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Assisted Reproduction

The New York Times: Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It

Sunday’s issue of The New York Times features a fascinating front page article written by Tamar Lewin on the world of surrogacy. Many agencies, lawyers (including our own Andrew Vorzimer), intended parents, and surrogates were interviewed. I can safely say that this is one of the most informative articles I’ve read in a long time about the process. A portion of the article is below, but I highly recommend that you read it in its entirety at this link.

At home in Lisbon, a gay couple invited friends over to a birthday celebration, and at the end of the evening shared a surprise — an ultrasound image of their baby, moving around in the belly of a woman in Pennsylvania being paid to carry their child.

“Everyone was shocked, and asked everything about how we do this,” said Paulo, who spoke on the condition that neither his last name nor that of his husband, João, be used since what they were doing is a crime in Portugal.

While babies through surrogacy have become increasingly common in the United States, with celebrities like Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon openly discussing how they started a family, the situation is quite different in Portugal — as it is in most of the world where the hiring of a woman to carry a child is forbidden. And as Paulo and João have discovered, even bringing home a baby born abroad through surrogacy can be complicated.

In an era of globalization, the market for children crosses national borders; witness the longtime flow of Americans who have gone overseas to adopt babies from South Korea, China, Russia and Guatemala.

Other than the United States, only a few countries — among them India, Thailand, Ukraine and Mexico — allow paid surrogacy. As a result, there is an increasing flow in the opposite direction, with the United States drawing affluent couples from Europe, Asia and Australia. Indeed, many large surrogacy agencies in the United States say international clients — gay, straight, married or single — provide the bulk of their business.

The traffic highlights a divide between the United States and much of the world over fundamental questions about what constitutes a family, who is considered a legal parent, who is eligible for citizenship and whether paid childbirth is a service or exploitation.

In many nations, a situation that splits motherhood between the biological mother and a surrogate carrier is widely believed to be against the child’s best interests. And even more so when three women are involved: the genetic mother, whose egg is used; the mother who carries the baby; and the one who commissioned and will raise the child.

Many countries forbid advertising foreign or domestic surrogacy services and allow only what is known as altruistic surrogacy, in which the woman carrying the baby receives payment only for her expenses. Those countries abhor what they call the commercialization of baby making and view commercial surrogacy as inherently exploitive of poor women, noting that affluent women generally do not rent out their wombs.

But while many states, including New York, ban surrogacy, others, like California, welcome it as a legitimate business. Together, domestic and international couples will have more than 2,000 babies through gestational surrogacy in the United States this year, almost three times as many as a decade ago. Ads galore seek egg donors, would-be parents, would-be surrogates. Many surrogates and intended parents find each other on the Internet and make their arrangements independently, sometimes without a lawyer or a formal contract.

The agencies that match intended parents and surrogates are unregulated, creating a marketplace where vulnerable clients yearning for a baby can be preyed upon by the unscrupulous or incompetent. Some agencies pop up briefly, then disappear. Others have taken money that was supposed to be in escrow for the surrogate, or failed to pay the fees the money was to cover.

Surrogacy began in the United States more than 30 years ago, soon after the first baby was born through in vitro fertilization in England. At the time, most surrogates were also the genetic mothers, becoming pregnant through artificial insemination with the sperm of the intended father. But that changed after the Baby M case in 1986, in which the surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead, refused to give the baby to the biological father and his wife. In the wake of the spectacle of two families fighting over a baby who belonged to both of them, traditional surrogacy gave way to gestational surrogacy, in which an embryo is created in the laboratory — sometimes using eggs and sperm from the parents, sometimes from donors — and transferred to a surrogate who has no genetic link to the baby.


6 comments for “The New York Times: Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It”

  • Dancer

    I can say that surrogacy in US ia very expensive thing, their clinics have a lot of hidden fees and their success rate is not so high, so all that expenses are not reasonable. Sometimes it is better to choose not so popular and expensive country. I am very grateful to Ukraine and clinic Biotexcom, I paid only 29900 euro and have completely healthy child and happy family.

  • Olivia

    Many people still go to USA. But i do not understand their choice. Sometimes if it more expensive it does not mean that it is the best. When I decided to go for surrogacy for the first time I was shocked. I had to pay for every consultation for every analisis. Well, we could not afford it. I do not exaggerate but the price is really too high meanwhile you can do surrogacy for example In Ukraine that is much cheaper. And currently I am also considering to go to Biotexcom because I know a lot couples that were treated there and they have health children now.

  • Dancer

    Olivia, I recommend you to visit the clinic. Of course you can find a lot of pros and cons of surrogacy in Biotexcom. There are a lot of foreign clients in clinic so it takes some hours of waiting before visiting a doctor, and we were sitting on the stairs because there were no free palces to sit)) But their results are amazing!!!

  • Alba

    I fear Ukraine as the devil fears holy water! Hey,
    people, what are you talking about??? It can be seen a war of aggression
    there!!! How can you trust them your future children? I would never go and
    risk. It doesn’t worth it. Be smarter, think twice.

  • Dancer

    No, Ukraine is absolutely normal country. Of
    course it’s not a European country as it is. But it’s rather nice and beautiful
    country. As of the war… Capital of Ukraine, Kiev, is absolutely calm and
    peaceful. Downtown was quickly reconstructed and today a great number of
    people, foreigners in particular, walk down the Kiev streets and places of

  • Dancer

    Yes, I agree, service is rather poor. And it’s
    not developed European country… Nevertheless for some reason it can be seen
    crowds of people in this clinic! Managers speak different languages, but there
    are lines to pass medical tests, visit doctor and so on. In general, it’s very
    beautiful country with friendly people. Kiev downtown was reconstructed after
    the last revolution. And people walk safely.

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