this, a lot of European countries actually ban surrogacy completely both commercial and non-commercial. The non-commercial form by the way still involves payments of £12,000-£15,000 in England for example by the mother and it nearly always invariably women from poorer backgrounds who give the use of their wombs for use like that.”

Varadkar also acknowledged concerns that all of the the above issues will become mixed up with the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum.

“The Children and Family Relationship Bill, and the bill on Assisted Human Reproduction and Surrogacy isn’t about gay people or lesbian people, it’s about children in the main and all people. And most of the people who avail of assisted human reproduction or surrogacy, or most of the people who are in the family courts, are actually heterosexual couples. So to try and turn that into some sort of same-sex or gay issue I think is wrong.”

A fertility specialist at the Beacon CARE clinic,  Professor Simon Fishel, welcomed clarity was being brought to a legally murky area, and said the developments were unlikely to impact on the majority of Irish patients.

“In other markets, the banning of anonymous sperm donation caused an increase in cost and waiting times for patients due to a major decrease in donor sperm supply,” he said in a statement released today.

However almost all of donor sperm used in Ireland is imported from abroad and we have always given our patients the option of choosing identity release donors, so the new regulations are unlikely to impact the majority of Irish patients.

Fishel said it may result in an increase in the number of Irish people who want to use anonymous donor sperm travelling abroad.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

'Designer babies' ban in overhaul of laws on reproduction

Parents won’t be able to pick the sex of their babies under new laws governing assisted reproduction.

And a birth mother will not automatically be the legal parent of a child born through surrogacy.

The complicated area of assisted human reproduction, surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) will be addressed for the first time.

The new law will regulate these areas, which are currently not governed by legislation. The law is being passed ahead of the same-sex marriage referendum in May, as part of a package aimed at dealing with complex family law issues.

The new law will ban parents using assisted reproduction from picking the sex of their child during implantation – known as ‘designer babies’ – unless there is a specific genetic reason for not wanting a boy or girl.

The legal parentage of babies born to surrogate mothers will also be addressed in the wake of a complex case which came before the Supreme Court and High Court last year. The case concerned twins carried by a woman on behalf of her sister and partner and using their genetic material.

The couple sought the right to register the genetic mother on their children’s birth certificates.

The Registrar of Births refused to register the genetic mother because she was not the birth mother, and said the surrogate must be registered as the legal mother.

Genetic and blood links will be the decisive factor in determining who is  the legal parent.

Rather than the surrogate or birth mother, the legal parents will be the genetic mother, who provides the egg, and the father, who provides the sperm.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar will seek approval to draft a general outline of the Bill for Assisted Human Reproduction and Stem Cell Research.

The Supreme Court castigated the Government and the Oireachtas for leaving a gap in the law on surrogacy.


OMG: Priyanka Chopra says she might have a baby this year!

Priyanka Chopra sure knows how to create waves. In a recent interview to a magazine when she was asked if she ever thought of taking a planned sabbatical, the actress, who is currently in Boston for her show, said, “I could take a sabbatical or ease up when I have kids.” When quizzed if she was thinking that far ahead, she laughed, “Why does that have to be far? What if I have a baby this year? You never know.”

She further added, “My life is what I feel at the moment and at that particular time. I am at a juncture in my career where fortunately I work out my own schedules. I do what I want.”

Given the fact that the actress is busy for the next few years, she probably meant she would have a surrogate baby. Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have had babies through surrogacy. In Hollywood several celebrities have had babies through surrogacy. Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, Elton John, Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, and How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris and partner David Burtka — dads to four-year-old twins.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Surrogacy legislation to be discussed by Cabinet

The State’s first set of proposed laws to deal with surrogacy are expected to be considered by Cabinet today.

At least one of those involved in a surrogacy arrangement would have to be a genetic parent under the proposals to be brought to Government by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

The proposals are designed to reform the law in accordance with recent Supreme Court decisions and will cover the transfer of parentage from a surrogate to an “intending” parent, according to sources.

This is one of the provisions in the draft heads of a Bill on Surrogacy, Assisted Human Reproduction and Associated Research drawn up by Mr Varadkar’s officials.

The proposed legislation, which would for the first time provide regulation in an ethically sensitive and rapidly changing area of medicine, is designed to bring to an end the existing legal vacuum.

The Bill, which Department of Health officials have been drafting over the past year, will set out proposals to regulate or limit practices in the areas of surrogacy, embryo donation, sperm and egg (gamete) donation as well as areas of associated research.

