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Pay Surrogate Mums More

Pay surrogate mums more

The head of one of America’s biggest surrogacy agencies says it is reasonable to pay a woman about $30,000 to carry a child for a couple.

Centre for Surrogate Parenting chief executive Karen Synesiou, who is in Perth to speak to fertility experts and families who have used the service, said women who acted as surrogates should be realistically compensated.

Under WA’s surrogacy laws, which are being reviewed, commercial surrogacy is banned and surrogates can only be paid for basic medical costs.

“America has a totally different view, in that surrogate mums are not paid to relinquish a baby but are compensated for the pain and suffering of a pregnancy,” Ms Synesiou said.

“I don’t have a problem with compensated surrogacy, although I don’t think it should all be paid to the surrogate mother at the birth because that feels like you’re paying for the baby. But if you’re paying for the cost of pregnancy, most surrogate mums are getting $US28,000, which is not a huge amount for nine months.”

Ms Synesiou said Australian laws also needed to better protect children born from overseas surrogacy arrangements, including guaranteeing them Australian citizenship instead of the current grey area.

Intending parents also needed to have criminal checks and counselling to show they were suitable to be parents.

She said the recent Baby Gammy case in Thailand had devastated what was a carefully controlled industry.

Children born from surrogacy arrangements were now being bullied in school and called “bought children”.

Her agency, which helped Elton John and his partner David Furnish have two sons, has a firm policy of full disclosure, particularly for the child.

“One of the things I say to intending parents is that they come in here voluntarily, the surrogate mother volunteers and I come to work voluntarily but the only person who is not at the table is the child, so we all have a duty to protect their rights,” Ms Synesiou said.

Babies’ Interest in Human Faces Linked to Callous & Unemotional Traits

This article from KINGS COLLEGE LONDON discusses the relationship between an infant’s preference for a person’s face and their emotional development.

Scientists at King’s College London, the University of Manchester, and the University of Liverpool have found that an infant’s preference for a person’s face, rather than an object, is associated with lower levels of callous and unemotional behaviours in toddlerhood.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, assessed if 213 five-week-old infants spent longer tracking a person’s face compared to an inanimate object – in this case a red ball. The researchers showed that greater tracking of the face relative to the ball was linked to lower callous unemotional behaviours measured using questionnaires when children were two and a half years old. The study also showed that if a mother responds more sensitively to their baby during playtime, then the child is less likely to display callous unemotional behaviour as a toddler.

Callous and unemotional behaviours include a lack of guilt and empathy, reduced concern for other’s distress and difficulties with understanding emotions. In older children and adults, callous unemotional traits have been associated with reduced attention to important social features such as other people’s faces and eyes. This study is the first to examine whether such a relationship is present from the first few weeks of life.

This is the latest finding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) fundedWirral Child Health and Development Study, an ongoing interdisciplinary investigation into the interplay of social and biological factors in the emotional and cognitive development of children. The children are currently being followed to test whether face preference in infancy can predict callous unemotional behaviour through to middle childhood.

Dr Rachael Bedford, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at the Biostatistics Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, says: “Callous and unemotional behaviours in children are known to be associated with an increased emotional burden on families as well as later criminality and antisocial behaviour. This study takes us a step further in understanding the earliest origins of callous and unemotional behaviours. An important next step will be to seek replication of the findings before working towards developing early interventions.”

Dr Jonathan Hill, University of Manchester, says: “While our findings are interesting, we don’t yet know how stable callous unemotional behaviours are. Our follow-up work will assess how these early indicators affect children in later life.”

The study is led jointly by Professor Jonathan Hill of University of Manchester and Dr Helen Sharp of University of Liverpool, with developmental and statistical expertise from Professor Andrew Pickles, Head of Department for Biostatistics at King’s College London.

British Government May Permit the Creation of “Three-Parent” Embryos

Nora Sullivan discusses a law that is being considered in Parliament which would allow three parent embryos to be created to avoid diseases passed on through mitochondria.

Later this month, leading scientists from around the world are set to caution a UK parliamentary inquiry against the creation of babies using the genetic material of three parents.  On October 22, this group will warn the inquiry against such genetic engineering and the possible scientific and ethical problems it could bring.

