Minnesota policymakers want surrogacy regulated

Posted by in Assisted Reproduction, Fertility, Infertility, IVF, Surrogacy, Uncategorized

pexels-photoState lawmakers Rep. John Lesch and Sen. Sandra Pappas recently unveiled the Minnesota Gestational Carrier Act with the intent to regulate the surrogacy industry. Currently, the state offers no regulatory laws, but with this legislation, standards can be upheld, and intended parents have the right of parentage prior to the birth of their child.

The Act is silent on compensation, and it’s this exclusion that has the opposition concerned – one of which is the Minnesota Family Council.

“Minnesota Family Council believes that the proposed bill dismisses important regulations for the protection of women and children. Compensation must be banned and any proposed surrogacy legislation must additionally prevent the exploitation of women…”

“Our feeling is if everyone else is being compensated — the lawyers, the clinic, doctors — why shouldn’t the person carrying the child be compensated?” Sen. Sandra Pappas told the media.

A number of intended parents understand the commitment and dedication of their surrogates. Invariably, these women are placing their lives on “hold” so they can help carry their intended parents’ baby. Likewise, surrogates are also assuming the risk that goes with pregnancy and childbirth. It is for these very reasons that intended parents want their surrogates to receive a substantial compensation package – without them, they would be unable to have their family.

While each state has their own laws regarding surrogacy, one state viewed as having surrogacy-friendly laws is California due to its Uniform Parentage Act. Its guidelines make the surrogacy process more efficient so that intended parents, regardless of their sexual orientation, have their rights safeguarded.

While the Act is not on the calendar yet for any committee hearings, many are waiting to see if it will reach further than a similar bill that was vetoed in 2008.

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New house bill focuses on fertility treatments

Posted by in Assisted Reproduction, Fertility, Infertility, IVF, LGBT, Surrogacy

An Indiana lawmaker has introduced, House Bill 1059, aimed at health insurance companies adding fertility treatments for its members. According to Representative Robin Shackleford the bill is intended to help individuals diagnosed with infertility by making treatments like in vitro fertilization more affordable and less cost prohibitive. If passed, individuals will not have to shoulder the cost alone.

“I’ve heard a lot of the stories where women have literally drained out their 401k,” Shackleford told Fox News. “We need to see how we can level the playing field, help this service where everyone can afford it.”

Cher Kimbrough is described as the inspiration behind House Bill 1059. Her own personal experiences of infertility prompted her to become an advocate.

Now pregnant with twins, Kimbrough and her partner, Samuel, spent roughly $57,000 on treatments. Due to the high medical costs, it took the couple five years to become pregnant. They eventually traveled from their home state of Indiana to New York for the remainder of their fertility treatments.

pexels-photo-54547“I found the place in New York and it was $4,000 [for treatments]. Right away I’m like what’s the catch? Four thousand dollars for the same thing they’re charging 20 grand for in Indy,” Kimbrough told Fox News. She continued, “It’s like we have to be equal here. And if there’s couples hurting and there’s science available that can heal that hurt, science needs to be accessible for everyone.”

It’s estimated that one in eight women are diagnosed with the disease of infertility. Yet, health insurance companies have ignored this coverage. According to Resolve, The National Infertility Association, they along with other organizations continue to fight for these health insurance rights for both men and women with this medical need.

“The truth is, if an insurance company is ‘for profit’ – like all companies – they need to be profitable in order to survive. They have a responsibility to their shareholders. Those profits are determined by the difference between what they collect in premiums and what they pay out in claims – taking into account sales, marketing, underwriting and administrative costs. Some insurance companies view IVF as a ‘high-risk’ benefit and given the fact that many do not see it as a medical necessity, it is easy for them to make the case not to cover IVF.”

Advocates for House Bill 1059 are hopeful that it will transform traditional medical insurance coverage so that everyone has the right to affordable fertility treatments.

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Sperm donor fights against child support claim

Posted by in Assisted Reproduction, Sperm Donation

A Canadian court will soon decide if a sperm donor, who claims that he never intended to parent, will be required to retroactively pay child support for two children born from his donation which occurred nearly 20 years ago. Donor Michael Ranson’s attorneys are aiming to dismiss the case in light of Ontario’s new law, Bill 28, otherwise known as the All Families are Equal Act, ratified on Jan. 1, 2017.  The new law serves to redefine family law in areas such as surrogacy and egg and sperm donations as assisted reproductive technology becomes more prevalent.Sperm donor

The court must determine if Ranson’s contact with and financial gifts to the children render him a father, rather than a donor. Plaintiff Amie Cullimore believes his behavior did amount to fatherly actions.

