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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Parents of Tasmania's first surrogate baby call for more support to navigate the system

A Devonport couple has become the first in Tasmania to use a surrogate to have a baby, but it is a dream that remains out of reach for many.

Two and a half years since altruistic surrogacy was legalised in Tasmania, Holly Gleeson and her partner are the only couple to navigate the complex legal framework to enable their first child to be born.

"I knew from a really young age that I wouldn't be able to carry my own baby and I always wanted a baby so it was our only option," Ms Gleeson said.

"She's genetically our child so we did the normal IVF procedure and just implanted the embryo into the surrogate instead of into myself and then once she was born we had to go through court to transfer all the parental rights and we've just completed that process."

None of Ms Gleeson's sisters met the criteria to be a surrogate so a family friend offered.

Under Tasmania's legislation the woman must be at least 25 years old and have already given birth.

A contract is entered into by both parties preventing money changing hands except to cover the medical expenses.

Both couples must also undergo specialised counselling.

But when Ms Gleeson and her partner were going through the process there were no professionals in Tasmania with experience in altruistic surrogacy.

"They knew nothing about it, so we were their guinea pigs," Ms Gleeson said.

The extra research required added significantly to the legal and counselling fees, while Medicare does not cover any of the medical treatment.

Ms Gleeson puts the total cost at $75,000.

"That does include 11 embryos, it took quite a few attempts to get her, we have actually tried outside of Australia before it was legal here," she said.

Having successfully completed the process the couple hope it will be easier for others to go through and experience the joy of their first baby being handed to them.

"After we've waited so long to get her it was absolutely amazing, was just pure joy, it was the most amazing experience."

Hope fades for other couples
Time is running out for Old Beach couple Juanita and Nigel Barrett.

"We really started trying about a year after we got married and we've just celebrated our 17th anniversary," Ms Barrett said.

After nine unsuccessful IVF transfers, the passage of the altruistic surrogacy legislation renewed their hope of one day starting a family.

"I've always wanted kids, ever since I was little, I just want to be a mum," she said.

But having already come close to losing their Old Beach home three times due to the cost of unsuccessful IVF treatment, the legal fees present an insurmountable hurdle.

"The only thing that's stopping us from doing it right this instant is the money," she said.

"We just don't have it."

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the inclusion of same-sex couples in the legislation was a symbolic step forward for equal rights.

But none have pursued altruistic surrogacy.

"They have had problems with some of the hurdles they might face and also there's very little information available for couples like that about what's involved," he said.

Mr Croome called for more promotion of the option and questioned the requirements for surrogates to be aged at least 25 and have already given birth.


Surrogate parenthood = exploitation of desperate women

Elle (“The Body”) Macpherson is expecting a baby, the tabloids tell us. The supermodel, who is currently married to a billionaire, is reportedly ready to expand her family.

But there’s a problem. Elle Macpherson is now 51 years old: beyond normal child-bearing age.

Ah, but with the help of modern medical technology—and plenty of money—such problems can readily be overcome. We’re told that Elle had some of her eggs frozen, years ago, so now she only needs a clinic to fertilize eggs with her husband’s sperm, a surrogate mother to carry her baby to term, and—did I mention?—lots of money to pay the bills.

Leave aside the inherent ugliness of the procedure by which a child is conceived in the sterile surroundings of a laboratory, rather than in a loving embrace. Let’s focus for now on what happens next: the surrogate pregnancy.

Elle Macpherson is rich, so she can afford a surrogate. Her fabulous figure won’t be distended; she won’t go through the morning sickness and the cramps and the sleepless nights and the anguish and danger of childbirth. Someone else will go through all that. And that woman, we can safely assume, is not rich.

Why would any woman voluntarily go through the rigors of someone else’s pregnancy, knowing that she could not expect the compensation of a child? Because she expected some other sort of compensation, obviously. When a woman rents out her body for the night we call it prostitution. When she rents it out for nine months, we call it surrogacy, and the tabloids treat the subject with the same blithe spirit that they use in telling us what celebrities wore to the latest garden party.

But then again, for the jet set this now is a topic that can be discussed with a blithe spirit. It’s so simple: Write a big check, bring home a healthy baby.

Not so for the surrogate mother. She is woman in need. She is willing to put her own life on hold, and put her health at risk, because she sees few other choices. I know nothing about the women who might be chosen as surrogates for Elle Macpherson. But I do know that as a rule, surrogate parenthood requires three things: money, doctors, and desperate women.

To accept surrogacy, then, means to accept the exploitation of desperate women. That’s something to bear in mind as we hear the ever-growing chorus of demands—by same-sex couples, older couples, and singles—for vindication of their “right” to have children.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Investing in You: A smart approach to using a surrogate

What can you expect, when your surrogate is expecting?

Prospective parents may be willing to pay any price. But first, examine the sensitive financial questions behind hiring a legal, legitimate surrogate (by legal, we mean not a woman you found online).

What does the process cost? Who gets paid? Can you take out a home equity loan or charge credit cards? (Yes to both). The costs of surrogacy are usually about $120,000, experts advise. But like any lifetime investment, such as college or retirement, you can pay in stages.


Pennsylvania, oddly, is one of the most progressive states on the East Coast for legal surrogacy.

Washington and New York State don't allow it, and can legally prosecute prospective parents and a surrogate. New Jersey doesn't criminalize surrogacy, but lawyers say the state views it as "against public policy," so surrogate contracts won't hold up in court.

Pennsylvania, by contrast, is a haven. Philadelphia hosts a thriving industry in surrogacy for U.S. and European couples, both heterosexual and same sex, who come here to find a gestational carrier for their bundle of joy.

"Surrogacy is generally not covered by insurance," says Tiffany Palmer, whose Jerner & Palmer law firm focuses on assisted reproduction law. Palmer strongly advises against "do-it-yourself" surrogacy. She and other lawyers hear horror stories from couples who fork over tens of thousands of dollars to strangers who then disappear with the money.

"Surrogacy can be done ethically and correctly, and is not exploitative if done right," she says. "We work with women who have separate legal counsel, who are paid appropriately for their service, and who are not financially desperate and doing it of their own free will."


Ask for a detailed estimate of all agency expenses during the contract. Compare agencies in your area. Understand if the price quoted includes your surrogate and a separate egg donor, along with legal fees, assisted reproduction fees and adoption costs (if required).

In vitro fertilization alone can cost $15,000 to $50,000 a cycle, depending on your area and medical factors. Then you pay your egg donor, which costs about $3,000 in Southern states, versus up to $15,000 in the Northeast, says Nicole Witt, executive director of the Adoption Consultancy in Brandon, Fla.

Philadelphia lawyer TJ Henderson lists expenses and fees on her website (, from $25,000 to $35,000 for the surrogate's fee to a post-birth adoption order for $2,500.

Add-ons: the fertility clinic, surrogate life insurance and health insurance. Inclusive of everything, expect to pay about $105,000, Henderson says.


Fertility clinics often partner with lenders, including American Healthcare Lending, Springstone Financing, or Med Loan Financing. These outfits give potential parents loans valued at $50,000 to $100,000 over a few years, with interest rates from under 1 percent to nearly 25 percent annually, depending on credit scores. Figure on payments of $500 a month or more.

That loan can cover the entire process. Mortgage refinancing, home equity loans and credit cards are very common forms of financing, as well as crowd-funding campaigns.

Egg donors

Some fertility clinics offer free egg preservation (a.k.a. "freezing your eggs") for young women who donate eggs three times.

Reproductive Associates of Delaware ( accepts women age 21 to 30 as anonymous egg donors, who then receive free annual exams up until age 31 plus pay of $8,000.

Visit the clearinghouse site or the more donor focused, which encourages young, professional women to consider egg freezing through a network of 116 fertility doctors across the country. board member Gina Bartasi says she supports Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In movement but adds, "Lean In, but Freeze First."

Another woman is paid as the legitimate surrogate, Henderson says. Her surrogates get $2,875 a month for eight consecutive months, and egg donors $7,000 to $10,000 per cycle.

"It's fair and reasonable compensation for the pain and suffering," she says. "And it's not taxable income. There's a perception that using a surrogate is only for celebs and wealthy people. Not at all. If it's planned carefully, anyone can do it. If your agent and attorney establish legal parentage, and it's not a ridiculous person you met online, you're protected."