Currently, a law is being considered in Parliament which would allow doctors to create three-parent  embryos in order to avoid serious diseases with their origin in the cell’s mitochondria. Presently, “mitochondria replacement therapy” can only be used to create embryos for research purposes.  However, some government ministers are arguing that this procedure could be used to help mothers prevent mitochondrial diseases from being passed on to their children.

However, the method by which a three-parent embryo is created is potentially unsafe as well as, to say the least, ethically questionable.

Researchers have developed a method that attempts to create an embryo free of the mitochondrial defects it would otherwise contain.  This is achieved by a technique called pro-nuclear transfer wherein the father’s sperm is used to fertilize the mother’s egg which contains the defective mitochondria, creating one embryo.  At the same time, a second egg from a donor, which contains healthy mitochondria, is also fertilized, producing a second embryo.  The nuclei from both embryos are removed, destroying them as entities.  The nucleus from the embryo with the defective mitochondrial DNA is then placed in the embryo “shell” with the healthy mitochondrial DNA.  The result is a third embryo, which contains genetic material from two mothers and one father.

In a letter obtained by the Sunday Times of London, the scientists have questioned the safety of this mitochondrial donation technique used to create these embryos. “The safety of mitochondrial replacement therapy is not yet established sufficiently well to proceed to clinical trials,” the group warned.

However, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which oversees Great Britain’s embryo research, stated it could “see no reason for changing its in-depth and considered views on this matter.”

Many others in the scientific community do not agree that this matter is so cut and dried. Dr. Stuart Newman, a leading cell biologist and professor at New York Medical College, questioned both the science and the ethics of the proposal. “The mitochondria are . . . participants in the development of the organism. This clearly makes any person [brought into being from the procedure] a product of wholesale genetic engineering.”

A recent editorial from New Scientist also urged serious caution, stating, “The emerging science and the issues it raises have not had a proper airing. They urgently need to be brought to Parliament’s attention, debated and settled before a decision is made.”

There are other serious ethical concerns as well. Mitochondrial-replacement procedures would constitute germ-line modification. Should the United Kingdom legalize this procedure it would cross a legal and ethical line long held by the entire scientific community. This general understanding is that certain genetic-engineering tools may be used to treat an individual’s medical condition, but should not be used to modify young embryos in order to alter the traits of future children.  While proponents of the procedure argue that the mitochondrial DNA does not affect a person’s personality or inherited traits, this is not clear.  Scientists and ethicists from all walks of life have expressed concern that this sort of genetic engineering may have unforeseen consequences and ultimately more than one victim as these genes continue to be passed on.

The desire to alleviate human suffering is a noble ambition and the use of science to combat disease is to be encouraged.  However, advances in science must not come at the expense of ethics and our own humanity. In order to create one genetically modified embryo, doctors must destroy two human embryos in the process.  This process allows for the creation of life simply to destroy it.

Should Britain pass this legislation, they will be the first nation to do so and it will set a very grim precedent for the rest of the world.  It is to be hoped that this month’s inquiry takes the warnings of the scientific community very seriously.

Egg Freezing Raises Fundamental Issues of Ethics and Fairness

My friend and preeminent legal scholar, Susan Crockin, outlines the important factors to be considered regarding egg donation after Facebook and Apple offer elective egg freezing for an employee benefit.

Dramatic improvements in egg freezing and thawing techniques have made its elective use a “hot topic.” Apple and Facebook’s decision to offer elective egg freezing as an employee benefit is the latest and most public example of what some have only half jokingly dubbed the new graduation wallet. In reality, elective egg freezing for young women without fertility issues is a benefit with many unintended consequences. As with much medical progress, history teaches us you can’t put the genie back in the bottle: before we jump too far into this newest disruptive technology, it is imperative to enact safeguards that promote its fair and desired application.

Apple and Facebook may have the best of intentions, but no woman should undergo a medical procedure without thorough, informed discussion with an objective medical professional.

What does that mean in practice? First, stimulating women’s ovaries and retrieving eggs is a two-week medical process that is not without medical risk. Offering or promoting it to women who may never need it should be done cautiously. Employers may have the best of intentions, but no woman should undergo a medical procedure without thorough, informed consent obtained through discussion with a genuinely objective medical professional.

Second, there are other costs, including annual storage fees.

Third, ultimately disposition decisions need to be made for the vast majority of eggs that will likely never be needed. For most of these young women, having babies the old-fashioned way will still work better, be easier, less expensive and more fun.

