IFLG - Fertility Equality’ Was in the Air for Pride 2021

‘Fertility Equality’ In the Air for Pride 2021

In a win for the international “fertility equality” movement, the French parliament voted on June 29, 2021, to give lesbians and single women the same rights as heterosexual coupled women to create families using assisted reproductive technology.

The legislation was a priority for the government of President Emmanuel Macron, who campaigned on the issue in 2017, The Guardian reports. However, as we reported earlier, the issue stalled in the face of pushback from religious conservatives.

With the overwhelmingly positive vote (326 to 115, with 42 MPs abstaining), France joins 10 other European countries that grant equal reproductive rights to same-sex and heterosexual couples and singles.

Switzerland Legalizes Sperm Donation for Lesbians

Among them is Switzerland. In December 2020, the Swiss Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage. The amendment to the country’s Civil Code also allows married lesbian couples to use sperm donation for family building and extends the “presumption of parenthood” to both intended mothers who become parents using IVF and donor sperm.

As in France, the new Swiss law led to a conservative backlash, and opponents collected enough signatures to put the new law to a public referendum, scheduled for September 26, 2021. But a public opinion poll conducted in November 2020 showed 82 percent approval for same-sex marriage in Switzerland, where a type of civil partnership for same-sex couples has been legal since 2007.

The United States historically has been more favorable to assisted reproductive technology (ART) in general, becoming known internationally as a center for advanced reproductive technology and supportive services and as a leading destination for intended parents whose home countries prohibit surrogacy and other kinds of ART.

But not all parts of the U.S. are equal when it comes to assisted reproduction. Laws governing ART and parentage vary widely from state to state in the United States and continue to evolve in the wake of the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015. In some states, religious and conservative voices have succeeded in limiting what types of assisted reproduction is legal, who is allowed to participate and under what circumstances.

Until recently, New York was one of two U.S. states (Louisiana remains) with a total ban on compensated surrogacy, forcing many New York intended parents to travel out of state for family-building services. That changed in February 2021, when New York’s Child Parent Security Act (CPSA), passed by the state legislature and signed into law in April 2020, took effect, establishing the rights of single people and couples, married or unmarried, to participate in compensated or “commercial” gestational surrogacy, establishing criteria for enforceable surrogacy agreements, and establishing or updating parentage procedures for all children born via assisted or third-party reproduction.

The Fertility Equality Movement

As Reuters reported in April 2021, “Most western European countries have over the last two decades introduced laws allowing couples of the same sex to marry, with the Netherlands leading the way in 2001. France legalized same-sex unions in 2013, followed by England and Wales in 2014, and Germany in 2017.”

But even as same-sex marriage has gained broad acceptance in much of the world, including in the United States, laws governing reproduction and parentage have lagged behind. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the law must treat same-sex marriages and heterosexual marriages equally, gay and lesbian intended parents still face obstacles to establishing legal parentage that heterosexual couples do not.

Likewise, in many jurisdictions, LGBTQ people are treated differently than heterosexual people in access to reproductive health services.

As we wrote in December 2020, LGBTQ people continue to face inequities in access to assisted reproduction services and government-funded or private insurance coverage for fertility services in part based on the traditional legal definition of “infertility.”

“In Illinois, for example, the state’s Fertility Mandate requires that all group insurance policies covering more than 25 people that cover pregnancy also cover infertility diagnosis and treatment. But under the law, infertility is defined as ‘the inability to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term’—arguably criteria that would exclude gay men.”

Effective in January 2020, as we reported, a new law requiring large insurance plans (100+ individuals) to cover up to three rounds of IVF for women diagnosed with infertility, expanding fertility insurance to some 2.5 million New Yorkers. “But the new law continued to rely on an outdated definition of infertility, similar to Illinois’, to determine who is entitled to coverage.”

Even in jurisdictions with progressive reproductive and parentage laws, insurers and government agencies regularly deny LGBTQ individuals access to coverage for fertility treatment based on outdated and irrelevant biological definitions of fertility and reproduction. California, which passed a law in 2013 clarifying that fertility insurance must be equally available regardless of sexual orientation, still relies on an outdated definition of infertility that eliminates gay men and lesbians, referencing the inability to conceive “after a year or more of regular sexual relations without contraception.”

This clash between laws guaranteeing marriage equality and antiquated laws governing reproduction, parentage and family has created a new front in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ rights: a movement for “fertility equality.” As The New York Times described last year, “Still in its infancy, this movement envisions a future when the ability to create a family is no longer determined by one’s wealth, sexuality, gender or biology.”

“This is about society extending equality to its final and logical conclusion,” Ron Poole-Dayan, founder and executive director of Men Having Babies, a New York nonprofit that helps gay men become fathers through surrogacy, told The Times. “True equality doesn’t stop at marriage. It recognizes the barriers L.G.B.T.s face in forming families and proposes solutions to overcome these obstacles.”

According to The Times report, the movement has the potential to change the way fertility treatment is funded, by influencing lawmakers and employers to require expanded coverage—changes that would benefit heterosexual couples and singles as well as LGBTQ intended parents.

The corporate world is already onboard, particularly in the tech arena, using fertility insurance benefits to help recruit the best and brightest young talent, The Times reports.

Poole-Dayan, and organizations like Gays with Kids, RESOLVE, Family Equality, Fertility Within Reach and other advocates are working to change the way governments and companies define infertility when determining whether or not to cover fertility services.

Rather than basing a diagnosis of infertility on the performance of sexual orientation—which inherently discriminates against LGBTQ people—the definition should be expanded to include “social infertility,” in which “specific life circumstances,” such as having a same-sex partner would prevent reproduction.

“We have this idea that infertility is about failing to become pregnant through intercourse, but this is a very hetero-centric viewpoint,” Catherine Sakimura of the National Center for Lesbian Rights told The Times. “We must shift our thinking so that the need for assisted reproductive technologies is not a condition, but simply a fact.”

Ultimately, advocates for fertility equality ask that insurance companies be required to cover assisted reproductive procedures such as egg and sperm donation, in vitro fertilization, embryo implantation and surrogacy services for all eligible patients, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

The Times article describes 36-year-old Marine Corps Captain Miguel Aguilera, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Due to injuries sustained in combat, Aguilera is eligible for fertility services, such as in vitro fertilization, through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2018, Captain Aguilera, who is gay, began to consider taking advantage of his benefits to become a father. Instead, he was told that fertility services are only available to male soldiers who are married to women. Under VA policy, to receive fertility treatment, a couple must be married, one partner must have “an intact uterus and one functioning ovary,” and the other partner must “be able to produce sperm.” Gay men like Aguilera, who, after serving their country, might dream of becoming fathers someday, were excluded.

Just as state and local laws still lag behind the real-time existence of legal same-sex marriage, so the insurance and healthcare industries are still playing catchup to new reproductive technologies and family structures. The growing movement to ensure LGBTQ people have the same rights and options as heterosexual people to become parents and create families is certain to accelerate those changes, to the benefit of all.

Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Katie Deaquino
KATIE DEAQUINO
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Alexander Espinoza
ALEXANDER ESPINOZA
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Toni Hughes
TONI BOONE
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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OFFICES
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Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

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501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler
PHOEBE S. SADLER
Associate

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan
RUBINA ASLANYAN
Paralegal

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Cara Stecker
CARA STECKER
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble
STEPHANIE KIMBLE
Paralegal

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
TRISH PITTMAN
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Elsa Jimenez
ELSA JIMENEZ
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.