“My relationship with the children is that of an uncle or friend, not that of a parent,” Ranson noted in his affidavit.

In the National Post, reporter Ashley Csandady cited Ranson’s attorneys Kelly Jordan and Shirley Levitan, stating, “It’s common in sperm donation cases for the man to stay tangentially involved in the offspring’s lives. In some fertility circles, it’s jokingly referred to as a ‘spuncle.’”

Calling himself a “benevolent uncle” to the children, Ranson generously deposited $20,000 into a savings account and assisted in tuition costs for private schools.

According to Cullimore, “They [children] called him dad and always referred to him as their father.”

The parties also signed a written agreement giving Cullimore complete custody and financial responsibility for her children. Additionally, the sperm donation took place at a California fertility clinic; under California law, Ranson would not be considered a father. But this can be rebutted if Cullimore’s attorneys convince the court that Ranson indeed acted like a father over the years.

Ranson’s attorneys write that Bill 28, “…was designed, in part, to remedy exactly the kind of situation as the case at bar — where a gamete donor is sued for child support, let alone almost 20 years after the donation.” They also added, “If spending two weeks a year with the children and giving gratuitous monetary gifts is all that is required for someone to be endowed with parental rights and responsibilities, there is something alarmingly amiss.”

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Italian Court Ruling Considered a Positive Step

Posted by in Assisted Reproduction, LGBT, Surrogacy

An Italian court has ruled that a same-sex couple’s twins, born to a California surrogate in 2015, are not in fact brothers, despite being born from eggs from the same donor. The court initially refused to allow the couple to register their sons as their legal children when they returned home to Milan.2000px-Italy_looking_like_the_flag.svg

Despite obvious disappointment, the men were instructed they could register their biological sons individually, as each was the biological father of one child. As a couple, however, the twins could not be legally declared their children. As of last year, Italy affords same-sex couples civil partnerships but does not allow them adoption or marriage rights. Italian law also declares surrogacy illegal.

Even though the ruling drew instant criticism, those familiar with Italian law are describing it as a step in the right direction.  One such entity is Famiglie Arcobaleno, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) which advocates and supports the rights of gay couples and their children.

“It’s the first time that an Italian court has established that a child’s best interest comes before [the legality of] how he or she was born,” the NGO’s president, Marilena Grassadonia, told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.  She continued, “The children’s interest was to have a parent. Also, until now the babies were only U.S. citizens, but finally their fathers can pass their Italian citizenship to them.”

In her interview with The Washington Post, Grassadonia pointed out how other nongovernmental organizations like theirs help navigate gay couples to countries where the rights and wellness of surrogates are respected.

“California and Canada are our preferred destinations,” she told the reporter.

Grassadonia went on to say that the twin boys never appeared to be in danger of being removed from their fathers’ care. According to the media coverage, a “removal” could be triggered by two factors in Italy: a surrogate exploited in a poverty-stricken country and/or falsifying information regarding conception.

Many are beginning to realize that the Italian court’s ruling should be viewed as progress. The Italian government recognized these men as the parents of their biological child, despite knowing they are a same-sex couple who had children in the United States by way of surrogacy.

While it’s bittersweet the children are not legally recognized as a family per se, this is still progress in Italy – and any progress like this should be encouraged and applauded.


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Frozen embryo legal battle continues for Vergara

Posted by in Assisted Reproduction, IVF

In a recent right-to-live lawsuit filed against Sofia Vergara, she is being sued by her two frozen embryos, named “Emma” and “Isabella” in court documents, claiming that they are being deprived of the opportunity to receive an inheritance through a trust fund established in their names. The trust was drafted in Louisiana while the embryos remain stored at a California facility.ivf-with-frozen-embryos

This new claim adds to an already contentious embryo custody dispute between Vergara, and her former fiancé, Nick Loeb.

In 2013, when Vergara and Loeb turned to a fertility clinic in California, they signed consent forms stipulating that neither partner could do anything with the two embryos without the other’s consent.

Despite the fact that the original consent forms did not specify how the embryos would be divided in the event of a separation, legal experts are calling this current turn of events highly unusual.

Jan Costello, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles told the Huffington Post, “Embryos are legally regarded as property throughout the United States, and the lawsuit’s rhetorical flourishes ― naming the embryos Isabella and Emma ― do nothing to enhance their legal status,” she said.

However, the State of Louisiana is pro-life, defining a fertilized egg as a “juridical person,” providing significantly more rights to embryos than other states in the nation, such as California.