Fourth, these smart, young, fertile workers share a lot of characteristics with ideal egg donors. Ultimately, these unneeded eggs may end up “on the market.” And if you don’t work for Apple or Facebook, want to preserve your fertility and need to find a way to pay for it, you might be offered an egg-sharing option. All of this may be tempting for women, employers and doctors alike, but it raises serious ethical, informed consent and conflict of interest issues.

Moreover, there are fundamental fairness issues here. Should we endorse coverage of this technology as a lifestyle choice when most of those who actually need this technology to have a family – cancer patients facing chemotherapy, carriers of crippling genetic disorders who want to avoid passing them on to their children and same-sex couples – still pay out of pocket? None of them should be overlooked in any benefits plan or campaign to encourage or cover family building.

If we had stopped medical progress in 1978, Louise Brown, or the 5 million I.V.F. babies that have come after her, would never have been born. Egg freezing is yet another significant medical advance. For some women it will be the right answer; for others it will be unnecessarily risky business. But, like all medical breakthroughs, full and informed consent, coupled with comprehensive, fair policies that make similar benefits available to those who need it to build their families now, will make this welcome, rather than questionable, medical progress.

She’s My Daughter: Man Who Exposed The Surrogacy Scam

This article paints the picture of a loving father caring for his daughter, supposedly conceived through surrogacy, even after he discovers she is not biologically his.

She’s my daughter: Man who exposed the surrogacy scam
 Visitors at Vijayanagar’s Janata Park may have seen the familiar sight of a father and daughter spending time alone on a park bench. The daughter’s autistic gait and irregular speech, and the father’s unkempt stubble would answer onlookers’ doubts about the reason for the worry lines on the father’s face.
But life has delivered many more sucker punches to Don Bosco, 44, than any normal human being can take. He is unemployed after an injury. His wife, the only breadwinner, recently died after a bout of depression. And the daughter, whose autism is his constant worry, is not even his. Still he loves her deeply, and caring for her is right now the only purpose of his dreary life.
Bangalore Mirror had recently reported about the surrogacy racket involving Srushti Global Diagnostics (Fertility clinic gives man surrogate baby he did not father, BM, Oct 12), which Don Bosco had exposed. The accused, KT Gurumurthy, an embryologist-pretender, has been arrested, but Bosco has moved on to face his share of troubles.

He still remembers how he went to the lab in February 2008, almost pleading with Gurumurthy to help his wife Sarala Devi conceive. The couple were childless after several years of marriage. After donating his semen, he had hoped there would soon be a ray of hope in their life. But seven months later, their lives turned topsy-turvy when they were handed over the girl child, who Gurumurthy claimed was born through surrogacy. Despite misgivings on the premature birth, the couple accepted the child since they had paid an amount of Rs 3.5 lakh, and named her Mrudalika.

For the first five years, they brought up the baby as their own. But their joy did not last for long as they started noticing the child’s irregular growth. Only later was it diagnosed that the child suffered from autism. Even then Sarala, who was a teacher at an international school, took complete care of Mrudalika as any loving mother would. But the strain and the steady rise in expenses in caring for both the sick child as well as her unemployed husband, took a heavy toll on Sarala. She died two months ago in August this year.
This was when Bosco, who had always nursed doubts about the child’s antecedents, took a paternity test on the suggestion of the North-division police. When the report came, he was shocked to have his suspicions confirmed that he was not Mrudalika’s father. While Bosco is determined to follow through on legal measures against Gurumurthy — whose police custody was extended on Wednesday till October 20 — his love for his daughter has only grown.

He is adamant that he would bring her up on his own, even though funding her treatment is a struggle. So never mind she cannot call him even ‘appa’, or talk normally, and never mind how much the therapy would cost, he is willing to pay the price.

Bosco told BM, “My wife was the sole breadwinner of the family, as I could not work after a factory accident in 2010. While she was at work, I took care of the Mrudalika. She never called her ‘amma’, nor me ‘appa’, but the smile on her face is all I want. Even if I look for a full-time job, caring for my baby would be a problem. Right now her grandmother chips in. But ultimately her care is my responsibility.”
The family is currently residing at RPC Layout near Vijayanagar in a house which Bosco jointly owns with his sister. To fund the treatment, he has rented out a portion of his house, occupying just one room. The rent is shared with his sister.
As the two stepped out from the park bench to take a walk, Bosco said, “I will do anything to keep her happy. She never plays with toys like children her age. She has a special affection for tubes. So be it a face wash or toothpaste, I empty the tube and give it to her. That is the only thing she plays with.”
Mrudalika face is expressionless and she doesn’t know what is going on around her, but as she embraces her father after a tiring day, Bosco says that is all that matters.

