Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Mexican-Surrogacy-Headlines

Mexican Surrogacy Boom Spawns More Damaging Headlines

Due in part to legal restrictions on surrogacy in many jurisdictions and the high cost of surrogacy and other types of assisted reproductive technology, a brisk surrogacy tourism industry has emerged. Intended parents, usually from affluent Western societies, travel to remote parts of the globe, seeking to create families in a locales where surrogacy is less costly and legal constraints can be more easily circumnavigated. Unfortunately, the foreign surrogacy route can be hazardous and fraught with such things as: inferior screening procedures, impoverished surrogates who are vulnerable to fraud and mistreatment, unethical agencies, political and legal instability, and inadequate health care. This week’s headlines out of Mexico, about a Canadian couple unable to bring their fragile preemie twins home, hits home the point: when it comes to ART, the seemingly low-budget solution can end up costing intended parents far more in the end, both financially and emotionally.

British Columbia couple Greg and Elaine Smith’s twins, girl Ariana and boy Ayden, were born to a surrogate on Jan. 8 in Villahermosa, Mexico. Born prematurely with serious complications, they are being treated in neonatal care intensive care unit at the local hospital. The Smiths are concerned about the care they are receiving; both babies have lost weight since birth, and Ariana remains in critical condition. However, the parents are prevented from bringing their babies back to British Columbia because birth certificates, necessary in order to start the immigration process, have not been issued. Meanwhile, the cost of the babies’ care is spiraling—$5,000 Canadian per day, payable every four days, according to a CBCNews report. The parents are in anguish.

Villahermosa is in the Mexican state of Tabasco, where surrogacy has been legal since 1998, if it is “altruistic”—in other words, the surrogate is not paid other than to cover medical care and expenses. Resourceful agencies and individuals quickly figured out ways to disguise commercial surrogacy as altruistic.

Until recently India and Thailand, where laws governing surrogacy were murky or non-existent, were hotspots for surrogacy tourism. In 2012 India clamped down on surrogacy, limiting it to intended parents who were heterosexual and married. Then in 2014 lurid headlines about a couple who abandoned a newborn with disabilities moved Thai officials to virtually outlaw surrogacy there. Suddenly Mexico’s already growing surrogacy business took off.

The situation with the Smith twins is heartbreaking, and medical complications at birth and inadequate medical care are only two among many things that could go tragically wrong. As has occurred in Thailand and other places, changes in governmental policy could disrupt the surrogacy arrangement mid-pregnancy, challenge the parental rights of intended parents, or even prevent children from being taken out of the country. Any intended parents thinking of traveling to another nation for ART to cut costs should calculate the potentially devastating costs should things not go according to plan.

But as devastating as incidents such as this one are to families, the fallout ultimately extends far beyond the people directly involved. The resulting media furor often sparks governmental and cultural resistance to the acceptance of ART technology and the adoption of ART-friendly policies—and thus potentially prevents thousands of people from creating the families they dream of.

Rich Vaughn
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 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 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, 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
TONI HUGES
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
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
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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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.