Children’s welfare
The legislation aims to safeguard the welfare, safety and best interests of children, bring certainty to the area for potential parents and provide guidance on what is permitted in terms of research.

The programme for government contains a commitment to legislate to “clarify the law surrounding assisted human reproduction, including the law relating to parental relationships arising from assisted human reproduction”.

It was originally intended that surrogacy arrangements would be dealt with in the Child and Family Relationships Bill being developed by the Department of Justice. However, after the resignation of former minister for justice Alan Shatter, his successor Frances Fitzgerald announced the provisions on surrogacy would no longer be included in that Bill.


Surrogacy bill to ban anonymous donations

The Minister for Health has outlined his plans for new legislation on surrogacy, including a prohibition on anonymous egg and sperm donations.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live, Leo Varadkar said: "Among the proposals that I will be putting forward is that we will ban commercial surrogacy, which is surrogacy for money.

He added that the proposals "won't allow what's called 'sex selection', choosing the gender of your child, unless there's a particular reason to do so around a disorder that is inherited only by a particular gender.

"We're going to say that you have to have a genetic link to the child if you're going to use surrogacy."

Mr Varadkar said: "Obviously we're going to require consent, that anyone who is involved in this in any way has to give consent. There will be a regulator.

"And we'll also say that in most cases you can only implant one embryo, because we don't like this practice of people implanting three and four and five."


Best friend becomes surrogate for cancer survivor’s baby

EDMONTON – When Shannon Webb was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29, it meant surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation – but not before freezing some embryos.

“(The doctors) said, before I went through all my treatments, ‘You should think about freezing your embryos. Because after breast cancer treatments, you don’t know if you can still have kids’,” Shannon tells Global News.

In late 2011, Shannon and her husband Jeremy froze ten embryos at the Edmonton Fertility Clinic. Then Shannon endured a year of treatments, but still needed more medication that made pregnancy too risky. That’s when her best friend of 20 years, Barbara Gitzel, offered to carry one of those embryos for her.

“I’ve always wanted to be able to communicate (to Shannon), ‘You mean a lot to me, the things that you’ve gone through’,” explains Barbara.

“I just want to be able to bless you, and be able to help you.”
“It’s just overwhelming,” says Shannon.

“My heart is just overflowing. Like, what a special friend to do that for us. It was very special.”
With her own husband’s blessing, Barbara started hormone therapy. It took two attempts at implantation at a fertility clinic in Calgary before the pregnancy test was positive. Barbara sent a photo of the test stick to Shannon.

“I got a text on my phone and I showed Jeremy the pregnancy test that was positive,” Shannon laughs. “And he said, ‘Oh the little Sticker stuck!'”

From then on, the fetus was known as Sticker. Barbara explained to her own two children, Jonas (5) and Miles (7), that she was having Auntie Shannon’s baby for her. Some friends warned Barbara that surrogacy might be harder than she expected.

“You know, ‘You’re gonna have this baby and you’re gonna have to give her up’,” says Barbara. “(But) I think from the very beginning, she was never our baby. She was always Jeremy and Shannon’s baby.”

Both families joked that the surrogacy was Extreme Babysitting. Barbara included Shannon in every aspect of her pregnancy – from maternity shopping, to doctor’s appointments, to the actual delivery. On November 11, 2014, Shannon drove her best friend to the hospital, then helped deliver her own baby girl.

“I caught (the baby’s) head coming out, and I could see her red hair, and Jeremy and I were laughing, crying… hysterical,” Shannon recalls.

Adds Jeremy,

“We were just losing it, the doctors were losing it, the nurses were crying. Everyone was so happy.”
Baby Élodie Elaine Webb weighed nine pounds, four ounces. She was bigger than Barbara’s previous babies, but arrived just as quickly – after less than three hours of labour. Barbara says watching her friends’ faces as they held Élodie was her reward.

“I just wanted to be able to let them experience it. Because being a parent is awesome, and I just wanted them to be able to do that too.”

Shannon and Jeremy describe Barbara’s gift as ‘overwhelming’.

“We did go through a really hard time and to just give us this gift that we couldn’t have had without her, it was very special,” says Shannon. “This little baby has so many people to love her. She’s just so lucky… We’re just so lucky.”