South Africa’s Surrogacy Laws Challenged

Surrogacy Laws in South Africa are being challenged by a woman who says the requirements for a genetic link under surrogacy laws violates her rights.

The Times is reporting that a Cape Town woman is challenging South Africa’s surrogacy laws.

A provision of the Children’s Act of 2005 makes surrogacy illegal for single people who are barren and for couples both of whom are infertile, even if there is another relative willing to donate an egg or sperm.

Since 2001, the 56-year-old woman has undergone 18 in vitro fertilisations and has had two miscarriages.

She claims that the requirement of a genetic link violates a number of her constitutional rights, including those of equality and human dignity, as well as those of others in her position. She had used her husband’s sperm for the in vitro fertilisations until they divorced.

The University of Pretoria’s Centre for Child Law has joined the application as a friend of the court.

Director Ann Skelton spoke to John about the merits of this case.

Aussie Parents Devastated Following Indian Surrogacy Mix-Up As Neither Is Genetically Related To Their Twin Girls

mix-up involving an Indian surrogate has left an Australian couple devastated that their child has no genetic link to them.

The couple, who have not been named, have been left devastated by the discovery after they used an Indian surrogate to have a child.

The incident was uncovered as details of three specific Indian surrogacy cases became public after the release of a report on surrogacy by the Attorney-­General’s department.

In one of the cases, an Australia couple “commissioned” twin girls via an Indian surrogate. The pair claims they intended the twins to have biological ties to their father, but would use donor eggs.

However, DNA tests results showed that there is no biological tie to the father whatsoever. It’s unclear how the mix-up occurred.

“Mr P, an Australian citizen of Indian background, commissioned twin girls who he claims were intended to have been his biological children using donor eggs,” the report states, “but DNA test results showed no biological tie.”

In another case it is claimed an Indian man on a temporary Australian visa faked a relationship with an Australian woman, using his ex-wife as a “surrogate” to gain citizenship.

The man and woman, whose names have been changed, claim to have had a child under a surrogacy arrangement in India. There are concerns that this was part of a “baby for a visa deal”.

“Ms B is sponsoring Mr K for a partner visa. There are doubts about whether their ­relationship is a genuine partner relationship. The (claimed) surrogate mother is Mr K’s ­ex-wife,” the report states.

“While this is speculation, it is possible this case ­represents a ‘baby for a visa’ deal and that once Mr K is a­ ­permanent resident, he would reconcile with his first wife and seek to sponsor her and their child for migration.”

In yet another case, officials have been informed of an Australian woman who has been left with a baby that holds no genetic links to her husband after seeking a surrogate through an Indian agency.

“The child was born to Australian parents who went to India to arrange surrogacy,” a source said.

“While they were waiting for the confirmation of the genetic link, the Immigration Department agreed for them to relocate to Hong Kong. When the tests came back there was no link.”

The report comes after the much publicised case of baby Gammy, the Down syndrome child who was born via surrogate and abandoned in Thailand by an Australian couple.

Facebook and Apple Offer Egg-Freezing Perk So Women Never Stop Working

Nitasha Tiku, gives us a look at an unprecedented perk being offered to women working for Facebook and Apple.

Facebook and Apple Offer Egg-Freezing Perk So Women Never Stop Working

Tech corporations have perfected the science of the employee perk: a lavish amenity designed to keep workers in the office and fixated on the job. The recent announcement that Facebook and Apple will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs is perhaps the most fascinating example of what’s behind America’s unbalanced work-is-life mindset.

The perk enforces Silicon Valley’s obsessive work mentality and gender progress—so, in this case, women can have it all! Perhaps Facebook and Apple will even pressure other corporations to follow suit.

Unlike unlimited vacation days, which go unused to the point where Mastercard built an ad campaign around it, I imagine most working women would exercise this option in a heartbeat because of the huge cost financial and personal cost of continuing to hustle, crush it, and shut up in their careers while biologically constrained. This subsidizes the cost of choosing when to prioritize having children.

