16 May 2012 Surrogacy: A delicate yet rewarding process
NPR News recently aired a four part series about the legal issues surrounding surrogacy. Did you know, about 10% of U.S. women—more than 6 million—between the ages of 15 and 44 have trouble getting or staying pregnant? Many turn to surrogacy as a solution.
“According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, more than 1,400 U.S. babies were born this way in 2010, and many more such births are thought to go unreported. This small, but fast-growing field is fraught with risk, and often intense coordination is the only way to avoid a legal nightmare.” (NPR News)
Surrogacy is rarely the first choice for traditional couples beginning a family; most couples try conventional methods until an insurmountable obstacle ends their attempts. Infertility or medical conditions are generally the root of such barriers. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures and surrogacy have opened new doors for traditional and non-traditional family formation. “When surrogacy works, it’s like a miracle for people who never thought they'd be able to have a child. But when it goes wrong, it goes terribly wrong. And though that doesn't happen often, those are the cases you're most likely to hear about…” (NPR News) Parental fears about the surrogate deciding to keep the child are normal, and the media tends to emphasize the negative possibilities. But surrogacy can be a smooth process if couples prepare in advance with legal representation, documentation (agreements) and court orders.
Surrogacy matching, or evaluating a prospective surrogate, is a delicate process. Medical, legal and mental-healthcare professionals, as well as surrogacy agencies, generally look at the prospective surrogate’s lifestyle (the in utero environment), health conditions, the surrogate’s emotions surrounding the potential pregnancy, family risks, and intentions—altruistic or financially driven?. The relationship between surrogate and intended parents must be built on trust and truth, and both sides need to be comfortable with the arrangements from the start. Legal counsel is essential to ensure transparency, safeguard all parties involved, and pave the way for a financially structured, legal, and healthy surrogacy experience.
Surrogacy laws vary from state to state. Some states offer no legal standing for surrogacy agreements and only grant court orders on a per-case basis, which leaves would-be parents and surrogates in precarious positions. Proper screening of the surrogate is only the beginning: having an experienced objective law expert gives couples the edge they need to draft enforceable surrogacy contracts, manage relationships, coordinate financial parameters, and resolve disputes. Surrogacy contracts cover issues such what circumstances would warrant termination of the pregnancy, financial compensation for medical and living expenses, the surrogate’s conduct during the pregnancy, as well as agreements about delivery and the establishment of parental rights.
Making a decision to use a surrogate is difficult due to emotional, financial, medical and legal strains. Remember, there are no uniform laws regarding ART and third-party reproduction. Be sure to obtain professional assistance from an expert in the field. Intended parents who use any form of ART coupled with surrogacy should consider the legal parameters for their specific circumstances. The screening process, agreements, medical requirements and financial arrangements may seem unnecessarily extensive, but the end result is a family you can call your own.