National Infertility Awareness Week Champions Reproductive Rights

This week, April 22 through 28, is National Infertility Awareness Week (https://infertilityawareness.org/). Established by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association in 1989, the week is a collaborative effort of consumers, legislators, advocacy organizations and fertility services professionals to raise public awareness about infertility and reproductive health. The theme for NIAW 2018 is “Flip the Script,” an invitation for people inside and outside the field of fertility services to share the stories of their infertility journeys.

Back at the time of the first National Infertility Awareness Week in 1989, the field of assisted reproductive technology was still new. It had been just over a decade since the first baby, Louise Brown, was born via in vitro fertilization in England. The first baby born from a cryopreserved, or frozen, embryo, as well as the first baby born via egg donation, had occurred only five years earlier, in 1984. The first birth using cryopreserved eggs would not take place until 1997.

Assisted reproductive technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since then, with health care policy, regulatory mechanisms and legislation continually running to catch up. Improved technology has led to improved success rates, a reduction in multiple births and increased accessibility for thousands of intended parents. Efforts such as NIAW, events such as Path2Parenthood’s annual Illuminations awards, and positive media coverage of celebrity intended parents forming families via ART have raised the visibility and removed much of the stigma from the emotional, intimate issue of fertility treatment.

We’ve come a long way since 1989. But as fertility advocate and author Rachel Gurevich wrote recently about the importance of NIAW 2018, there is still a long way to go to educate lawmakers, courts and the media and to counter dangerous misinformation.

“With infertility affecting one in eight,” Gurevich writes, “it's likely that everyone has at least one friend or family member living with infertility.”

As NIAW reminds us, “Anyone can be challenged to have a family. No matter what race, religion, sexuality or economic status you are, infertility doesn’t discriminate.” Yet, as familiar as we’ve become with headlines and TV news magazine reports on reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization, embryo donation, cryopreservation and surrogacy, assisted reproduction and reproductive rights continue to be targets of social and religious conservatives. As we reported recently, Arizona just passed an onerous law mandating that frozen embryos in a divorce case must be awarded to the spouse willing to bring them to birth—regardless of the wishes of the other spouse. Arizonans faced with the question of preserving embryos for future family building are now burdened with the additional consideration that any legal agreement they enter governing embryo disposition will not stand up in a court of law.

The new Arizona law is one example of the latest front in the right-wing war on reproductive rights. As the anti-choice position loses ground, conservative lawmakers are increasingly pursuing alternative paths, such as establishing the legal rights of unborn embryos via “personhood” laws and denying parentage rights to non-biologically related parents in same-sex couples.

Today those state-level efforts to undermine individuals’ reproductive rights are perhaps getting aid and comfort at the federal level. The U.S. State Department, in its first human rights report prepared under the Trump administration, has removed sections of the report on reproductive rights. As the Washington Post reported, “In what is likely to be the most controversial change, the report strips a section labeled 'reproductive rights' that outlined access to contraception and abortion, as well as maternal mortality rates, for every country. In its place is a section for each country called 'coercion in population control,' documenting involuntary or 'unethical' sterilization." This move away from discussing reproductive rights should give us all pause for concern.

In the face of such challenges, the work of reproductive advocacy organizations such as Path2Parenthood and RESOLVE remains critically important, as is that of SEEDS, the Society for Ethics in Egg Donation and Surrogacy. I am honored to celebrate NIAW2018 by participating on two panels during the SEEDS 5th Annual Spring Conference on April 28 in Costa Mesa, California.

SEEDS is a non-profit organization of U.S. surrogacy and donor agencies dedicated to developing ethical standards and best practices for the industry. I’ll be leading a discussion on what should be included in surrogacy and egg donation agency agreements. Later, colleague Michelle Keeyes, managing attorney with Reproductive Law Center, and I will provide an update on the American Bar Association’s recently adopted Model Act Governing Assisted Reproductive Technology Agencies, which provides a template for states to enact regulatory legislation. I look forward to celebrating National Infertility Awareness Week with this group of ART professionals passionate about the betterment of the field.

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, thoughtful and 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. He is immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, which develops model legislation governing assisted reproductive services, and is a popular presenter to law students, 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.

Tania Steele
TANIA STEELE
Legal Assistant

Tania Steele joined IFLG as a legal assistant in early 2016 and has since been immersed in the complexities of assisted reproductive technology law. Tania received her Bachelor of Arts degree at Chapman University in Orange, California, and a graduate degree from University of Leicester in England, where she pursued an interest in art. In 2013, she accepted a volunteer position at Legal Aid Society of Orange County, where she helped with the intake of new clients and was inspired to obtain a paralegal certificate from Fullerton College. As an undergraduate, Tania lived in Italy and studied the Italian language. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian and enjoys assisting as a translator for many of IFLG’s international clients. Outside of the office, Tania enjoys concerts, films, reading and travel.

Linda Garrett
LINDA GARRETT
Legal Assistant

Linda Garrett graduated in 2010 from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a major in Sociology. Shortly after, she enrolled in a paralegal course at West Los Angeles College, where she fell in love with the field. In 2017, she earned her paralegal degree and joined International Fertility Law Group as a Legal Assistant. In her free time, Linda enjoys outdoor adventures and spending time with her nieces and nephews.

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.