Melissa Harris-Perry Raises Profile of ART

Earlier this year, popular MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry put a very public face on assisted reproductive technology with the announcement that she and husband James Perry were new parents of a baby girl. The birth news came as a surprise to Harris-Perry’s audience and sparked lots of commentary, in part because, with a baby born via IVF and surrogacy, she was never visibly pregnant.

As Harris-Perry explains in her blog post, “How We Made Our Miracle,” after giving birth at age 28 to her daughter from a previous marriage, Parker, Harris-Perry suffered through many years with painful uterine fibrosis until finally, in 2008, having a hysterectomy. Just months later, she met her husband James, and the two married in 2010.

The couple wanted their own biological children, and in 2012, began the process of IVF with a gestational carrier. Because Harris-Perry had retained her ovaries, she was able to use her own eggs to conceive. On Valentine’s Day 2014, her and James’ daughter was born. She writes:

My pregnancy with my first daughter was blessedly uneventful; this one, however, was indeed an event. It took two families, three states, four doctors, and five attorneys to get this little girl here. And while our gestational carrier has no genetic tie to our little one, she is now our family.

One unintended but positive consequence of Harris-Perry’s high-profile birth experience was the positive visibility it generated within the African American community. Historically black women have been less likely to seek treatment for infertility than white women, according to Dr. David Seifer, writing for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

“In 1995, the percentage of black women who received any service for infertility was 13 percent, compared with 16.3 percent of white women with one or more previous births…in 2002 that number declined to 10 percent of black women compared with 18.8 percent of white women,” Seifer wrote.

The numbers rose again in 2004-2006, according to a study published in ASRM’s Fertility and Sterility Journal. “However, black women still remained underrepresented in proportion to the number of women of reproductive age who may have had infertility and may have benefited from ART during this study period.”

Cost may be one source of the disparity. However, “even in states with mandated insurance coverage, the individuals who access IVF services tend to be predominantly Caucasian, highly educated, and wealthy,”  Fertility and Sterility, Vol. 94, No.1, June 2010).

Cultural perceptions may also be a barrier, according to Regina Townsend, founder and executive director of The Broken Brown Egg Inc. While undergoing infertility treatment, Townsend started Broken Brown Egg as a blog that later grew into an advocacy organization with a mission to “put a brown face” on the issue of infertility for women.

Infertility draws no distinction between gender, ethnicity, religion or heritage. Yet community mores, culture, religious beliefs and the stigma of infertility sometimes create insurmountable barriers to people longing to become parents. Strong advocates such as Instant Mom author Nia Vardalos, recently honored by the American Fertility Association, and Melissa Harris-Perry, are much-needed voices for non-traditional family formation and the rights of everyone to benefit from the life-enhancing technology of ART.

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.