NBC reports:

When successful, egg freezing allows women to put their fertility on ice, so to speak, until they’re ready to become parents. But the procedure comes at a steep price: Costs typically add up to at least $10,000 for every round, plus $500 or more annually for storage.

With notoriously male-dominated Silicon Valley firms competing to attract top female talent, the coverage may give Apple and Facebook a leg up among the many women who devote key childbearing years to building careers. Covering egg freezing can be viewed as a type of “payback” for women’s commitment, said Philip Chenette, a fertility specialist in San Francisco.

Ah, there’s the word. Commitment. Author Kate Losse examined that concept in a review of Sheryl Sandberg’s instruction manual for getting ahead:

The fact that Lean In is really waging a battle for work and against unmonetized life is the reason pregnancy, or the state of reproducing life, looms as the corporate Battle of Normandy in Lean In. Pregnancy, by virtue of the body’s physical focus on human reproduction, is humanity’s last, biological stand against the corporate demand for workers’ continuous labor. For Sandberg, pregnancy must be converted into a corporate opportunity: a moment to convince a woman to commit further to her job. Human life as a competitor to work is the threat here, and it must be captured for corporate use, much in the way that Facebook treats users’ personal activities as a series of opportunities to fill out the Facebook-owned social graph.

By arguing that women should express their feminism by remaining in the workplace at all costs, Sandberg encourages women to maintain a commitment to the workplace without encouraging the workplace to maintain a commitment to them.

These issues are not unique to Facebook or even Silicon Valley. Corporations accountable to shareholders do not act in ways that will ultimately hurt their financial interests. As NBC notes:

News of the firms’ egg-freezing coverage comes in the midst of what’s been described as a Silicon Valley “perks arms race.” It’s only the latest in a generous list of family and wellness-oriented health benefits from Apple and Facebook (whose COO, of course, is feminist change agent and “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg). Both companies offer benefits for fertility treatment and adoption. Facebook famously gives new parents $4,000 in so-called “baby cash” to use however they’d like.

It’s too soon to tell whether female employees will feel pressured to freeze their eggs rather than take time out to have children, just like everyone feels pressured to always be on call to the office, always check email, always have a smartphone in hand. The choice is yours to decide whether or not to take those vacation days, except sometimes that choice feels like an illusion and this decision might be the hardest one working women have to make.

More Chinese Couples Turning to Surrogacy Services

20140910_testtubebaby_CDANNThis article by Yang Wanli details the surrogacy options for Chinese couples to have children as infertility rates among the Chinese, particularly those in major cities, are on the rise.

Tang Zhou and his wife are planning to have their second child, a test-tube baby.

His wife had a natural delivery when she was 34 and their first child, a boy, is now 7. The couple, who are involved in a wine-importing business in Beijing, are now hoping to have a daughter through a surrogate mother in the US.

“My wife couldn’t bear another delivery because of her heart condition and her age. Surrogacy helps avoid the risks to older mothers,” Tang said.

“Moreover, our second child will be born in the US and become a citizen there. That is not a bad choice.” The couple spent weeks researching their move, looking for a reliable agency that provides surrogacy services overseas. Surrogacy is still illegal in many countries, including China.

“We will be taking much higher risks by relying on a surrogate mother in China because we are not protected by any regulation or law. You pay a lot of money but may encounter many problems,” Tang said.

“You might not even get your baby back.”

Tang and his wife are part of an increasing number of Chinese couples who are turning to surrogacy services.

Tang also considered surrogacy in Thailand but dropped the idea after recent reports about a baby with Down syndrome who was delivered through surrogacy and allegedly abandoned by the biological parents in Australia.

Instead, Tang chose the California Surrogacy Center agency as his first option after reading the detailed introduction on its website. Compared with many other agencies that he could contact only via e-mail, the centre has a consulting office in Beijing, Tang said.

The couple visited the office on the 11th floor of the Nanyin Building near the West Third Ring Road in Beijing on a Friday morning. A consultant named Liu Jia hosted the couple. She said the office is only for consultations. Other procedures, including health checks, contractual arrangements, surrogacy and delivery of the baby, are done in the US.

