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Friday, April 17, 2015

Oregon's paid surrogates are choice for same-sex couples around world

The first time Carey Flamer-Powell gave birth, she delivered a girl and took her home. The second time, she delivered a boy and sent him to Georgia.

Flamer-Powell, 38, was a gestational surrogate, paid to carry the boy by his future parents, a lesbian couple. As a lesbian herself who'd struggled with infertility, Flamer-Powell found her experience so stirring that in August 2014 she set up a surrogacy agency catering to gay and lesbian clients. Eight months later, All Families Surrogacy does a brisk business from a third-floor office in the Beaverton Round Executive Suites, drawing clients from around the world.

In a convergence of medical advances and cultural shifts, Oregon has quietly become an international destination for gestational surrogacy, an industry banned in many states and countries. Couples from all over the world, especially gay and lesbian couples, come to the state and pay $100,000 or more for the chance to become biological parents, a transaction that mixes business with joy and wraps the resulting babies in a bundle of practical, legal and ethical questions.

Intended parents from countries of all stripes - Israel, Argentina, China, Australia, France, Sweden, Ecuador, Canada, Germany, Egypt - are flocking to All Families and other Oregon surrogacy agencies for a combination of reasons, said those working in the field:

Oregon has no law against gestational surrogacy. Some states, such as Washington, forbid any paid surrogacy; Oregon surrogates are advised not to travel to Washington in their third trimester. In other states, surrogacy is legal for heterosexual married couples but not for same-sex couples.

Oregon has a pre-birth procedure for amending a birth certificate so it bears the names of the intended parents and not the surrogate's. The procedure, devised by Beaverton lawyer Robin Pope about eight years ago, allows the intended parents to bypass a court hearing through a process called declaratory judgment. As a result, establishing legal parentage is "very straightforward" in Oregon, Pope said. The procedure puts Oregon "really ahead of quite a few states," said Judy Sperling-Newton, director of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) and an owner of The Surrogacy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Oregon is home to several nationally known fertility clinics that have high success rates with in vitro fertilization and live births. John Chally, an adoption attorney and co-founder of the 21-year-old Northwest Surrogacy Center in Portland, said he remembers 25 percent pregnancy rates in the early days of gestational surrogacy. Now fertility clinics are so sure of success they are willing to transfer only one or two embryos at a time.

Oregon surrogates are seen as particularly desirable. "We have a good reputation in terms of being healthy, (having) prenatal care, taking care of themselves," said Adrienne Black, a former surrogate who founded a Eugene surrogacy agency, Heart to Hands Surrogacy, in 2011. Geri Chambers, another former surrogate who owns the 5-year-old Greatest Gift Surrogacy Center in Sherwood, agreed: "We're definitely more of an organic, plant-based, natural type of surrogate."

Oregon surrogacy is less expensive, relatively speaking. "It seems like the fees for all of these things are a little less than in California or on the East Coast," Black said.

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