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Social Surrogacy: Should It Be An Option?

social surrogacy

Over the past week, there has been a lot of controversy regarding a semi-new trend in the world of assisted reproduction labeled ‘social surrogacy.’

Just last Friday, April 18th, Good Morning America hosted a segment about the practice.

What is social surrogacy? According to an article on ABC News, it’s when an “agency matches surrogates with women who have nonmedical reasons for not wanting to carry their own babies.”

There have been many different reactions about its rise in popularity.

Writer Sharon Greenthal from The Huffington Post, had a strong initial reaction upon viewing the Good Morning America segment:

What is this?? What kind of insanity? When there are millions of women who are desperate to be pregnant, literally going broke trying to make a baby, these women — and the estimate by the GMA doctor was that there are around 2,000 of them and counting — are opting not to be pregnant so they can wear their skinny jeans? Can someone please tell me why this is OK?

Others, including some women who are thinking about becoming mothers in the future, are more intrigued than shocked, like writer Marie Le Conte from the UK, interviewed in The Telegraph:

I grew up with my mum telling me you can adopt a kid or have a surrogate pregnancy or do whatever you want. I don’t know if I can accept a moment in my life where I wouldn’t be able to do much. Now that we live in a society where we have the option to not go through it – I can understand why people wouldn’t want to do it – but why not do it?

Wherever you stand, it’s always wise to do your research and to thoroughly analyze your intentions.

As Dr. Vicken Sahakian, medical director of the Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles, states, “Is there real benefit for bypassing the beautiful experience of carrying a child?”

 

Misconception: Italian Clinic Transfers Wrong Embryos and Patient Pregnant With Another Couple’s Twins

Fortunately this kind of malpractice is exceedingly rare. While some will use this to further an anti-IVF and assisted reproduction agenda, it is critically important to keep the numbers in perspective. When you can count on less than two hands the total number of times this kind of mishap has occurred around the world since the advent of IVF, you realize just how safe this process can be. While this does not excuse the gross malpractice of the IVF facility, it shouldn’t be used either as evidence of an endemic problem. What is more intriguing is who will ultimately receive custody of the babies — the genetic parents or the patient carrying the twins. Which also begs the next question — is another patient carrying her baby?

A pregnant Italian woman was “shocked” to learn that the twins she is carrying thanks to IVF treatment are not her own, following an apparent hospital mix-up. Italian government inspectors were due on Monday to visit the Pertini hospital in Rome, where the treatment occurred, after the woman underwent a pre-natal check which revealed her unborn children possessed different DNA to her and her husband.

The woman, who has not been named, underwent IVF treatment on Dec. 4, at the same time as three other women, one of whom had a similar surname to hers, Italian press reported on Monday. Corriere della Sera said their surnames were identical except for three letters.

Staff may have mixed up the embryos ready for insertion, or the women might have even responded to the wrong name when they were called from the waiting room to undergo treatment, reports suggested. Michele Ambrosini, a lawyer representing the woman, said she was determined to push on with her pregnancy. “If she had wanted an abortion she would have already done it,” he said.

Is India A Viable Option For Japanese Intended Parents Pursuing Surrogacy?

If you are a Japanese Intended Parent considering surrogacy in India, I would strongly encourage you to speak to an immigration attorney in Japan before proceeding with any agency in India. While I cannot personally verify this Japanese woman’s account of her experience in trying to secure a visa, it is nevertheless is worrisome enough that I thought it worthwhile to share:

I am writing you for the first time. I am sorry for contacting you because I do not know who I can ask. But I want to tell you because people in the world should know this. So I decided to write this with courage.

Since my friend who can read English well recommended to contact you about a problem for surrogacy, please help for many victims in Japan. It is about surrogacy in India . It is about an agent and the agent’s name is Baby for all. The agent is for Doctor Naina Patel in Anand . The agent is a bad company whose work is like a fraud. I was said “please go to India with a tourist visa” .