Man wins surrogate maternity leave case

Durban - The government and private businesses will have to rethink their maternity leave policies after a groundbreaking judgment ruling that surrogate and adoptive parents, including those in same-sex partnerships, have a constitutional right to the same pay and leave benefits as women who give birth.

Attorney Irvin Lawrence, of the law firm ENSafrica, who handled the matter in Durban’s Labour Court, said Thursday’s ruling by Judge David Gush was “clearly a precedent”, and would prompt a review of the maternity conditions in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act which were premised on the concept that only woman were caregivers of children.

The judgment could also have cost implications for government and private companies.

For his client, a government information technology specialist who, with his same-sex union partner became a parent through surrogacy, it marks the end of a battle against discrimination.

The employee, from Pietermaritzburg, may not be named because children born through surrogacy may not be identified by law. Evidence was that he and his partner had married in May 2010 and entered into a court-approved surrogacy agreement. As a primary care-giver, he applied for four months’ paid maternity leave, as per his employer’s policy.

Initially he got a flat rejection. The employer argued the benefit applied to women and offered him four days’ family responsibility leave.

After submitting a further, more substantial application he was granted two months’ maternity leave.

The employer said the four-month policy was made up of three parts – a four-week pre-partum period to prepare for birth, a six-week post-partum period for physical recovery from birth and two months to focus on caring for the child.

Surrogate and adoptive parents could only have two months’ leave and this was not discriminatory because this was irrespective of the sex or sexual orientation of the employee, the employer said.

In his ruling, the judge said this approach ignored the fact maternity leave was an entitlement not linked solely to the health and welfare of the mother, but also in the best interests of the child. “Not to do so would be to ignore the Bill of Rights and the Children’s Act.”

In the matter before him the agreement provided for the newborn child to be immediately handed to the commissioning parents, the applicant had been present at the birth and he would perform the role of the birth mother.

“In these circumstances I can see no reason why he is not entitled to maternity leave equal to that of natural mothers. Our law recognises same-sex marriages and regulates the rights of parents who have entered into surrogacy agreements.

“It is clear the employer’s policy discriminates unfairly,” he said, directing that it recognise the status of same-sex parties and the rights of commissioning parents in a surrogacy agreement. He ordered that the employer pay the employee for the two months’ maternity leave he was not allowed to take but stopped short of awarding damages.

Surrogacy expert and attorney Tracey-Leigh Wessels said: “It heralds a new chapter for the myriad commissioning parents who are faced with restrictive employment contracts.

“I know a number of commissioning parents who have encountered similar problems as the applicant and it is good to know it is a thing of the past.”

In an interview with The Mercury on Thursday, the employee said he was “terribly excited” by the judgment.

“We have embraced what the new South Africa and democracy has given us. We were able to get married. We were able to have our own child through the legal system. This was the last step that needed to be addressed and now there is a precedent.

“That was the objective of the process. We wanted to make sure that others were treated fairly and equitably. Employees need to know where they stand.

“When this was happening to us, my main concern was for our unborn child. I just didn’t know whether or not I was going to spend a week at home or how long I was going to be allowed to take care of him.

“My employer dragged it out and my attorney had to intervene several times.

“I felt so disrespected. Something that was so important to me was not getting the attention it deserved. For me this court victory is for others so they don’t have to feel like I did.”


Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent Welcome Baby Girl Via Surrogate

Nate Berkus, 43, and Jeremiah Brent, 29, are proud fathers to a bouncing baby girl. The "American Dream Builders" host and his husband broke the happy news on Facebook, announcing that they have welcomed a daughter via a surrogate mother.

"Jeremiah & I are thrilled to announce the arrival of our daughter, Poppy Brent-Berkus, born via surrogate on March 23, 2015. We are so excited to finally be a family of 3!" Berkus wrote. "As anyone with a newborn knows, we have our work cut out for us but couldn't be happier to be embarking on this life changing journey that is parenthood. Thank you all for your well wishes and support."

Berkus, an interior designer, and Brent, Rachel Zoe's former assistant, got engaged in 2013 at Machu Picchu in Peru. The couple married at the New York Public Library in May 2014 with Oprah Winfrey, Rachael Ray, and Busy Philipps among guests. They announced that they're going to be parents in September.


Gay dads' big break

Gay men who "have a baby" born by a surrogate mother are entitled to paid maternity leave.

In a ground-breaking judgment yesterday welcomed by couples in same-sex unions the Labour Court in Durban said it was discriminatory to refuse paid maternity leave to a gay man who became a parent through surrogacy.

The court ordered the applicant's employer, the State Information Technology Agency, to pay him for the two months' unpaid leave he took to care for his newborn baby.

The ruling, which has been welcomed by activist groups, would apply to heterosexual men as well.

Irvin Lawrence, who represented the male applicant, said the judgment would allow hetero sexual fathers who were the primary caregivers for their babies to argue that they were entitled to maternity leave.

This could be the case when a mother died during or shortly after childbirth and the father alone had to care for the baby.

Lawrence said the ruling might mean that the Basic Conditions of Employment Act will have to be amended to broaden the definition of maternity leave.

The father, whose identity cannot be revealed to protect the privacy of the child, challenged his employer's refusal to grant him four months' paid maternity leave on the grounds that he was not the child's biological mother.

The man married his partner in a civil union in 2010 and a year later the couple entered into an agreement with a woman to carry a baby for them.

In terms of the surrogacy agreement, which was made an order of court, the surrogate mother had to surrender the child to the couple at birth and she could have no further contact with the child.

In anticipation of the birth, the man applied to his employer for paid maternity leave of four months.

But the State Information Technology Agency refused on the grounds that its policies and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act made provision for maternity leave only for female employees and were silent on leave for people who became parents through surrogacy.

The agency offered the man "family responsibility" leave or special unpaid leave. Later, it said he could have two months of paid adoption leave and two months of unpaid leave.

The father said these terms constituted discrimination against gay men.

The agency denied its policy was discriminatory and said maternity leave was due to, and a right of, only female employees.

But Judge David Gush said the agency's contention ignored the fact that the right to maternity leave cited in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act was not linked solely to the welfare of the child's mother but took into account the interests of the child.

The man told the court that he and his spouse had agreed that he would assume the role of mother by taking immediate responsibility for the child after birth.

"Given these circumstances there is no reason why an employee in the position of the applicant should not be entitled to maternity leave and, equally, no reason why such maternity leave should not be for the same duration as the maternity leave to which a natural mother is entitled," Gush said.

The judge ordered the State Information Technology Agency to recognise the status of parties to a civil union and prohibited discrimination against couples who had become parents by entering into a surrogacy agreement.

OUT, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group, said the judgment was "really positive".

"This is a breakthrough for future cases and for LGBT rights. It means that they can enjoy equal rights," said Johan Meyer, a health manager at OUT.

Couples in the UK who become parents through surrogacy will soon have the same rights as biological mothers and adoptive parents , according to the website of LGBT rights organisation Stonewall.
These couples currently do not have the right to paid maternity, paternity or adoption leave but a new system comes into effect on April 5.

From then on, parents through surrogacy will also be entitled to 52 weeks of parental leave, which can be shared between the two parents, with 90% of their pay.

The European Court of Justice last year ruled that women who have babies born through surrogacy are not entitled to maternity leave.

In Sweden and Germany, two of the countries giving the most wide-ranging rights to new parents, surrogacy is not permitted.

In the US, surrogacy laws vary from state to state. There is no general right to parental leave for couples who become parents through surrogacy.


Uma: Could you carry someone else’s baby?

Every Friday in tabloid!, TV personality Uma Ghosh Deshpande seeks out new horizons and highlights some of the UAE’s most inspiring stories

Are you benevolent enough to carry someone else’s baby? Or compassionate enough to have someone carry yours? Fertility has always been viewed as the woman’s problem. But times are changing and society is slowly accepting that a problem can lie with either partner.

Dr Gautam Allahbadia, medical director of New Hope IVF, tells me: “One in five couples globally have difficulty in conceiving a baby, and the number of couples seeking medical help to have a family has risen dramatically”. Our lifestyle, stress levels and diet all play a role in couples not being able to have a baby. “More women work than ever before, and increasing numbers choose to delay starting a family until established in their careers. This makes fertility problems more likely. Advances in medical treatments mean it is technically possible for many more couples with fertility problems than ever before to conceive a baby,” he adds.

