International Surrogacy Can Be Risky Business for Intended Parents, Surrogates

With the growing acceptance of assisted reproductive technology, a pent-up demand for surrogates created by legal restrictions in many locales, and the search for lower-cost surrogacy options than exist in the U.S. and other Western nations, a new international surrogacy industry is booming. Sadly, in too many cases, intended parents are forced to navigate a treacherous, scarcely regulated landscape of surrogacy services.

According to a recent ABC News report, business is booming for surrogacy agencies that offer so-called affordable services in countries where surrogacy is legal but regulatory infrastructure is too frail to protect either intended parents or surrogates. The ABC report calls out Planet Hospital, a U.S.-based surrogacy brokerage offering surrogacy services in Cancun, Mexico, for allegedly shady practices. Most Planet Hospital clients are U.S., Australian or European residents, many of whom are gay or unmarried and thus banned from becoming parents via ART in many parts of the world, ABC reports; most of the surrogates reportedly are impoverished Mexican or South American women.

The ABC report charges Hospital Planet with fleecing intended parents out of tens of thousands of dollars, with abandoning surrogates without paying them the agreed-upon fees, and with failing to pay the fertility clinics whose services it utilized. In some cases, fertility clinics left with unpaid bills because of Planet Hospital’s failure to pay have refused to release fertilized embryos to intended parents. In at least one case cited by ABC, the surrogate was too young and not healthy enough to be a viable surrogate. A former employee accuses Hospital Planet founder and director Rudy Rupak, who resides in a high-end L.A.-area gated community, of running similar scams in other countries.

The heartbreaking report highlights what has become a risky business for intended parents. ABC cites a Foreign Correspondent report earlier this year on alleged fraud and lack of regulation rampant in India’s surrogacy industry.

[D]espite urgent calls to the Indian government to legislate, the multi-million-dollar industry continues to operate in a regulatory vacuum, making it very difficult for would-be parents to navigate the system and avoid rogue operators.

In the case of Planet Hospital, Rupak reportedly is facing bankruptcy as a result of actions taken by former clients, according to ABC.

The ABC report on Planet Hospital points out the potential perils of an international surrogacy industry that is scantly or unevenly regulated, often with few protections in place for either surrogates or intended parents. The potential for fraud or exploitation is why legal representation by an experienced attorney knowledgeable about ART law in the intended parents’ and surrogate’s area of residence is so vitally important. Regulations lag way behind both the technological advancements and the growth of businesses that have sprung up in response to the growing demand for assisted reproductive services. An experienced attorney is the intended parents’ guide through this treacherous legal landscape.

This story also highlights the importance of the work of the American Bar Association ART Committee, which I’m proud to chair, to create a Model Act for state laws governing ART agencies. The Model Act will offer state lawmakers a template for the ethical and technical best practices to which the best agencies already adhere.

Change is hard and takes a long time, but tragic tales such as this exposé of Planet Hospital remind us that our work to develop laws and public policies protecting ART families, donors and surrogate will have far-reaching benefits.

ABC News is the source for all information about Planet Hospital contained in this article.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

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
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 received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast 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 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. 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.

Luis Sosa

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, 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. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

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
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 has over 25 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 of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also 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

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 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 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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Molly O'Brien

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.