“In the past two years, we’ve successfully helped about 40 couples in China have a child through surrogacy, including two gay couples. Most intended parents from China are between 38 and 45 years old,” Liu said.

The centre is in San Diego, California, and has satellite offices in Los Angeles and Beijing. According to Liu, the centre has been operating for more than eight years, and about 100 surrogate mothers live in California.

If the parents supply their own sperm and ova, the centre charges $110,000 to $160,000, which includes the payments to the surrogate mother, the agency’s fee, insurance and legal bills. Generally speaking, overseas parents are required to travel to the US three times. First, they will visit the centre for a one-on-one consultation with lawyers and surrogate mothers. Contracts are signed after a decision is made.

“We have a big pool of surrogate mothers of different races, including Asian,” Liu said. “But usually, I recommend clients choose a white or black surrogate mother because they are stronger and have thicker uterine walls.”

The second visit is mainly for the in vitro fertilization process. During the pregnancy, the centre will check the physical and mental condition of the surrogate mother every week and update the clients on her condition.

“If required, we can also arrange video calls between surrogate mother and intended parents,” she said.

“Ten months after that, the clients fly to the US for the third time and take their lovely baby back. However, travel and accommodation costs are not included in our package.

“About 80 per cent of our clients turned to surrogacy in the US not only with the consideration of being protected by the law but also because the child will be recognised legally as a US citizen. Moreover, the much higher success rate of IVF in the US is also crucial to them since many Chinese female clients are not at their best age for childbearing,” Liu said. Compared with the success rate of IVF in China’s top fertility hospital, at 30 to 50 per cent, the rate in the US is as high as 83 per cent, Liu said.

The Tangs had left the office in Beijing after about an hour, but were still concerned about the centre’s reliability.

“We should pay a visit to California, at least to make sure the centre is there and is legally protected,” Tang said.

Infertility issues

An increasing number of couples in China have been facing infertility in recent years. A report from the China Population Association showed that the infertility rate among people of childbearing age rose from 3 per cent in 1992 to 12.5 per cent in 2012, equivalent to 40 million people.

But in large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the infertility rate is even higher at 15 per cent, which means one in 10 couples of childbearing age have difficulty conceiving.

Peking University Third Hospital, one of China’s leading hospitals for the treatment of infertility problems, receives 1,500 couples hoping for a baby every day.

“Many factors can be blamed for an increase in the infertility rate, including stress, abortion, pregnancy at an older age and environmental pollution,” said Qiao Jie, president of the hospital.

The transfer of sperm, eggs and embryos between hospitals is forbidden in China. In 2001, the Health Ministry issued a regulation on assisted fertility techniques that banned both commercial and altruistic surrogacy.

For wealthy Chinese who want to have a child through surrogacy, destinations such as some states in the US and India, where the service is legally protected, have become safe options.

“Most of the clients we have seen from China are from wealthy backgrounds and have a lot of power within their industries. These clients know what they want and how to get it,” said Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, head of social work at the British Surrogacy Centre of America, a US-based surrogacy centre with offices in California, New Jersey and the UK.

The centre has handled about 800 live births since it was established in 2000. Seventy per cent of them were in the US and the rest in the UK. The clients’ ages range from 35 to 65.

“China has always been a country of great opportunity within the surrogacy world. The number of clients from China has grown steadily and it continues to climb today. Many of our clients wish to try for multiple births and have twins, mainly because of the rules in China on birth control and the numbers of children per family,” Drewitt-Barlow said. In the past five years, the organisation has worked with more than 100 couples from China both from the straight and gay communities, Drewitt-Barlow said. He said China will continue to be a growth area and the group plans to have a branch office in the country within the next five years.

Paying for a woman to carry a child is legal in 19 US states, which have laws that recognise compensated surrogacy. Another 10 allow unpaid surrogacy. Under the existing laws, the names of the intended parents will be directly written on the baby’s birth certificate and they will be legally recognised as the baby’s parents.

Under the rules of the US Food and Drug Administration, donors of eggs, sperm, and embryos have to be tested as a precaution to protect the recipient-the gestational carrier in this case-against contracting any diseases from the embryo.

For surrogate mothers, the same test at the FDA-approved labs and a physiological test are also mandatory, according to a China Business News report. The blood of the spouses of married surrogate mothers is also tested.

But there are still risks involved for the Chinese intended parents.

