The surrogacy walk: heartbreak, suspense, and family

“Infertility is a disease that affects about 6 million American couples, roughly 10 percent of the reproductive age population.” (TheAFA.org) Susan and Bob de Gruchy are regrettably among the millions of couples who comprise this statistic. After five failed rounds of in vitro fertilization, including a heartbreaking miscarriage, they finally decided to adopt. They bonded with a handsome newborn baby boy for just three days, when the birth mother changed her mind, leaving the de Gruchys once again childless and in agony. Then a friend suggested surrogacy and placed an ad online for the couple. Whitney Watts, a Navy wife from Maryland, responded to the ad with enthusiasm. She and her husband genuinely wanted to help the de Gruchys start a family through a gestational surrogacy arrangement.

Often times, as in Susan and Bob’s case, couples turn to surrogacy after failed attempts at pregnancy or when medical conditions pose insurmountable barriers. However, surrogacy is not a decision to make lightly, due to emotional, legal and financial ramifications involved. Surrogacy technology initially offered a vehicle for couples to utilize a surrogate’s ovum, or egg, and fertilize it with the intended father’s sperm in order to create child for the infertile couple. Unfortunately, the method yielded many arguments and trials over parental rights.

The first public debate about surrogacy arose in 1988. A couple in New Jersey commissioned a woman to donate her egg to be fertilized and carry the baby to term. But when the child was born, the surrogate changed her mind and wanted to keep the baby, her biological child. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against the intended parents, stating that surrogacy contracts were invalid and citing the surrogate’s genetic relationship to the child. (NPR.com) Since that early case, case law and some (but not much) state legislation favoring surrogacy has developed in multiple states over the years to provide legal protection and support for couples using a surrogate. However, it is crucial that couples who choose to become parents via surrogacy obtain expert legal support and have a detailed surrogacy agreement to ensure all parties are protected during every step of the process.

Surrogacy agreements offer both the surrogate and the intended parents a list of expectations, or blueprint, for the pregnancy as well as pre-established processes to resolve disagreements through counseling or arbitration. Details like physician selection, physical examinations, medical instructions, early termination parameters,  after birth contact, even delivery agreements and parental rights should be finalized before the pregnancy begins.

Nearly all surrogacy arrangements today include in vitro fertilization using the intended parent’s sperm and/or ova when possible; it is much less common today that the surrogate is genetically related to the child she carries, alleviating some of the legal issues. In a recent article by NPR News titled Carrying ‘Dreams’: Why Women Become Surrogates, Whitney Watts revealed her take on the gestational surrogacy agreement she fulfilled with Susan and Bob de Gruchy,

“It was [in vitro fertilization]. It was their embryos… You just know they are not yours. You're just keeping them for a time to let them grow and then give them back to their parents, because they were never my babies. It's just my uterus that's keeping them." (Carrying Dreams)

While Whitney and her husband Ray were happy to help, they also wanted to ensure they could connect with the intended parents. Thankfully, they did. “’It was very important to us to have a relationship with them,’ Whitney says. ‘Yes, it's a business contract in a sense, but it's so much more than that.’ Her husband agrees. ‘Had Susan and Bob just wanted to pay money and get a kid, that would have been a deal breaker right away’” (Carrying Dreams). By building a solid relationship and planning ahead for the pregnancy, the de Gruchys and their surrogate  embarked on the journey together.

The de Gruchys were nervous at first about what Whitney was doing during the pregnancy and whether she was eating right and keeping herself healthy. Even as Whitney diligently followed the letter of the surrogacy agreement, there were still complications. She was hospitalized for a time due to elevated risk during the pregnancy, but she managed to deliver a healthy set of twins for the de Gruchys. Working together as a team alleviated the suspense and anxiety of the surrogacy experience for all parties involved. Whitney’s final comments about her experience are touching: "Seeing her face see his face, my soul felt complete. I had done everything in my power, and it was the most amazing feeling. I will never forget her face seeing his face, for the rest of my life." (Carrying Dreams)

Resources:

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/17/150589059/carrying-dreams-why-women-become-surrogates

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/14/150586618/legal-debate-over-surrogacy-asks-who-is-a-parent

http://www.theafa.org/article/infertility-risk-assesment/

 

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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