Over the last few years, surrogacy has become a viable option, with celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Shah Rukh Khan using surrogates to complete their families. Yet, surrogacy remains one of the least talked-about tools in the struggle with infertility.

My dear friend Leena Surri, who had beautiful twin girls through surrogacy, said: “It is a great option for people who can’t have children. You have to go through the initial procedure of IVF where you are injected with hormones and then when the eggs are ready, they are extracted from the mother’s ovaries and fertilised outside the embryos. They are then put into the womb of the surrogate mother. It was very smooth for us.”

However, a recent controversy involving international designer duo Dolce and Gabbana, where one of them used the terms “chemical children” and “synthetic babies” sparked a debate in my mind. Celebrities took to social media to express their displeasure at the comment. And I was pleasantly surprised at the support. People from across the world raised their voices in protest at the comment, but the one which touched my heart the most was Madonna’s. She wrote, “All babies contain a soul however they come to this earth and their families. There is nothing synthetic about a soul! So how can we dismiss IVF and surrogacy?”

There are a lot of people in this world who want to be parents, and today, technology can make it happen, whether through IVF or surrogacy. Many years back, people who could not have children would have to come to terms with it and move on. Today, there is an answer. And I hope more people open up to it. If you really want to experience the joys of parenthood, the little soul will find its way to you — either through your womb, or someone else’s.


Thai surrogacy: Ambassador defends decision to grant citizenship to babies born by surrogate

Australia's ambassador to Thailand has defended his embassy's decision to continue granting citizenship and passports to babies born via surrogacy.

Thailand passed legislation earlier this year to ban commercial surrogacy, although it still needs royal approval.

Nationals whip George Christensen has criticised the embassy for granting passports when Thailand is trying to ban the practice.

But ambassador Paul Robilliard said Australian law makes clear if a baby is a descendent of an Australian a passport must be granted.

"We have had good cooperation between the embassy and all Thai agencies on this very difficult issue of surrogacy," Mr Robilliard said.

"If a baby is shown to be a descendant of an Australian citizen then by law they become an Australian citizen and then become eligible for an Australian passport."

A Parliamentary committee, headed by Mr Christensen, has recommended an inquiry into domestic and international surrogacy.

Last month, Thailand's interim parliament passed a law banning foreigners from seeking surrogacy services.

The law passed with 160-2 votes in favour of banning commercial surrogacy in the country, which means only a relative can act as a surrogate mother.

Under the new laws, foreigners will be prohibited to use Thai surrogates unless they have been married to a Thai national for at least three years.

Thailand's status as a top destination for fertility tourism came under scrutiny last year after an Australian couple's baby with Down syndrome was left behind while his healthy twin sister was taken home.

Another case involved a Japanese man who fathered at least 15 babies using Thai surrogates in what local media called the "baby factory".


“The Good Wife” offers a fair representation of the case for life

My wife and I were, for a season or two, big fans of CBS’s “The Good Wife.” However the plot grew so redundant and unimaginative, we turned elsewhere.

But according to Newsbusters’ Kate Yoder, on March 22 we missed a program which “dared to present pro-life arguments in a rational, respectful way.”

Even though members of the cast have history of pro-abortion advocacy, this is not a first, first for “The Good Wife.” Lauren Enriquez  did a masterful job looking at an episode a couple of seasons back about abortion and surrogate parenthood.

The baby the surrogate mother is carrying is diagnosed with Trisomy 13, a chromosomal disorder, and the biological parents insist that an abortion is required per the established terms of their surrogacy agreement. The surrogate flatly refuses. There were plenty of clichés and cheap shots, but the side of life was well represented.

According to Yoder, the March 22 exchange is intelligent and asks good questions. You can see a clip at the Newsbusters site, so let me make a couple of specific and a couple of general statements.

First, the female character Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is the boss of the lead character Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies). The setting is a hunting retreat in Wyoming. Diane gets into an extending conversation with a man identified only as R.D. which spins off into abortion.

Diane offers the standard triad of pro-abortion retorts but does so in a respectful, collegial way: have you ever seen a woman dead from a back alley abortion? are you saying abortion is murder?; are you going to put women in jail? The only item not pulled out of the rhetorical chest is rape and incest. (I forgot. She also says the Court has upheld the right to abortion since 1973 –Roe v. Wade– to which R.D. responds once upon a time the High Court also upheld Dred Scott.)

R.D. (played by the always entertaining Oliver Platt) refuses to bite or retreat. He begins by asking why a five-month-old fetus is “not a baby?” He talks about the survival rates of babies (fetuses) at five and six months—the same time any woman in America can abort the child.

He keeps saying, in effect, don’t avert your gaze. Look at those whose lives you are taking. And then there’s this:

“Don’t look away from the aborted fetus. Look at it. Why is it not a baby?” he asks.“And why are we kitsch-ifying these babies, and turning ‘em into these cute little Raphael cherubs, and at the same time we’re aborting 1.2 million of them a year?”

When Diane drops into the worst of the worst pro-abortion canards R.D. tells her (in a respectful way) that’s “beneath you.”


I want my children to feel equal, but equality isn't sameness

"You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that's how it should be," the clothing designer Domenico Dolce recently said, stirring up a bit of controversy. "I call children of chemistry 'synthetic children'. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog."

Synthetic children? Ouch. My first reaction was to extend an invitation to Signores Dolce and Gabbana to come over and babysit my little cyborgs for a few hours, so that they could experience first-hand their screaming, their whining, and all of their "artificial" bodily fluids.

But it's easy to be angry, and I don't want us, in our rejection of these hurtful statements, to shut down an important conversation. While singular in their disdain, Dolce and Gabbana express an unease that many of us, gay and straight, have around third-party reproduction. Is it ethical to pay a donor or a surrogate? Should a donor be able to remain forever anonymous?

As a lesbian parent, of course I want my children to feel that they are as equal and deserving as anyone else. Equality isn't sameness, though, and I need there to be space for us to discuss the ways that our family is fundamentally different, and how our reproductive choices impact the lives of others.

I don't think it's wrong for gay men (or anyone else) to have children via egg donor and surrogate, but we mustn't fail to expand the conversation beyond them and their right to pursue parenthood. The egg donor has the right to choose what to do with her oocytes, free from extreme financial pressure. The surrogate also has the right to choose freely if and when to use her womb. When the surrogate in question is an impoverished woman in another country, and the amount of money she's being offered could permanently house her entire family, it's difficult to argue that she has much of a choice.

And the sperm donor. My kids' donor. He, too, has a right to decide what happens to his cells. I don't know why he decided to donate. I do know that most of the donors in the catalog were actors, artists, musicians and/or students. I assumed that they were looking for supplemental income, not a way to feed themselves, and that no coercion was involved. Still, I am uneasy about the fact that money traded hands in order for my children's DNA to be complete.

I'm not alone. Many countries, like Australia and the UK, prohibit payment to gamete donors, and don't allow for entirely anonymous donation. Italy's law, which is particularly discriminatory, has just recently allowed for the use of donor sperm or eggs at all—for straight couples only. One unintended effect of these prohibitions is that those who can afford to do so look abroad for donors and surrogates, leading to exploitative situations like we're now seeing in India and Thailand. This also leads to a booming business in the U.S., where few restrictions are in place.

There's a line in the sand when it comes to reproductive technology, and it isn't IVF. It's a line that only some infertile couples choose to cross, but all of us who are queer must: involving a third (and sometimes, fourth) person into the act of reproduction. Whether it's birth parents, a gamete donor, or a gestational surrogate, no technology yet can make us parents in the absence of another person's body. These people become part of our families, if only as a spectral presence in our children's lives. I, for one, don't want my equality to rely on pretending they don't exist.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Feminists campaign for surrogacy to be considered slavery

Surrogacy is a form of slavery. This time it’s not groups of ultra conservatives who are saying this but, slightly surprisingly, several feminist associations in Europe. However, it seems less odd if one looks more closely at what exactly is being denounced in a proposal text at the United Nations for a ‘Convention for the abolition of surrogacy on the same model as the one for the abolition of slavery.’ Considering the timid approach of governments such as those in Belgium and France to the debate around the simplification of legal recognition of foreign surrogate mothers. However, women’s movements warn that, in many cases, the surrogate mother’s fundamental rights are totally trampled. This means there is a long way to go in the regulation of international surrogacy.


Top judge warns Australians are middlemen in commercial surrogacy markets

ONE of the country’s top judges has sounded alarm that Australians are playing “highly questionable” roles as middlemen in Asian commercial surrogacy markets.