A surrogacy agency should be registered with the FDA, but “they are not supervised by the FDA or anyone else, and this is why there are so many scams in the surrogacy marketplace”, Liu from California Surrogacy Center said.

The British Surrogacy Centre website contains a detailed price list for surrogacy with or without sperm or egg donations-for example, a $20,000 payment to BSC, legal fees of $10,000 to $16,000, and IVF surrogacy from $23,000 to $37,000.

For intended parents who need surrogacy with a donor’s sperm or egg, an extra fee is charged. If the surrogate delivers twins, extra payment for each baby will be added.

“Because of the large amounts of money in this field, lots of agencies pop up all the time with the aim of ripping off clients from around the world,” Drewitt-Barlow said. “The FBI is constantly looking into the claims from intended parents that have wired money to firms in the US, and those firms have closed down or gone bust.”

To ensure that the surrogacy is legally protected, Drewitt-Barlow said, it is important that intended parents talk to the people involved.

All contracts should be signed in the state that the surrogacy is being carried out, Liu added.

“Never sign a contract or pay the fees in China. If you can’t be in the US for some reason, you should do a notarization in the US embassy,” she said.

Risks at home

But many Chinese parents also turn to the domestic market because of lower costs. Advertisements posted online or via messaging apps are easily found.

Many of these agencies are illegal. They sport fancy websites but can only be contacted through messaging apps like QQ or WeChat. Landline or cellphone numbers are seldom available.

Numerous efforts by China Daily to contact many of these agencies were unsuccessful.

One of them, called International Medical Service, based in Shanghai, responded by saying it has six years’ experience of providing surrogacy services and even invested “millions of yuan” to build their own IVF clinic in Guangdong’s provincial capital, Guangzhou.

A woman surnamed Li from the agency’s customer service department said more than 500 babies have been delivered over the past six years through its services. An ordinary surrogacy costs 450,000 yuan ($73,300). She also introduced another package for “unlimited tries”, promising that the client can have a baby for 650,000 yuan.

“If you wanted to decide the gender of your baby, a total of 850,000 yuan is necessary,” she said.

“We have about 20 surrogate mothers, mainly from South China and aged between 26 and 32. The physicians serving in our agency are mostly from level-three (top level) public hospitals.”

Li gave the reporter a detailed introduction to the agency’s surrogacy services, including photos and resumes of three doctors from three different level three hospitals in Guangzhou.

But checks later showed that the three doctors mentioned could not be found in the hospitals.

“As you know surrogacy is not permitted in China, so we can’t use the true names of those doctors. But you can pay a visit to our clinic in Guangzhou first. We will let you see the doctor after we make the deal,” she said.

Such unreliable surrogacy services without legal protection also pose risks to surrogate mothers-most of whom are poorly educated without any knowledge of legal issues. To them, surrogacy is a 10-month deal that promises easy and fast money.

On Tianya, one of China’s biggest online chat platforms, posts looking for women as commercial surrogate mothers can easily be found.

When contacted via the QQ messaging service, a representative of a surrogacy agency called Angel Surrogacy Center based in Fujian province said its surrogate mothers hail from North and South China but stay in Fujian and Hubei provinces.

These people “don’t want to get pregnant in their hometown to avoid the embarrassment of meeting their friends”, said the representative, who wanted to be known as Chen.

On its website, the agency said it has been operating for four years and has served more than 100 couples. Surrogate mothers can choose to stay in an apartment that the agency arranges (usually three to four surrogate mothers share one apartment) or in a house provided directly by the clients.

“You can get 170,000 yuan for having one baby and the clients will pay all the other costs such as food and household chores. Seventy per cent of the total payment will be given during gestation time, and the remaining 30 per cent will be paid after delivery,” Chen said.

“If you are younger than 35, had virginal delivery experience and a medical check to prove your health, we will hire you.”

But when asked how payment can be ensured and about insurance to cover any possible emergency during the pregnancy, the representative of the agency only reiterated its four years of experience and the trust between its clients and surrogate mothers.

“You know it doesn’t make any sense to sign a contract since surrogacy is illegal in China. Neither clients nor we want to have any conflict with surrogate mothers. So if you can deliver a baby successfully, there should be no worries about the payment,” she said.

But those who turn to the domestic surrogacy market because of cheaper services still run the risk of losing the money they fork out and running afoul of the law.