I am Japanese . A lot of Japanese people want to use a surrogate mother. After I decided to use the agent, I was said by an acquaintance that a medical visa for surrogacy will need in India. So, I called India Visa Center in Japan, but I found Japanese cannot apply the medical visa because Japan government cannot give us a letter for surrogacy. And because many people say Baby for all is scary, I called the Japanese consulate in India and asked about the visa and told about Baby for all. Consulate was telling me we cannot trust Baby for all and we cannot enter India with a different visa for surrogacy. I told Baby for all to cancel because I was so scared , but money was not returned. There are many people like me but everyone is scared because we heard baby for all will attack if we write bad things about Baby for all on internet. So everyone gives up. They are still advertising Indian surrogacy to Japanese people and tell them to go to India with tourist visa. I went to a meeting of a group of victims of Baby for all several times but everyone says they still promote to get a tourist visa. And everyone is said that we cannot talk about it to anyone. I know more than 10 victim. I went to a civil service to get an advice but after all they gave me only advice and didn’t help very much.

It is very terrible. Is this acceptable in the world? Please tell me Or can we still go to India with tourist visa for surrogacy? I am not good at English and asked my friend who can write English to translate my words. So, I am nervous if you can understand what I would like to say, but thank you for reading my email. You can reply in English.

You can see the original post, in Japanese, here.

Co-Parenting 101: How to Co-Parent with Friends, Donors

Our own Dean Masserman speaks at the recent Fertility Planit conference on co-parenting.

Italian Court Strikes Down Ban On Egg & Sperm Donation

Good news out of Rome:

Italy’s constitutional court has struck down a ban on egg or sperm donation for infertile couples.

Wednesday’s ruling was a victory for couples challenging the ban on medically-assisted egg or sperm donation that is part of a 2004 law regulating procreation.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin, saying the law had effectively been “gutted,” called on Parliament to revise the legislation.

Affluent couples in Italy often circumvented the ban by traveling to European countries which allow egg or sperm donation.

In 2009, the constitutional court struck down another contested provision of the law that said at most three embryos could be created at one time and that all three must be implanted.

The conservative law reflects the influence on lawmakers by the Vatican, whose teaching forbids artificial procreation.

Judge highlights importance of the law keeping pace with the different way families are formed in a custody battle involving a genetic and birth mother

The Court of Appeal in London.

The Court of Appeal in London.

The Court of Appeal in London handed down a ruling last week emphasising the importance of family law keeping up to speed with contemporary family life. Lady Jusice Black observed that “Families are formed in different ways these days and the law must attempt to keep up and to respond to developments”.

The case concerned a same sex female couple. The appellant donated eggs to the respondent (with whom she was in a relationship ). An anonymous sperm donor was used to create embryos and the respondent carried embryos and gave birth to twins. Using the same embryos the appellant herself carried an embryo and subsequently gave birth to a child: thus all 3 children were full biological siblings. It also meant that the appellant was both the genetic and gestational mother for youngest child, but was only the genetic mother to the twins.

The couple separated and litigation began in respect of where the children should reside. Despite this however, at an interim hearing the parties were able to reach an agreement in respect of contact. Nevertheless, the trial judge, Her Honour Judge Black sitting at Portsmouth County Court, was invited to determine whether there should be a shared residence order which would afford the appellant with parental responsibility for the twins(under English law, like many states in the US, the woman who gives birth to the child is legally the mother, regardless of genetics; the appellant was therefore only the legal mother for the youngest child whom she was the genetic and gestational mother.)

The trial judge refused the appellants application for a shared residence order, ruling that the gestational mother should have sole residence; and that the genetic mother was ‘not a parent of the children and that her status should not be elevated in that way’.

In the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black giving lead judgment, ruled that the matter should be remitted to the county court judge as the trial judge had failed to give sufficient weight to the importance of the genetic mother in respect of the twnis.