Monday, February 16, 2015

Surrogates should be applauded, not questioned on their motives

Many Canadians are aware that it is illegal in Canada to pay a surrogate for her services (they may be unaware, however, of just how severe the penalty is – up to 10 years in jail and/or a $500,000 fine!). But what seems to confuse people is the motivation involved. The question I am asked most frequently about surrogacy in Canada is this: Why would a woman take on this risk, this burden, without financial incentive? Put differently, take away the potential for payment, and why would anyone choose to do this?

The more surrogacies I am involved with, the more I know this to be true: Surrogacy in Canada is simply about people helping people. Women who choose to be surrogates recognize there is inherent value in helping others, in doing something meaningful that could not happen otherwise.

As a surrogacy lawyer, I have had the opportunity to work with, and be impressed by, women from across the country who have decided to act as a gestational carrier for someone else. One of my clients (who has been a surrogate a couple of times now) is the wife of a pastor who homeschools her five children and believes that God has given her the resources and the opportunity to help an infertile couple have children. Another is a veterinarian who was so touched by her friend’s struggle to have children that she offered to help with her own body. I am frequently told by women who choose to act as surrogates that they feel what they are doing is valuable and worthwhile; they are proud of their act of generosity.

We don’t question why a family would take in a foster child, even though we recognize the difficulties and sacrifices involved. We don’t question why an individual would be willing to donate bone marrow, despite the pain and the risks. Rather, we applaud those rare, selfless individuals who are willing to step up and help.

So, too, we ought to applaud the women (and their families) who offer to carry someone else’s child. By asking why someone would choose to do this, and expressing disbelief at this choice, we sully something beautiful.

You might wonder if ethical surrogacy, done for “the right reasons,” happens only because commercialization is prohibited. I cannot say for certain that this is the case. There is some evidence (both anecdotal and academic) that even where surrogacy is commercialized in Western countries, the reason why someone chooses to be a surrogate continues to have very little to do with money.

I am not certain that the typical profile of a woman who chooses to act as a surrogate in California, for example, where commercialized surrogacy is legal, is all that different from the profile of a Canadian surrogate where only altruistic surrogacy is permitted. Both in Canada and in jurisdictions within the U.S. where commercialized surrogacy is permitted, surrogates tend to be white women about 30 years old (give or take five or so years) who are not on social assistance and have varying degrees of higher education.

As University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby co-wrote in an academic paper: “Contrary to popular beliefs about money as the prime motive, surrogate mothers overwhelmingly report that they choose to bear children for others primarily out of altruistic concerns. Although financial reasons may be present, only a handful of women mentioned money as their main motivator.”

Also significant are the consistent findings of academics that Western women who engage in surrogacy (commercial or altruistic) are satisfied, and that surrogacy is an overwhelmingly positive experience for the surrogate, the intended parents and even the surrogate’s children.

Surrogacy is a generous, admirable act, whether altruistic or commercialized. We should remember to honour it as such.


Shatter calls for surrogacy to be dealt with in new Bill

Former minister feels adequate time must be allowed for debate on Child and Family Relationships Bill

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter said the Government needs to reconsider the lack of reference to surrogacy in the Child and Family Relationships Bill.

Speaking on the Saturday with Claire Byrne radio programme on RTÉ Radio One, Mr Shatter said while he was pleased the Bill was going to be brought before Cabinet next week he felt it was important that it be given adequate time for debate in the Oireachtas.

The Child and Family Relationships Bill seeks to address, among other issues, guardianship rights in relation to unmarried couples, grandparents and same-sex couples. It also contains provisions on assisted reproduction rights.

Mr Shatter said he did not believe there was any issue with the constitutionality of the Bill, though he would have wanted a fuller version published earlier.

Mr Shatter also expressed concern that the Government may fail to pass the forthcoming same-sex marriage referendum, by holding the referendum so close to the passing of the Child and Family Relationships Bill. He believes that this may cause the two issues to be linked.

Ben Conroy from the Íona Institute said in response that as the same-sex marriage referendum seeks to change the status of the mother and the father, and consequently the family, in Irish law, bringing the Child and Family Relationships Bill into the marriage debate was not “muddying the waters”.

Also speaking on the programme, Bishop Kevin Doran said the church’s position when it comes to raising children would be that preference should be given to a male-female relationship, as this was the optimum environment for raising a child. The bishop said he wasn’t sure how, for example, two men could provide a necessary female influence for their daughter.

Independent Róisín Shortall said that the Child and Family Relationships Bill isn’t going to distinguish between civil partnership and same-sex marriages when it comes to gay adoption, so the Bill isn’t of direct relevance to the marriage debate.