“The contract will be regarded as invalid because it violates moral principles and is against the law on the commercial trade of human organs,” said Wan Xin, a member of the Beijing Health Law Society.

According to the Administrative Measures on Human Assisted Reproductive Technology by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, medical departments or physicians involved in surrogacy services will receive a warning and fined as much as 30,000 yuan.

If such activity constitutes a crime, criminal liability shall be imposed in accordance with the law.

“This is just a regulation and not punitive enough. There are still loopholes for agencies that are independent of medical bodies,” Wan said.

“Such illegal services will not only bring high risks to surrogate mothers and babies, but may also endanger the legal recognition of the parent-child relationship.”

According to China’s Marriage Law and Inheritance Law, children fall under one of four categories-legitimate, illegitimate, stepchild and adopted child. On the birth certificate, Wan said, the “mother” legally recognised is the person who gave birth to the child.

Due to the lack of related regulations or laws on surrogacy, disputes over child maintenance and inheritance have become more frequent in past years, Wan said.

Wang Guisong, associate professor at the law school of Renmin University of China, said there are no investigations showing the scale of the grey market of surrogacy in China, but demand is clearly booming due to the infertility situation and improving economic conditions.

“The government should face this problem at an early stage, decriminalizing surrogacy and developing policies around the legalization of surrogacy for infertile Chinese couples,” he said.

France Winddance Twine, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggested that federal legislation should be made in the US and China that regulates surrogacy and provides more long-term protection and medical insurance for surrogate mothers.

“It could generate a dialogue since the industry remains unregulated in both countries, creating the possibility for fraud, labour exploitation of surrogate mothers,” she said.

“We also need a transnational or inter-country agreement on surrogacy since so many individuals travel from Asia (China and Japan) to the countries, like the US where some states like California allow it, to purchase the services of a gestational surrogate.”

She said the labour market is stratified in the US and given the ongoing gender discrimination in the labour force, surrogacy provides fertile women of child-bearing age with a way to earn money.

“There should be no discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion of the ‘gestational’ surrogate mothers who are not genetically related to the child that they birth,” Twine said.

“As more Asian women follow what is happening in the US among professional women, the younger generations who have the financial resources will begin freezing their eggs and banking them. We may see a decrease in future generations of upper middle-class women using surrogacy services.”

Australian Prime Minister Opposes National Law On Surrogacy

Nice to see Australia will not have a knee-jerk reaction to this emerging scandal.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott today rejected calls for a national law on overseas surrogacy after chilling details emerged of an investigation into the case of an Australian couple abandoning one of their twins born to a surrogate in India in 2012. The Prime Minister said that although the situation was “distressing” there was no role for the federal government in law reform and it should be left to the state governments.

“Surrogacy is a matter for the state governments and while I can understand the interest in this right around the country I think that there are some matters that are quite properly left to the state governments,” Abbott said when he was asked to comment on the latest case. Dismissing the calls for a national law on overseas surrogacy, Abott said, “I certainly do not intend to change the ordinary constitutional arrangements.”

The case involved a set of twins born in India via a surrogate mother to a Australian couple.

The Australian couple wanted to take back only one of the child, leaving the other behind, despite repeated attempts by the Australian High Commission in New Delhi to try to persuade them to take both the twins. The consular staff delayed giving the Australian parents visa but the couple was allowed to fly back with only one child after pressure was exerted from Australia, Chief Justice of Family Court, Diana Bryant was told by consular officials.

The case created headlines throughout the world and demands for an enquiry and a national law dealing with overseas surrogacy are now increasing.

Chief judge of federal Circuit Court John Pascoe demanded an enquiry into the case, saying Australia did not have appropriate legislation governing the practice. “I am really concerned that this issue has not received the attention it properly deserves. Australia is a country of decent people where international obligations are respected. We have obligations in human rights and I think it is very important that we step up to them,” he said.

Chief Justice Bryant said that the case highlighted the need for a national inquiry into surrogacy.

Meanwhile, opposition parties here have also called for an inquiry into overseas commercial surrogacy. Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said nationally consistent laws on international surrogacy were needed. “It is important that we have better, more nationally consistent rules relating to commercial surrogacy,” Plibersek said, adding, “Clarity and national consistency would be beneficial.


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