The proper place to have filed this particular lawsuit would have been in California where the embryos were created and are stored. An established “fund” for the frozen embryos is likely insufficient grounds for filing a lawsuit in Louisiana.

Since the ruling in the Findley case in California in November 2015, one can understand the “Hail Mary” pass in filing this lawsuit in Louisiana. In Findley, Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo held that the consent form the couple signed at a fertility clinic controls and “the intent of the parties at the time, as evidenced by that document, must be given conclusive effect.”

This California ruling set a precedent for future cases, including the Vergara and Loeb frozen embryo custody dispute. It’s believed that this newest lawsuit launched by James Charbonnet, trustee of the fund, on behalf of Vergara’s embryos, won’t gain much legal traction – only media attention.

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Topeka sperm donor not the legal father

Posted by in Fertility, LGBT, Sperm Donation

After a four-year legal battle, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi ruled that Topeka sperm donor, William Marotta, is not the legal father of the young girl conceived via his donation.

The State of Kansas argued that since Marotta was the biological father, he was responsible for child support. Conversely, Marotta’s attorney, Charles Baylor, argued that his client never wanted parental responsibilities. After responding to a Craigslist ad looking for a sperm donor posted by same-sex couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, Marotta signed a contract which waived his parental rights.Sperm donor

Judge Mattivi concluded that Bauer and Schreiner, who separated in December 2010, are required to pay child support since they are co-parenting. Instead of Marotta, Bauer, the non-biological mother, was declared the child’s other legal parent.

Following Judge Mattivi’s ruling, Baylor announced, “It’s a great victory for Mr. Marotta.” He added, “We’re very gratified by the decision.”

In Judge Mattivi’s ruling she touched upon the “lack of professional services” used by the former couple during the insemination process. Rather than going to a medical facility, Bauer and Schreiner chose to do the insemination in the privacy of their own home. Judge Mattivi noted, “… they neither consulted a lawyer nor utilized the services of a medical clinic.”

The 1994 Kansas sperm donor statute requires that a licensed physician perform the artificial insemination. Without a physician involved in the process, the enforceability of the contract Marotta signed was questionable.

However, Luke Ranker of the Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Judge Mattivi’s ruling cited ten compelling reasons as to why Marotta should not be considered the child’s legal father, despite noncompliance with the statute.

In her common-sense decision, Judge Mattivi addressed that Marotta did not have any parental relationship with the child and he had not displayed any fatherly post-birth behavior, as well as the fact that introducing a new parent into the child’s life at this juncture would be confusing and potentially detrimental.

This recent ruling is considered a groundbreaking and great decision by those in the legal community because of its logical conclusion. Although Marotta is the biological father of this child, the fact that the court respected the parties’ intent that he not be her legal parent is commendable.

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Missouri Appeals Court Rules Frozen Embryos are Property, Not Persons

Posted by in Assisted Reproduction, Infertility

The battle over two frozen embryos was decided by the Missouri Court of Appeals last week. In a contentious dispute involving divorced couple Jalesia McQueen, 44, and Justin Gadberry, 34, McQueen wanted to be able to use the two frozen embryos the couple created, whereas, Gadberry either wanted the embryos given to an infertile couple, donated to research or destroyed.Frozen-embryos-300x189

Gadberry remained adamant that he did not want to be forced into fatherhood with McQueen, something his attorney argued would be a direct violation of his client’s constitutional rights.

Last week, the Missouri Court of Appeals sided with Gadberry and upheld the lower court’s earlier ruling: the frozen embryos were marital property of a special character.

According to the ruling, the frozen embryos will remain within the couple’s joint custody and will continue to be stored until the couple arrives at an agreement regarding their use. Judge Robert M. Clayton III wrote that the award of joint custody, “…subjects neither party to any unwarranted governmental intrusion but leaves the intimate decision of whether to potentially have more children to the parties alone.” Judge Clayton continued, “The right of personal privacy extends to intimate activities and decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception and family relationships.”

In a statement following the recent appellate ruling, Tim Schlesinger, Gadberry’s attorney, announced, “I think today’s ruling is a victory for individuals against unjustified government intrusion. We don’t want the government telling when to have children or whether to have children.”

Reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joel Currier, noted that the decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals confirmed that,“…McQueen’s attempt to apply state law defining life as beginning at conception is at odds with U.S. Supreme Court decisions protecting Gadberry’s rights to privacy, to be free from government interference and not to procreate.”

McQueen has already voiced her plans to move forward with an appeal of the decision.

“It’s my offspring. It’s part of me, and what right do the judges or the government have to tell me I cannot have them?” It appears as though she is facing an uphill battle.

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