The warnings came as authorities confirmed Australian parents who travel overseas to commission underprivileged women as surrogates are still not required to undergo criminal background checks before they obtain passports for their babies.

Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe has appeared before a parliamentary committee in a private capacity to express his concerns about the continued operation of commercial surrogacy markets in developing countries.

Justice Pascoe said overseas baby markets were like the “Wild West” and we should find it “deeply disturbing that Australians are so heavily involved in what amounts to the production and sale of newly-born children”.

“My concern is the number of Australians involved in middlemen and often in activities that are highly questionable at the very least,” Justice Pascoe told the committee.
The judge singled out Thailand, which earlier this year passed laws all but shutting down the commercial surrogacy industry, as a country where Australians continue to advocate for commercial surrogacy arrangements.

“I am very concerned, and anecdotally I am told, that there are Australians very much involved in the surrogacy clinics,” he said.

“One of them is now both recruiting potential surrogate mothers and looking for commissioning parents in Australia and telling them, ‘Don’t worry about it; the law will change”.

The Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee, which delivered its report to parliament yesterday, found that Australian parents are still not required to undergo criminal background checks before they obtain passports for their surrogate babies, despite the scandal that erupted over Thai-born baby Gammy who’s Australian father was a convicted paedophile.

An official from the Department of Immigration confirmed to the committee that when parents present themselves at an embassy overseas and apply for citizenship, “the provisions in the (Citizenship) Act do not have any scope for character checking of parents.”

The Committee has recommended Attorney-General George Brandis now establish a fully-fledged parliamentary probe into domestic and international surrogacy arrangements to determine whether regulations can be streamlined and tightened.

One in six Australian couples have issues relating to infertility and the committee heard evidence that Australians have become the largest client market for international surrogacy arrangements.


When is best time to tell kids of donor?

The age when young adults learn they were conceived using assisted reproductive technology does not influence their wellbeing or parental relationship, a study suggests.

Today almost four per cent of all children in Australia are born as a result of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), which includes IVF, surrogacy and using donor eggs or sperm.

"From the young people that we had in our study, the age that they found out didn't seem to have a long-term impact on their relationships with their family or their wellbeing," says Dr Karin Hammarberg, from the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University.

"This is reassuring for those who wish to share this information with their children but have not done so at a young age."

In the past, clinics advised parents not to tell their offspring they were donor conceived, she says.

But now parents are encouraged to tell children when they are young.

"IVF today is so mainstream so no one would hesitate to say they've had a baby through IVF technology.

"But it's still a bit more difficult for those who have used donor gametes.

"Telling kids about the way they were conceived is always a good thing."

Dr Hammarberg conducted a study on the topic, together with researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

The team interviewed 550 young adults who were born as a result of ART.

They asked the participants at what age they were told and questioned them about their wellbeing and quality of relationship with their parents.

Most (77 per cent) had been told before the age of 12, 18 per cent when they were between 12 and 17 years and five per cent when they were over 18 years.

All through her childhood, Marnie Lester-Smith knew she was not biologically related to her dad.

Unlike some kids who were conceived by donated sperm or egg there was no "big family secret" revealed when she reached adulthood.

Lester-Smith, 21, was around five when she learned her parents had sought help from an anonymous sperm donor after losing three children to a rare genetic disease.

"I don't have any negative emotion when I think back," she says.

"Mum and I have always had great communication and no secrets."

Lester-Smith is thankful that she found out when she was young.

"If you're told later on you might feel betrayed, or like everything you knew is wrong," she says.

"I never had that, it was never anything negative to me, I'm very thankful someone was able to help my parents have a child."

Lester-Smith is determined to find her biological father, despite the obstacles.

"You can't really form your own identity unless you know where you come from.

"I know he was Indian, six foot and studying medicine at a Perth university."

But the doctor that organised the donation has since passed away and his records weren't preserved.

"I've joined the voluntary register in WA and if a half sibling or my donor registers on that there will be a match.

"I'm still holding out hope."


Australian Embassy ignores Thai ban on ‘wombs for rent

Australian embassy staff are ­undermining Thailand’s surrogacy ban by granting passports to “wombs-for-rent” babies, a parliamentary committee said yesterday.

Childless Australian couples were exploiting third-world ­surrogate mothers, it warned.

The bipartisan House of ­Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs called on the Abbott government to set up a full inquiry into commercial surrogacy.

The committee’s chairman, Nationals whip George Christensen, said Australian embassy staff in Thailand continued to issue passports for surrogate ­babies “without thinking twice’’.

“In Thailand, where surrogacy is outlawed, when our authorities receive an application for a child they know full well was born through surrogacy ­arrangements, they will still issue citizenship and passports without thinking twice,’’ he told The Australian yesterday.

“The only thing they require is a sign-off from the biological mother.’’

Mr Christensen said he was concerned surrogate mothers could be pressured into giving consent for an Australian passport in order to receive payment.

“I would think it’s a good starting point to say that if (surrogacy) is illegal in another country, perhaps there are mechanisms to ensure Australians aren’t involved and if they are, that the other jurisdiction is notified,’’ he said.

“If they’ve taken steps for banning it in Thailand, then Australia shouldn’t be facilitating it.

“If it’s a crime, it’s a crime.’’

Thailand banned commercial surrogacy last year after the scandal involving baby Gammy, whose Australian parents abandoned him in Thailand with his surrogate mother after he was born with Down syndrome.

Mr Christensen said the committee’s “roundtable’’ meetings — which included officials from the Department of Foreign ­Affairs and Trade and the Immigration Department, Family Court Chief Justice Diana ­Bryant and Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe — had concluded women and babies were being exploited through commercial surrogacy overseas.

“I have no doubt whatsoever there is exploitation of women in foreign jurisdictions happening through Australians who are seeking surrogacy arrangements to have a child,’’ he said.

Judge Pascoe told a roundtable session that surrogate women overseas were treated as “less than the value of cows being impregnated for the purposes of calving’’.

“I think it should be deeply disturbing that Australians are so heavily involved in what amounts to the production and sale of newly born children,’’ he told the committee.

Immigration Department ­assistant secretary Frances ­Finney told the hearing that if a child was an Australian citizen by descent, embassy officials had to grant citizenship.


Surrogate Motherhood Equal To Adultery Says Turkish Religious Council

Turkey's religious council, the Diyanet, has made headlines again this week with its description of surrogate mother hood that compares it to adultery. This statement may seem extreme to those not familiar with Islam's strict religious beliefs, and in fact, some moderate Muslims find it to be a bit harsh.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News, the religious leaders said in a statement that, "An in vitro fertilization (IVF) process that starts and finalizes between individuals who are not de facto married is religiously not acceptable as it offends humane feelings and contains elements of adultery."

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a process that involves injecting an egg from a female donor with sperm from a male donor, then having the fertilized egg placed inside a female carrier. Sometimes the carrier is the original egg donor, and in some cases a surrogate carrier is used. While the Diyanet is not opposed to IVF within the bonds of marriage, surrogacy is taboo to the religious leaders.

The NZ Herald reports that the Diyanet was formed to help make decisions regarding religious matters. The first record of the Diyanet is in 1924, and while it is the standing authority on all things religious, Turkey is a secular nation. This means that all decisions made by the council are suggestions to Islamic believers and not considered to be mandatory laws.

The religious council is already under fire from different groups around the world for statement regarding issues like gay adoption. Sir Elton John has led the charge in a similar campaign against French designers Dolce and Gabbana for describing children born through IVF as "synthetic" babies. This touched off a whirlwind of people who vowed to boycott the designers following their remarks.

What do you think? Is surrogacy a bad idea, or is it a perfect means for couples who could not have children without a surrogate to be able to experience the joys of parenthood? Tell us what you think in the comments below!


Committee raises vexed surrogacy issues

Does a child born of surrogacy have a right to know their biological parents?

And can the government do anything to prevent a Baby Gammy-like situation in the future?

Those are just two of the issues raised by a parliamentary committee hoping to seek clarity through a broader inquiry into local and overseas surrogacy arrangements.

The House of Representatives committee wants to examine the hurdles faced by all parties in domestic surrogacy, including medical and welfare guidelines and compensatory payments.

It's also concerned Australians are using surrogacy arrangements in countries with few regulatory and health standards and providing little protection to surrogate mothers and children.