Update On Planet Hospital

Rudy Rupak, CEO and founder of Planet Hospital

Here is an
update on Planet Hospital, a medical tourism facility operating out of Southern California, which was recently forced into involuntary bankruptcy, leaving many clients in the lurch:

Planet Hospital, a popular medical tourism company that up until recently provided international surrogacy services, is facing a case of involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy from three former clients. The shutdown of Planet Hospital’s surrogacy services reportedly happened in December 2013.

The Bay Area Reporter couldn’t find any mention of the closure of the company’s surrogacy services on its website or through a web search.

Rupak “Rudy” Acharya, founder and chief executive officer of Planet Hospital, told the B.A.R. that he simply removed the service from the company’s website in January, but he hadn’t publicly announced the closure of the surrogacy services.

The sudden halt of international surrogacy services has left an estimated 30 sets of intended parents out of money and scrambling to secure their place in the surrogacy process and move forward with planning their family, said Catherine Moscarello, the former director of client services for Planet Hospital’s Cancun program.

Planet Hospital also assists people with traveling to other countries for other medical procedures.

Three former Planet Hospital clients, Jonathan C. Dailey, Garrett Warner, and Jay W. Sisam, filed an involuntary petition against Planet Hospital, based in Calabasas, California, under Chapter 7 bankruptcy February 18 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. The petitioners are asking for a combined $79,000 in refunds of fees paid for services that Planet Hospital has allegedly failed to perform. The men are represented by attorney Thomas Schelly of El Segundo, California.

Acharya said he made some mistakes. “Unfortunately, I made some very, very, very bad decisions which resulted in a lot of people not getting their services at the moment, but I’ve been working diligently to fix that,” said Acharya. He didn’t agree with the forced bankruptcy proceeding, which could potentially remove control of the company from him and his management team and liquidate the assets. He believes it is “shortsighted” and not allowing him time to “fix the situation.”

Acharya pointed out that he is a Canadian citizen with homes around the world and could easily leave, but he is back in southern California working on correcting the situation and that he’s proud of his work, especially in the LGBT community.

Schelly wouldn’t disclose his clients’ sexual orientation. The B.A.R. was unable to contact the men who filed the bankruptcy proceeding.

But with more and more LGBTs creating families, Moscarello said at least three-quarters of the clients affected by Planet Hospital’s surrogacy shutdown are gay.

None of the gay former clients were willing to speak with the B.A.R. about their surrogacy experiences, but they have been active on Facebook, where Moscarello co-launched a closed Planet Hospital survivors’ support group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/PlanetHospitalSurvivors/. Two former clients, identified only as Rhy and Drew, launched a blog, http://0kayintheend.blogspot.com, documenting their surrogacy process and ultimately complaints and warnings against Planet Hospital.

There may also be a federal investigation into Planet Hospital. On the Okay in the End blog, Dailey, one of the men in the bankruptcy proceeding, posted on February 27 that he had received confirmation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that an agent is “ready to open his case in the San Diego office of the FBI against Acharyya ‘Rudy’ Rupak (a Canadian citizen) and Carlo Aldo Bonfonte (of San Diego, USA), business partners of Planet Hospital.com LLC, an active LLC registered in San Diego.”

FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth told the B.A.R. that he couldn’t confirm if the bureau was investigating Planet Hospital.

One of the sad ironies? Planet Hospital’s motto was “A New Way To Care”….

Louisiana House Backs Bill Creating Rules for Surrogacy

louisianaA proposal to create a legal framework for surrogacy was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The bill decides who can be a surrogate, what legal rights the parents, the surrogate, and the child have, and who can utilize a surrogate.

If the bill passes, only heterosexual married couples will be able to use a surrogate. The bill also includes an age limit for surrogacy; surrogates would have to be at least 25 and no older than 35.

Prior to the drafting of this bill by Rep. Joe Lopinto, Louisiana law had few surrogacy regulations. Surrogacy was not illegal, but surrogacy contracts were not enforceable in court.

To read House Bill 187, visit www.legis.la.gov.