Ms Shortall also said that fundamental issues exist in terms of people’s rights to know the identity of their parents, and that the Bill lacks provisions that would regulate assisted reproduction and surrogacy in a way that puts the child first. Ms Shortall said that this was a legal issue, not a health issue.

Mr Shatter said that he believes there is no reason why the issue of surrogacy should have been taken out of the Bill, as the clarification of rights is needed.

Sources :

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine Day

On occasion of Valentine Day SI will be closed on 14th February 2015. Happy Valentine Day to All

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Ultra orthodox in the community are debating if scriptures allow renting of a non-Parsi womb.

Parsis are considering the option of surrogacy under the government funded Jiyo Parsi scheme to boost the community's dwindling population. While a high priest who was consulted on the idea has given a conditional nod stating that the egg and the sperm has to be of the Parsi couple, the ultra orthodox in the community are debating over the rightness of renting a womb.

Under the Jiyo Parsi scheme, central government has offered funding of Rs 10 crores for a span of four years for Parsi couples to undergo infertility treatment like Invitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Artificial Insemination (AI). If all goes well, the scheme will soon fund surrogacy costs of up to Rs 5 lakh per couple. "The matter is under examination by the law ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research. I would not like to comment further on this," said Dr Shernaz Cama, director of Parzor, a project to preserve Parsi Zoroastrian heritage that implements the 'Jiyo Parsi' scheme on behalf of the centre. Last week, Cama and Bombay Parsi Punchayet chairman Dinshaw Mehta met Arvind Mayaram, secretary, Ministry of Minority Affairs to discuss the practicalities of funding surrogacy under the scheme. "To start with, a law officer was called to clarify if surrogacy is legal. It turns out that there are no laws to govern surrogacy yet but it is not illegal in the country. We are just waiting for the law officer to give us in writing that there is no law against surrogacy," said Mehta adding that the minister has said that surrogacy procedure will be funded for up to Rs 5 lakhs and the extra expenditure will have to be borne by the couple or they can approach some trusts for help.

According to Mehta, high priest Khurshed Dastur was consulted and he had given a nod too. "Surrogacy is fairly new and we don't have any religious texts on this topic. I don't see any problem as far as the sperm and the egg belongs to the Parsi couple seeking help for having children," Dastur told Mumbai Mirror adding that the matter was discussed briefly. "There are several factors that come along with surrogacy and they should be discussed at length," he added.

A community member who did not wish to be named said that there are several people who will not be comfortable with the idea of renting a womb of a non-Parsi. "The best way to implement this would be to have a mandate that everything should be Parsi. The egg, the sperm and the womb too," said the member adding that several poor Parsi women in rural parts of Gujarat would be monetarily benefited by such an initiative.

A priest from Mumbai, Ervad Marzban Hathiram, who is known for his orthodox views, is completely against the idea of surrogacy. "Our religious scriptures talk about development of foetus in the mother's womb and it talks about the process of nurturing the foetus by the mother. Is it not against the religion if the foetus is in somebody else's womb?" said Hathiram adding that the nourishment to the foetus is derived from the mother and thus the womb matters a lot. Hathiram said that act of procreation is a holy act and it shouldn't be brought down to petri dishes and rented wombs. "I would be against this even if the egg, sperm and the womb is of a Parsi," he added.

IVF expert Dr Anahita Pundole who is attached to Jiyo Parsi said that a surrogate is simply a carrier for the baby. "If approved, surrogacy is a good idea," she said.



Changes in Indian government attitudes to foreigners undertaking surrogacy in recent years has meant that surrogacy is no longer available to Queenslanders there.

In 2012, India said for the first time that only heterosexual married couples could access surrogacy there. The couples also had to get a letter from the Australian government to say that undertaking surrogacy in Australia was legal, and that they could bring the babies home.

Some Queensland couples took advantage of those letters, until late 2014. The Indian government then said that it would not accept any surrogacies involving Australians, due to stories concerning an Aussie couple 6 years ago, who had twins in India, and decided to only take one, because they did not like the gender of the other.

The Indian government is now looking at allowing Aussie married couples having surrogacy there- if they are from anywhere other than Queensland, NSW or the ACT. The Indian government now requires any Queenslanders to have two letters: one from the Australian government, saying that they can bring the babies home, and one from the Queensland government saying that it is legal to do commercial surrogacy in Queensland.

The requirement for the latter is Kafkaesque- because to get the Queensland government to write the letter is contrary to Queensland law- so it will never, ever be produced.