The issue of surrogacy was highlighted last year after a West Australian couple were accused of leaving a twin boy, known as Baby Gammy, with his surrogate mother after they discovered he had Down Syndrome.


* One in six couples have infertility issues.

* Australians are believed to be the largest client market for international surrogacy arrangements.


HRC Submits Testimony in Support of New Jersey Surrogacy Bill

Last week, HRC submitted testimony supporting the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act (SB 866/AB 2648), a measure that will allow New Jersey residents to enter into gestational surrogacy agreements and establish appropriate parentage of the intended parents. A hearing on the bill was help by the Assembly Human Services Committee on March 19, and after the hearing the committee successfully passed the bill. It has already passed the New Jersey Senate.

“Allowing for surrogacy is especially important to members of the LGBT community as a method to establish parentage and create a family,” HRC Senior Legislative Counsel Alison Gill testified. “Unlike some other methods of family creation, surrogacy may allow such couples to have a genetic relation to their children.” HRC's testimony was endorsed and supported by Garden State Equality.

“Without this legislation, intended parents and gestational surrogates will continue having children through these arrangements but without legal protections or they will be forced to move to other states that afford them more security,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, in a statement.

HRC urges the NJ Assembly to swiftly take up and pass this important legislation to help protect LGBT families.


The gift of life: Sister donates egg and surrogate gives birth

Kate Dobb has been given the gift of two beautiful twin babies – thanks to a donated egg from her sister and a surrogate mother.

It is a happy ending to a story that started when she fell seriously ill with cancer at the age of just 10.

Kate, 37, was told she would not be able to have children because of the severity of her treatment for a rare sarcoma.

Now she has her husband Nisar Afsar are busy caring for their one-year old twins, Rafi and Amina.

They today spoke of the emotional journey that has enabled them to be parents.

The story starts when Kate, originally from Church Stretton but now living in Cheshire, fell ill as a child.

While being treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital’s children’s ward she underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

As Kate says, at the time there was only one thought, she said: “The aim was survival.”

It was not long after that Kate was told she would not be able to have children, something that began hit home as she got older. It was then only in her 20s that she began to consider surrogacy as an option for starting a family.

She said: “I found out when I was 13 that I could not have children and it was not until I was in my 20s that I met a doctor at a different clinic who suggested the idea of surrogacy and egg donation.

“I always wanted to have children and I was very upset, but I felt my options were very limited. I didn’t realise how realistic egg donation surrogacy was.”

The first step on the road was when Kate’s younger sister, Jennie, 35, from Shrewsbury, offered to donate her eggs.

She explained that she had been more than happy to help her sister fulfil her dream of having children.

She said: “It is a nice thing to do but I do not see why I wouldn’t do it. I am quite pragmatic and my sister wanted a baby so why would I not want to help her?”

The next step was finding a woman who would be willing to act as a surrogate, and that is where Mikki Senior, 40, from Bomere Heath, comes in.

Kate and Nisar had joined a group called Surrogacy UK, where they met Mikki, who has three children of her own and had acted as a surrogate before, and her husband Dominic.

Kate said the organisation worked perfectly for them because it is based on friendship between the families, and forming a bond before embarking on the surrogacy process.

She said: “We joined and really liked the feeling of the organisation because it was based on friendship first - you build up a really strong relationship with the surrogate before you begin treatment.

“We wanted to be open with our children and for them to have a relationship with their surrogate.”

It just so happened that Mikki and Kate both had Shropshire in common, and it proved the basis for a friendship that would result in her agreeing to carry her children.

Kate said: “Through the organisation we were at an event and met Mikki, who was from Bomere Heath. We had the Shropshire link in common, got chatting about all things Shropshire and really hit it off. It turned out we would have been friends anyway. It took about three months to get to know each other really well before embarking on the treatment and she was pregnant first time with twins.”

All four parents were present for the birth and then stayed in the same room afterwards, so Mikki and her husband shared Kate and Nisar’s first moments with their children.

It’s the most obvious question, but when talking about giving birth and handing over Kate and Nisar’s children, Mikki said: “I was absolutely elated and it was like if you can imagine giving someone the best present they have ever had for Christmas, how wonderful is that? To see their faces holding their babies.

“It is a physical struggle but every one was absolutely worthwhile for that moment, let alone everything that has happened since. It is pretty special.”

Kate said that Mikki and her sister had given her the best gift possible.

She said: “We can’t ever thank her or my sister enough. Mikki says she is so happy to have her own children and she loves being a mum and her reason for being a surrogate was that she would be heartbroken if she could not have children herself.

“She is incredible. Such an amazing, strong person. We could not have wished for anyone better to carry our baby. It is absolutely incredible that someone would go through that for us.”

She added: “I pinch myself every day, I cannot believe it. It is a dream come true. I never expected to be a mum and to become a mum two two babies is absolutely fantastic. It is an incredible gift.

Mikki said she had decided to become a surrogate after witnessing the heartbreaking situation facing people who cannot have children.

She said: “I am so very lucky that I have my children and I feel really really lucky I have them. Both me and my husband are chiropractors and we have come across people who have had fertility problems and we know how heart wrenching it can be.”

Mikki also said she was proud of her family, and herself for being able to bring such joy to other people.

She said: “I am immensely proud, not only of what my family has helped me do, but what my body can do. I have had six children and I am proud we have been able to do something for them, because in the world of giving it does not much bigger than a child. I really feel like I have done something worthwhile with my life. Not only do I have my family but I have helped two other families have children too.”

She added: “It’s a huge thing to watch you wife carry someone else’s child.

“My husband is pretty special. He has been a big part of this but at Surrogacy UK they encourage partners to get involved. They have special surrogacy partner sessions to discuss what it can bring up and that is important.”

The two families are now firm friends, speak regularly on the telephone, and even go camping together.

Kate said: “The fantastic thing is we have built up such a great friendship with Mikki and her family that we have been camping together and we see each other every few weeks.”

Mikki added: “We fell in love with them. They are such lovely people.”

Both Kate and Mikki encouraged people interested in surrogacy to consider Surrogacy UK and to look around and explore the options.

Mikki said: “Look at different organisations and look at what you want out of this. Do you want to stay in touch? If you think they are coming for money then walk away, it is not about money. It is pretty much an altruistic thing you have in your mind that you want to do.

“It is it just about you , it is about your extended family, both partners, because it is a lot to go through. Think it through.”


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Experience of a Legal department fellow at SurrogacyIndia

Below post is something about the concept and sharing emotions during any process followed in SurrogacyIndia all it comes from our Doctors Dr Yashodhara Mhatre and Dr Sudhir Ajja, which is experienced by one of our fellow in Legal department as an associate Sri Ranjani Krishnan. She has tried to express her over all time spent with Surrogate Mothers and Intended Parents in words.

So proud of MY organization!! Truly blessed to be part of this family - Surrogacy India!! I belong and work for such an organisation where the things are not done with

narrow motive only to the extent of money. I Belong to an organisation whose roots are deeply rooted with its ultimate motive of making the childless bloom again when

couples are almost shattered.

Brilliant & beautiful!! What a concept surrogacy is!!

For saying all this, I have been truly driven by the words of the surrogate with whom I went with. Narrating the little piece of incident I met across:

For wrapping up a case of one of our client, I had to approach the Danish consulate. Whereby I had to take the surrogate mother of that respective intended parent as

an confirmation on her part for giving away the custody of baby.

First of all I underestimated by her illiteracy, I truly felt "she is going to delay the work, as she was unable to understand the legal concept which I tried to

explain her for which we were there" I felt the things to be messed up now and would get delayed by the surrogate mother not getting the scenario. On the other hand

the consulate lady was going on questioning her. She was asking many questions with a common intention that she should not claim the child in future.

The meeting lasted for more than a hour and then. . .

All of sudden, I really don’t know how she said that-with an emotional tone. The surrogate said "Yes Madam, I was in need of money, but more than that I felt the real

happiness when I handed the baby to that couple and I saw them in joy. How could I snatch away that heavenly happiness from them by claiming the baby”
Wola!! ....Thrilled!! Moved and Speechless!!  I looked into her face. The surrogate not getting the case in legal terms kept apart, I was wondered and thrilled by her

innocent reaction towards the consulate lady.

What a million dollar sentence was that, which justifies that this process is done with so many concerned souls wanting and hoping to make each others life happy!!