Same-Sex Marriage Legal in England and Wales

Peter Tatchell (left) was chief witness at Peter McGraith and David Cabreza's wedding in London

Peter Tatchell (left) was chief witness at Peter McGraith and David Cabreza’s wedding in London

As midnight struck in England and Wales last night same-sex marriage became legal. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force in July last year but it was not until 13 March this year when couples were able to register their intention to marry under the Act for the first time.

On 13 March, the law in England and Wales changed to recognise same-sex marriages performed overseas. Academics Sue Wilkinson, 60, and Celia Kitzinger, 57, married in Canada in 2003 and fought for eight years to have their union recognised here. Senior judges in London ruled that their overseas marriage was unable to be recognised.
However, due to the change in the law, their marriage became legally binding at one minute past midnight on 13 March.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote earlier this week that “This weekend is an important moment for our country..It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth.” Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg comended that “If our change to the law means a single young man or young woman who wants to come out, but who is scared of what the world will say, now feels safer, stronger, taller – well, for me, getting into coalition government will have been worth it just for that.”

In anticipation of the new law, many couples planned to marry at midnight. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (pictured above) acted as chief witness at a ceremony at Islington Town Hall in North London just after midnight as Peter McGraith and David Cabreza were wed after 17 years together.

Following their nuptials being exchanged Mr McGraith said “Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights and we believe that this change in law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised for their sexual orientation.”

Mr Tatchell said the new law “made Britain a more tolerant, equal place” and that “The legalisation of same-sex marriage ends the last major legal discrimination against gay people in England and Wales…Same-sex marriage is an unstoppable global trend because love and commitment are universal human traits, regardless of sexual orientation or nationality. No ignorance or prejudice can hold back the triumph of love.”

Scotland passed a similar law earlier this year in February which is expected to come into force in October. At present Northern Ireland has no plans to make same-sex marriage legal.

Australian Judge Warns of Psychological Effects of Surrogacy

sillyjudgeAn Australian judge recently voiced his concerns about the future psychological effects of commercial surrogacy on children.

… Justice Paul Cronin of the Family Court of Australia warned that children could very easily encounter an identity crisis when they become aware that they were conceived via commercial surrogacy.

Unfortunately, it seems that Judge Cronin does not have a degree in psychology, so it’s entirely possible his opinion about said “grave psychological effects” will prove to be completely unfounded. But that’s just between you and me.

A second reason why this Court needs to be cautious and scrutinise these arrangements carefully is the philosophical argument that children who are born to women under these circumstances can be seen to be either abandoned by their birth mothers or indeed crassly sold by their birth mothers. The Court is rarely given any information about the circumstances under which the child might otherwise live if it did not move from the birth mother to people such as the present applicants…

The judge continued:

Whatever things people say about the future and their intentions, one has to be somewhat cynical about just how those things will unfold for a child born into this commercial arrangement. This is a new area for the law in an environment where science is far ahead of what lawmakers seem to be contemplating. I have no idea what this child will face in 15 years time if cultural issues arise or his issues about identity become a crisis. I have no idea what would happen in the event that the birth mother suddenly changed her mind and wanted to have some involvement in the child’s future.

To read Judge Cronin’s full remarks, visit the Family Court of Australia website (Fisher-Oakley & Kittur [2014] FamCA 123).

Asides

  • [caption id="attachment_9056" align="alignnone" width="450"]Erick Munoz maintained that his wife would not have wanted to be on life support Erick Munoz maintained that his wife would not have wanted to be on life support [/caption] The family of a brain dead pregnant woman in Texas has announced on Sunday that the hospital in Fort Worth has complied with a court order requiring her life support to be removed. The ruling came on Friday afternoon after an intense medico-legal battle. A hospital spokesman issued a statement over the weekend that they would be following the order. #
  • We are re-tooling the blog by giving it a complete face lift. So please excuse the mess as we are updating it. #

Welcome to The Spin Doctor

Blogging about the legal, social and political issues of the day with an emphasis on reproductive rights and bioethics.

Recent Posts

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