Hundreds of Queenslanders have undertaken surrogacy in India, even though it is illegal in Queensland to engage in commercial surrogacy overseas, punishable by up to 3 years in jail. No one has been prosecuted for breaching the laws, leading to calls by Australia’s two family law chiefs to either start prosecuting people for the breaches, or get rid of the laws. The judges have also called for a national inquiry into the feasibility of compensated surrogacy in Australia, a call that the Abbott government has resisted.

Stephen Page is one of Australia’s foremost legal experts on surrogacy and represents Harrrington Family Lawyers.


My long road to fatherhood as a single, gay man

I’ve always wanted kids. I even thought about getting married to a woman to have them, but being a gay man, I didn’t think that was the right thing to do. But it was torture – I would go to the mall and see parents with their kids, especially fathers, and imagine that being me one day.

I approached female friends who I thought would be good candidates to have a child for me, but when it came down to it, it wouldn’t have worked. They wanted to be the ones to raise the child, and I figured if I were to have a child, I would want to be with that child every day. I wouldn’t want to feel like a visitor in my child’s life.

I also considered adoption. But there seemed to be a lot of red tape, a lot of stress and a lot of going back and forth.

One day, I was chatting online with an acquaintance who mentioned he had just come back from India with his twin boys.

I said, “What do you mean you just came back from India with twin boys? Did you adopt?” He says, “Oh no, they’re mine.” So he introduced me to surrogacy and explained the process. That was in November, 2010.

I got the ball rolling right away. I went to a clinic here in Toronto to get screened and tested for diseases and for a sperm count, and I contacted the fertility clinic in Mumbai.

By December, 2010, I was on my way to India. All this happened really quickly. I thought, “I’m getting old, and I’ve been wanting a child for so long, it’s now or never.” Once there, you have to do further screening and give sperm samples.

In a case like mine, there were two mothers involved. There was the genetic mother who would donate the egg. And then there was the surrogate mother, who would carry the baby. I didn’t get to choose the surrogate mother. The clinic does that through extensive screening. She must have had at least one child before and no miscarriages and no problems carrying the baby.

You don’t get to meet either of the mothers in person. But I got 12 profiles of potential egg donors with a nice picture of them, their education and any heritable diseases. And you choose from that.

To me, age was important in an egg donor. I thought, “I’m old already, I might as well have a young mother for my son.” So my criteria was beauty and age, and no diseases. The donor I chose was 21 and had also never had children before. Mine would actually be her first child. I was told she got married soon after.

I was lucky the fertilization happened on the first trial. By then, I was already back in Toronto. I didn’t have to be there during the pregnancy, but I got regular updates, every two weeks, with ultrasound images and detailed reports. In fact, I was supposed to have twins, but one of them didn’t survive after six weeks. That was a little bit heartbreaking. I felt on edge every day for the first three months of the pregnancy.

The one thing I was never told was the sex of the child because in Asian countries, they always favour boys over girls, for whatever reason. But I didn’t really want to know anyway. Slowly, I started telling my family and friends.

I left for India mid-September, 2011, the week before the intended delivery, but he didn’t arrive until the 26th. I was the first one, after the doctor, to hold him. I don’t know if I can describe the feeling, but it just felt like, “Is this real? Has this really happened?”

The name I chose, Roshan, means “light” in a few languages: Hindi, Arabic, Kurdish and Persian. I knew my child was going to be the light of my life.

For the first few days, you actually stay in the hospital with the child, so they can observe him and make sure nothing is wrong. We then stayed in Mumbai for five more weeks, going back and forth between the hospital and a hotel where I was staying within walking distance. My sister-in-law had come with me to help, and I got minute-by-minute training on how to care for a newborn.

For Canadians having a child outside Canada, you can bring the child back as a Canadian citizen if you have the genetic testing and everything is okay. That wasn’t so difficult. I did my own genetic testing here in Canada and I did his DNA testing over there. Once it’s a match, and you submit all the paperwork and pay the fees, you get a temporary passport to bring the child back. However, it’s not so easy to get the Indian government to issue a release visa for the child. The Indian government has since clamped down on foreigners hiring surrogates.

If I included all the costs, the airfare, testing and everything, the total was somewhere between $55,000 and $60,000. Here in Canada, even though you don’t pay surrogates, it probably would have cost well over $100,000. Nevertheless, I did take out a loan to have him.

That was my biggest dream – to have a child. And when it happened, I felt as though I was still dreaming. Sometimes even now, the reality still hasn’t set in. There’s no greater gift that you can have in life.