I know the emotions I went through at that very point cannot be written in a piece of paper; but this is what I experienced that day

Hoping and wishing for this Nobel journey to be always blessed!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

How I made $60,000 as a surrogate mother

The first time I thought about being a surrogate mother was in 1999.
I'd just given birth to my fourth — and last — child at 27, and I was reading a touching magazine article about a woman who'd carried her sister's baby.

I'll admit I was hormonal, basking in the glow of my own motherhood — but I couldn't stop thinking about families who were desperate to experience what my husband, Craig*, and I had.

Filled with compassion for those people, I wanted to help.

Baby Steps: Getting my husband on board

I soon became obsessed with the idea, and unbeknownst to Craig, started reading message boards and scouring support groups for more information.

That's how I first learned there was a financial component to surrogacy. Up until then, I'd assumed people volunteered to carry a baby for someone out of the goodness of their hearts. So this gave me an idea: Perhaps playing up the monetary benefits to Craig would make him more likely to agree.

Although we had minimal debt and owned a small home at the time, we also had a house full of kids and little savings.

I approached Craig with articles describing successful surrogacy stories, telling him what an opportunity we had to help other families, now that ours was complete. Plus, based on my research, we could expect at least $15,000 as compensation.

His response? A flat-out "no."

But I persisted. About a month later, I showed him an article about a couple that was living like misers to afford surrogacy. Reading what the husband wrote about his paternal desires spoke to Craig — and he gave me the green light.

So I started researching the different arrangements surrogates can enter into with families. Some people do it independently — although that seemed scary, as it's basically your word, their word, and a handshake.

You can also work through an agency or attorney for a more formal agreement, so everyone's terms are stipulated, and surrogates are protected against parents changing their minds.

Eventually, I came across an attorney who ran a small agency in Maryland. She was friendly, knowledgeable and very responsive. She also had good reviews on surrogacy message boards, which sealed the deal for me.

I filled out a ton of paperwork with lots of personal information — everything from my financial status and child-birthing history to how many embryos I was willing to implant at once. Craig and I decided that two — meaning I'd give birth to twins if they both "took" — would be the max.

Once we turned in the information, the waiting game began.

Embarking on a rigorous but rewarding process

Just a few weeks later, our attorney called with a match, and I flew from our home in Tennessee to Maryland to meet the young couple. The woman had been born with an abnormal uterus, making it impossible for her to conceive.

It's hard to describe what that first meeting was like. It was awkward because we were strangers — yet the discussion was incredibly personal. The woman was so happy to meet me that she was on the verge of tears.

I was nervous, but I focused on conveying that I was a trustworthy person. I talked a lot about my family, my kids, and my pregnancies. And I explained why I wanted to be a surrogate, so they would understand my compassion.

I had a good feeling after the meeting, and discussed it with Craig back home. We were ready to commit.

The couple was, too, so the next step was to draw up a contract. We stipulated a $20,000 fee, as well as other "extras" the couple would cover, such as $600 for maternity clothes and $200 a month for incidentals like gas, tolls, parking, and food if I had to travel for certain tests or procedures. They also agreed to pay for my mom to fly in to help with my kids.

In addition to that, we outlined that I would be paid more for any invasive medical tests, plus $3,000 if I carried multiples and $2,500 if I needed a C-section. Craig would also be partially compensated for any lost wages if he had to take time off during and after the birth.

After everything was signed, I began a months-long process of tests, taking pills, going in for ultrasounds every other day, and administering extremely painful shots — using the biggest needle I'd ever seen.

The IVF schedule is strict: If the doctors say you need a certain shot at 4 a.m., and an ultrasound exactly 12 hours later, you don't have a choice.

After six months we were ready to implant two embryos. We were all incredibly excited and hopeful. But I didn't get pregnant on that first cycle — or the second one. I felt horrible, like I was failing the couple.

So we readied ourselves for a final cycle, opting to implant three embryos. It was more than we'd agreed upon earlier, but the doctor assured me the chances of becoming pregnant with triplets was incredibly unlikely.

Well, I beat the odds — because that's exactly what happened.

Calling the biological parents with the good news was something I'll never forget. The mom was at a loss for words — and Craig and I were elated.

Unfortunately, the excitement quickly subsided. The pregnancy was pretty rocky. One of the fetuses didn't make it past 12 weeks, and I constantly worried about the other two. I also contracted a lot, and had to go on bed rest around the end of the second trimester.

The birth didn't go as planned, either. The couple wanted to be there, but at 36 weeks my doctor told me at a regular appointment to check into the hospital immediately to give birth. The babies were very small — under 5 pounds each — and needed to be monitored for a while, but, fortunately, they were otherwise healthy.

The process was anything but smooth sailing, but once the couple met their babies, it was amazing to know I was part of making another family complete. It was the feeling I'd imagined — and I knew I'd want to do it again someday.

Surrogacy take two — With even happier results

A couple of years later, at 30, I was ready to be a surrogate again.

Just like the first time, money wasn't my number-one motivation, but I did remember how much we'd been able to accomplish with that cash. We'd paid off our minivan, canceled out bills, and put a chunk in savings.

I had kept in touch with our attorney, and by the time I was ready, she already had a match in mind — and I liked them the instant we met. They already had a son, but the mother had to have her uterus removed after his birth.

Our contract was similar to the first, but this time I asked for $27,000 as my surrogate fee, plus $1,000 for maternity clothes instead of $600.

From the start, the process felt different. I didn't have to undergo nearly as many tests because we knew my body would respond to the fertility drugs. And, best of all, I became pregnant on the first try.

But we did experience a few unfortunate similarities: I became pregnant with twins but lost one around eight weeks. And, again, the birth didn't go as planned.

I had to have a C-section, and the parents weren't able to get there in time to see their baby being born. But the mom — with whom I'd built an amazing connection during the pregnancy — did call to say I could breast-feed, and asked if the baby could stay with me instead of going to the nursery. It felt great to know she still wanted me to be a part of their story after the delivery.

When she got to the hospital, she stayed in the room with me, and we had a great time laughing and talking. It all felt very special — a nice ending to a journey we'd embarked on six years prior.

Why it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life

Surrogacy is an emotional roller coaster: For every extreme high, there's an equally extreme low.

The experience was tough at times for our family. For one, Craig and I had to explain to our kids that, even though I was pregnant, these weren't our babies.

Fortunately, they understood and took it in stride. In fact, sometimes people would remark on my pregnancy, and the kids would say, "It's not our baby!" That got us some funny stares.

But the biggest stressor was how I felt. I was often exhausted, so I wasn't always on my best mom game. We ate out a lot because I couldn't stand to smell food cooking, and I wasn't supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds — a tall order with a toddler.

To make it up to my family, one of the first things we did after my second surrogacy was go to Disney World. I wanted to reward the kids for being so great. And in between my two surrogacies, we used a portion of the cash to put a down payment on a new home.

Ultimately, the way we used the money — about $60,000, in total — reassured me that my family really did benefit from my choices.

That said, I imagine anyone who wants to be a surrogate primarily for the money would be left feeling rather empty. Given how long it can take to work, I could have made more money working at McDonald's!

People sometimes ask, "How can you just give the baby up at the end?"

But the truth is, while I care about the kids, it's not in a maternal way. My attachment is more to the parents and the experience we all shared.

That's what made every painful shot, failed IVF attempt, and wave of nausea worth it.


My family: ‘My sister took year out of her life to help me have a baby’

Marie McPhilemy is used to hearing she’s the spitting image of her daughter.

“We both have fair fair, and the same broad cheeks,” she says. “Though she has her father’s blue eyes as well.”

In the eyes of the law, however, they are strangers.

These are the consequences of failing to legislate for surrogacy and other interventions which are increasingly being used by parents to overcome problems of infertility.

When she was 16, doctors realised Marie’s womb hadn’t developed and advised her she would never be able to conceive naturally. “Even at that young age, my older sister Sharon said that, if the timing was right, she would carry a baby.”

When she got married in her 30s to John, she began looking seriously at the prospect of having a child by surrogacy.

“I’d discussed it was John, who was very relaxed and open to the idea. We sought legal advice and wanted to make sure what we were doing wasn’t illegal. But there was no law whatsoever around surrogacy.”

The plan was to fertilise her eggs with her husband’s sperm at an IVF clinic, while Marie’s sister would carry the embryo.

“I would love to have been able to carry my baby, but it wasn’t the case. I never visualised myself pregnant. I was emotionally prepared, as was my sister. It was a year she took out of her life to help me and my husband have a baby. It was an act of pure love.”

Lucy is now a year and a half old. She’s walking, talking and flourishing.

Despite the exhilaration of guiding her daughter through these milestones, there is the realisation that, legally, she is not Lucy’s mother.

“There is no law surrounding surrogacy, so the woman who gives birth is the legal mother - which is my sister; on the birth cert, she’s listed as the mother as well.”

Under planned legislation, Lucy’s birth cert may be amended to include Marie as the mother and parentage would be transferred to her. The laws are unlikely to be in place until 2016 at the earliest.

“They say motherhood is always certain, but in the case of surrogacy, it certainly isn’t. It will be a special day when the law changes.

“All children are special. For us, because of the way she came into the world, she’s extra special. To us, she’s a miracle.”


Turkey’s top religious body says surrogate motherhood contains adultery elements, is not acceptable

Turkey’s top religious affairs body has said surrogate motherhood was religiously unacceptable, as it contained elements of adultery.

The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) announced on March 20 in vitro fertilization between unmarried individuals was not religiously acceptable, as it offended humane feelings and contained elements of adultery.

In an answer to a question on whether or not in vitro fertilization was licit to have babies, Diyanet’s Religious High Council’s platform, established to answer questions regarding Islam and the Islamic way of living, said as long as the sperm and the ovum to be fertilized belong to a married couple and the fertilized ovum is placed inside the ovum’s beholder’s womb, and “not inside a stranger’s womb,” then the in vitro fertilization method of bearing a child was religiously acceptable.

“An in vitro fertilization process that starts and finalizes between individuals who are not de facto married is religiously not acceptable as it offends humane feelings and contains elements of adultery,” read a part of the statement.

The statement added as long as it was medically proven the in vitro fertilization process would not have a negative effect, spiritually or mentally, on the mother, father and to-be-born child, then it was acceptable to use this method to have a child.

In another answer to a question on whether it was allowable to use alcohol in cleaning, Diyanet stated it was okay for substances produced for cleaning and containing alcohol to be used for cleaning purposes, while stressing that drinking alcohol was forbidden by the Islamic religion.

“If [substances containing alcohol] flow onto a dress and the body, they have to be washed … or they cannot perform a prayer. While it is forbidden to drink substances containing alcohol that were produced for cleaning purposes, it is acceptable to use them for cleaning. Therefore, the places which were cleaned with such substances need not be washed before performing a prayer,” read a part of Diyanet’s answer.


100 infertile couples register for surrogate pregnancy

VietNamNet Bridge – Around 100 infertile couples across Vietnam have registered for surrogate pregnancy at three authorised hospitals in the country after the regulation on surrogacy took effect one week ago, according to Deputy Minister of Health, Nguyen Viet Tien.

Tien said on March 19 that three major medical institutions, including the Central Obstetrics Hospital in Hanoi, Hue Central Hospital in Hue City and Tu Du Hospital in HCM City have been authorised to pilot the surrogate pregnancy.

The ministry will review the results one year later before deciding on the expansion of the service.

Dr. Ho Sy Hung, from the Central Obstetrics Hospital said they have received three applications for the surrogate pregnancy services by three infertile couples since March 15.

“We have been well-prepared to provide the surrogacy service to these couples,” Hung said.


A Dad Explains Surrogacy To His Children Through Cartoons

When cartoonist Charles Danziger went through the surrogacy process to start his family, he decided that there should be a story about it.

“I wanted to find a way to introduce the topic of surrogacy to children and families in a charming and warm-hearted way,” Danziger, creator of illustrated parenting blog Boys in ‘Burbs, says. “Since I couldn’t find any of those stories, I decided to make one myself.”

The cartoon series “All Our Wishes” tells the tale of two father mice who want to have a baby.

Danziger, who has a 2- and a 19-month-old son with his partner, says of the cartoon: “I hope it will reinforce the idea that the big difference between kids born through surrogacy and other kids is…nothing!”

And the story of surrogacy isn’t just meant for people who have experience with it.

“Every child on the playground might have questions about how different families form,” Danziger says. “Surrogacy is becoming more and more common, and what better way to educate children than through cartoons.”
Here’s a sneak-peak of the series…

Danziger looks forward to reading this story to his children (once they’re a little older), and he hopes other kids can enjoy it, too.

“I’d be delighted to turn this story into a book because I’ve found nothing that tackles the topic of surrogacy in this way for children,” Danziger says. “And besides, what parent wouldn’t like to read his own kids’ book to his kids?!”


The further use of discretion in considering time limits for parental orders

The judgment in AB and CD and CT [2015] EWFC 12 (“AB and CD”) was given in February and provides a further of example of the court’s willingness to use its discretion to provide security for children born out of surrogacy arrangements.

In a previous blog, “Progress for parents and surrogate children in the UK: Parental order time limit extended”, we wrote about the first reported case in which the court allowed the making of a parental order in circumstances where the application was made outside of the six month time limit Re X (A Child) (Surrogacy: Time Limit) [2014] EWHC 3135 (Fam).  The limit is provided for at section 54(3) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and has until recently been strictly applied by the English courts.  Applying the outcome of Re X, the Judge in AB and CD allowed the making of a parental order despite the application being made more than two years out of time.

The background to AB and CD

The intended parents in AB and CD were civil partners who were born in Britain but lived for a period of time in Australia (and obtained Australian citizenship). During their time in Australia, they decided to start a family and entered into a surrogacy arrangement with an Indian surrogate. The surrogate became pregnant with twins who, immediately following their birth, were placed in the care of AB and CD.  AB and CD met the surrogate mother ten days following the birth and she also signed an affidavit confirming she had no objection to the children remaining in their care and returning to Australia with them.  Once in Australia, the parents made applications for parenting orders, which are similar to child arrangements orders in this country.  One of them, AB, was genetically linked to the twins and also made an application for a declaration of parentage to confirm his status as a legal parent.

The Australian proceedings were served on the surrogate mother and parenting orders were granted.

In late 2013, AB and CD moved back to the UK. They applied for British passports for the twins on the basis that they were British by descent as AB was their biological and legal father.  The applications were refused on the basis that the Home Office did not consider that sufficient evidence had been provided that the surrogate mother, who had been married previously, was divorced at the time the surrogacy agreement was entered into.  Although the parents made enquiries through the clinic in India (with a view to obtaining further evidence about the surrogate’s circumstances), they instead decided to make applications for their children’s discretionary registration as British Citizens. The discretionary registration applications were successful.

Following their arrival in the UK, the parents sought advice regarding their legal relationship with the children and made a joint application to adopt them.  Shortly after this, however, in October 2014, they were advised of the decision in Re X and the possibility of applying for a parental order out of time (rather than adoption). The adoption proceedings were halted and parental order applications issued within a few days of Re X being reported.

At a directions hearing in November, Mrs Justice Theis gave directions for further enquiries to be made of the surrogate mother who had no knowledge of the English applications for adoption or parental orders.  Although the Indian clinic and the surrogacy agency made various attempts to locate the surrogate she could not be found.

Potential bars to the parental order being made

Time limit

The time period within which AB and CD should have made their parental order application in England was six weeks after the twins’ birth, but before the expiry of six months (section 54(3) HFEA 2008).  AB and CD were in Australia at the six month time limit although they had made their Australian applications by that time.

The application before the English court was made in October 2014; almost two and a half years’ out of time.  Mrs Justice Theis considered the case of Re X and in particular the passage that “the court is concerned [… ] with the impact on the innocent child, whose welfare is the court’s paramount concern. […] the court is entitled [...] to adopt a more liberal and relaxed approach”.  The Judge in AB and CD did not consider that the surrogate, who had not had any involvement with the children since 2011, would suffer any prejudice if the parents’ application was allowed out of time.  On the contrary, the Judge felt that the applicants and their children would suffer prejudice if the parental order was not made and she concluded that, despite the delay, the section 54(3) criteria had been met.

The surrogate mother’s consent

The surrogate mother had participated in the Australian proceedings and signed an affidavit in January 2012 (three months after the twins’ birth) consenting to the parenting orders.  She had no involvement in the English proceedings but AB and CD sought to rely on the January 2012 affidavit as evidence of her consent.  This was rejected by the Judge, who highlighted that the consent given by the surrogate in 2012 related to the Australian orders and not to parental orders in England, which have the effect of extinguishing her status as the legal parent of the twins.

The Judge therefore went on to consider the exception in section 54(7) of HFEA, which allows the making of a parental order in the absence of the surrogate’s consent.  Using historic case law as guidance, Mrs Justice Theis found that the parents had taken all reasonable steps to obtain the surrogate’s consent.  The Judge concluded that any further delay in coming to a decision about the making of a parental order would be contrary to the children’s welfare and concluded that the surrogate’s consent to the English application was not required as she could not be found.

The Judge’s concluding remarks:

“I am clear in this case the welfare of each of these children requires a parental order is made, which is the order I shall make.”

Where to from here?

While no doubt surrogacy cases will continue to be decided on a fact specific and case by case basis, the decisions in Re X and AB and CD have marked a significant change to the court’s approach.  It seems that, in the right circumstances, the court will be willing to use its discretion when considering the strict provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, which governs the making of parental orders.

Having said that, parents considering entering into a surrogacy arrangement should not dismiss the importance of the provisions of the Act or assume that their parental order can be obtained easily.  Commissioning parents should take specialist surrogacy advice at an early stage, ideally before identifying a surrogate or entering into any formal agreement.  If parents are not living in England and Wales but have ties here and have considered returning here with their children in the future, advice should be sought in England about making a parental order application without delay (even if the parents are still living abroad with the child).  It is also important to establish clear lines of communication with the surrogate mother as she (and her husband if married) will need to be served with the English parental order application and will need to give consent to the making of the order after the child’s birth, by which time the child will invariably have already been placed in the care of the commissioning parents.


Protecting Your Parental Rights—What You Need to Know About New Jersey’s Gestational Surrogacy Law

For couples who can’t conceive and in cases where in-vitro fertilization is not a viable alternative, surrogacy has become a popular method for couples to have a child. An even more attractive option for parents, ‘gestational surrogacy’ involves a couple using their own genetic material to create an embryo. That embryo gets implanted in the surrogate who carries the baby to term, but has no biological relation to the child. But in cases where the miracle of modern science has enabled couples to fulfill their dreams of having a family, the law in New Jersey has yet to catch up. The good news is that changes to the law to protect parental rights are beginning to take shape. 

Today, despite the lack of biological connection between surrogate and child, many states recognize the surrogate’s right as a parent under the law. Under New Jersey law, the gestational carrier has three days to decide if she wants to relinquish her parental rights. While certain measures can be taken in advance to minimize the likelihood of a problem, this legal acknowledgement of the surrogate often gives rise to custody battles as soon as the baby is born.

Recently, Senator Joseph Vitale re-introduced a bill that would update New Jersey’s current surrogacy law building in legal protections for parents. The most important aspect of the new bill is that it completely eliminates the three-day waiting period in which the surrogate may parental rights providing much needed peace of mind for those entering into the surrogacy process. Other key components of the bill include:

Establishing basic guidelines for women who wish to be a surrogate such as requiring that she be at least 21 years old, undergo a psychological evaluation, had given birth previously, and that she retain an attorney; and

Allowing the gestational carrier to be compensated for housing, clothing, and legal costs.

Those additional components of the proposed law, while directed at the surrogate, actually help prospective parents who can be comforted in the fact that their surrogate is mature, emotionally prepared to handle carrying their child and is receiving independent legal counsel.

Currently, the bill has passed the Senate and will move to the Assembly for further consideration. Making the decision to become a parent creates both enormous joy and responsibility, and as surrogate parents protecting your legal rights can be just as important as selecting the right formula.


How can we dismiss IVF, surrogacy: Madonna

Singer Madonna has spoken out in support of singer Elton John and against leading fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who are in the news for condemning in-vitro fertilisation and saying same-sex couples should not raise children.
The 56-year-old took to photo-sharing platform Instagram on March 18 to post a Dolce and Gabbana 2010 campaign image which showed her and a baby sitting atop her, reports

The "Papa don't preach" hitmaker wrote alongside the black-and-white photograph: "All babies contain a soul however they come to this earth and their families. There is nothing synthetic about a soul.

"So how can we dismiss IVF and surrogacy? Every soul comes to us to teach us a lesson. God has his hand in everything even technology! We are arrogant to think Man does anything on his own. As above so below! Think before you speak. #livingforlove."

In an interview to a magazine, Dolce and Gabbana have stated that babies born via in-vitro fertilisation were 'chemical children' and 'synthetic'. Singer Elton John, who has two children via IVF with husband David Furnish, reacted strongly to the comments.


Sex surrogacy drama She’s Lost Control keeps its cards close

“Every relationship must end.” This bitter but truthful observation is made by Ronah (Brooke Bloom) midway through Anja Marquardt’s debut feature, She’s Lost Control. Though decidedly anti-Hallmark in tone, Ronah’s proclamation isn’t one of pessimism, but an attempt at forcing a realistic outlook—as if through speaking this statement, her own emotional stakes will be lessened. As a sex surrogate who works with men (all notably white and good looking, from the luxurious-haired never-nude to a nebbishly hip introvert) who have “sustained problems with intimacy,” Ronah uses such talking cures to structure her own life. But soon the woman’s grip on her interior life begins to weaken, and, to riff on Patsy Cline’s great ballad to broken hearts, she falls into enigmatic pieces.

At its simplest, She’s Lost Control is a tale of girl meets boy (where “boy” is the lead’s latest client, Johnny, played by Marc Menchaca), and at its potential worst, just another attempt to probe the line between sex and self though the figure of the sex worker. While some of these tropes remain, Marquardt leaves too much intentional ambiguity for her film to fall victim to predictability. Beginning with the protagonist speaking directly to the camera (“Yes, you pay me for my time […] but you can’t control how I feel”), Marquardt uses this unconventional open to coyly lay out her film’s themes while still, as the unsettling climax proves, playing the final hand close to her chest.

A student of behavioral psychology, Ronah is working toward her master’s with a therapist who refers clients to her. Intercutting between Ronah’s client work (mostly enjoyable and sometimes challenging) with scenes of her isolated domestic life, Marquardt paints a portrait of a woman removed from the world. Intimacy, it seems, is easier preached than practiced. But while Ronah plays the part of the emotionally advanced academic (she uses catchphrases like “creating a safe space”), Bloom never represses her character’s turbulent emotional state. Rather than offer a portrait of a hysterical woman, the actress communicates with quiet, small actions—slightly pursed lips, widening her already doe-like eyes—hinting that Ronah is far more emotionally vulnerable than her discourse would lead her clients, and herself, to believe. By the conclusion, Ronah has lost control of the world she inhabits. But this breakdown isn’t the end; instead, the heroine is offered the space to examine her own life and strength. Every relationship must end, but the longest will always be with oneself.


The continuing legal vacuum on surrogacy in Irish context while business is booming globally

For childless couples in particular surrogacy is an option. But it is also one surrounded by great legal uncertainty. And many involved in surrogacy arrangements fail to appreciate the complexities. Frequently couples who have a surrogate bear a child, are not fully prepared for the medical and legal complications that may arise later – whether the birth takes place outside the State, or within this jurisdiction.

There is no legislation on surrogacy in Ireland, and surrogacy contracts are not enforceable here. The surrogate mother is regarded as the legal parent of the child.

To change that status, and so enable the biological parents to have a legal relationship with the child, is not easy – without first changing the law. The surrogate mother could place the child for adoption, in the expectation the biological couple would adopt it. However, under the State’s adoption rules, there is no guarantee that such a placement would be made. Private adoptions are not allowed. This illustrates just one of the many uncertainties that surround surrogacy.

Not surprisingly, more people – deterred by the legal complexity and difficulty attaching to the issue in Ireland – have sought a remedy abroad. But there too, the obstacles remain considerable: the financial cost of surrogacy arrangements can be high, and problems on the legal status of children, and on travel documents can arise.

In 2005 the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction recommended that a child born through surrogacy should be presumed to be that of the couple who made the arrangement. But last November, the Supreme Court ruled that the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate could not be recorded as their legal mother. It also said the surrogacy issue, and that of assisted human reproduction, were really matters for the legislature to address. Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has promised legislation to regulate surrogacy. Even so such legislation, while long over due, cannot deal with the practice of overseas surrogacy. Indeed greater domestic regulation may well serve to increase demand for arrangements made in other countries.