Steve Liss back in the news again

Posted by in Fertility, Infertility, IVF, Surrogacy

StevenLissconfrontation_1359733285135_365168_ver1.0_320_240San Diego reporters from ABC Team 10 pursued Steve Liss for some answers. It isn’t the first time Liss has come face to face with a television news crew.

In San Diego, Liss has earned notoriety as a local con man.

Yes, this is the same man who tried to allegedly solicit a “murder-for-hire scheme” aimed at his wife. Eventually, the District Attorney’s office dropped the case due to a lack of evidence.

But let’s fast forward to a couple days ago.

Team 10 found Liss, a disbarred attorney, and wanted answers about him seeking egg donors and surrogates which appeared to be another suspected scam.

Reporter, Mitch Blacher, caught up with Liss.

“There’s a woman in Idaho,” Blacher said, keeping up the pace with Liss hurriedly walking in San Diego.  “You took her $7,500, after promising her a baby – why don’t you give her money back?”

For those who have followed Liss over the years, he goes by different aliases, and occasionally, hangs a shingle along the San Diego coastline for a new business venture.

The woman in Idaho spoke to Team 10 but only did so if they did not use her last name.

Team 10 complied.

The woman had undergone heartache following the birth of her stillborn baby, they reported.  Such sadness and grief prompted her to look into adoption.

Melissa told reporters, “It actually sounded like a great opportunity,” referring to hiring Liss.

The news report went on to say, “Liss took advantage of her when she was at an emotional vulnerable point. She said Liss took her money, but never was able to adopt a baby through his business.”

To date, she has not received any of her money back.

And there’s more.

Team 10 also talked to another woman with a complaint against Liss by the name of Andrea Zelones. Liss wanted her as his administrative assistant for his business. Zelones did her homework on Google to see what she could find.

“I went, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Zelones told the news team.

They reported, “She found several past Team 10 stories on Liss, including when his attorney’s license was revoked by the California Bar Association. His license was revoked for cheating clients in many different cases, including divorce and adoptions.”

Zelones told Team 10 that Liss claimed his business was successful in creating new families through surrogacy.

She told reporters, “He says he places hundreds of ads a week, looking for surrogates and donors.”

This revelation led researchers at the newsroom to dig a little more and this is what they found.

“Because he is disbarred, it is illegal for Liss to advertise a family law practice, but that is what Team 10 found him doing. This is what led Team 10 to his most recent office in Pacific Beach,” they said.

When Blacher started asking questions about the woman in Idaho and his apparent surrogacy business, Liss didn’t give any response.  Instead, he allegedly assaulted the reporter to obtain the camera recording him.

The scene then escalated, according to Team 10.

“As Blacher followed him and continued to ask questions, Liss swung a bag filled with garbage at the reporter. The bag opened, and spilled litter on the road. Liss picked it all up, and then kept walking through someone’s personal property to get to an alley to get away from Team 10.”

And yes, Team 10 filed a police report. 

A spokesperson from the district attorney’s office has been made aware of the latest Liss developments and is researching the case. 

Before Liss was disbarred, NBC San Diego reported some time ago that he was admitted into the bar in 1987, specializing in adoptions and family law.  Eric S. Page went on to write, “State bar association records reveal that Liss has been disciplined for failure to perform competent legal services and failure to promptly refund unearned legal fees,….”

News coverage like this is an opportunity to reiterate how to find reputable representation. 

While there are a few avenues to find the right surrogate and reproductive attorney, teaming up with a reputable egg donor and surrogate agency is the first step.  Agencies in good standing will know attorneys who are licensed in particular states and familiar with the domestic and international laws pertaining to gestational surrogacy.

In many ways, finding the right attorney is equally as important as finding the right surrogate to carry your baby.

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An American shift for foreign couples seeking surrogates

Posted by in Fertility, Infertility, IVF, Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a topic making headlines ranging from legalities, ethics, to parenthood dreams come true.

The New York Times recently published an in-depth article entitled, “Foreign Couples Heading to America for Surrogate Pregnancies.

Reporter, Tamar Lewin wrote, “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.”

Recently, a gay couple living in Lisbon celebrated the photo of their baby’s first ultrasound.  Across the globe, a woman in Pennsylvania was their surrogate.

ED-AH411_mama_20080424212505Lewin reported, “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.”  She went on to say, “And as Paulo and João have discovered, even bringing home a baby born abroad through surrogacy can be complicated.”

Paulo and João are one of many foreign couples facing these surrogacy hurdles.

Including the United States, other countries such as Mexico, India, Thailand and the Ukraine permit paid surrogacy.

“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,” Lewin wrote.

According to the article, currently, more than 2,000 babies are being born through gestational surrogacy.  This number includes domestic and international couples.

While some states forbid surrogacy, states like California allow it, and the women are compensated.  And why shouldn’t they be for what they are going through?

Thankfully, in this New York Times article, they touched upon the point of view of surrogates.

“Many women who have had a fulfilling surrogate experience go on to carry a second, or third, child for the same couple, finding pleasure in being pregnant and conferring the gift of a child and a continuing connection with another family, while earning money in the process,” the reporter wrote.  “Kelly, a licensed practical nurse in Pennsylvania with two children who asked not to have her last name used to protect her privacy, delivered a baby, Nico, for two German men, Thomas Reuss and Dennis Reuther, in 2012.”

Kelly decided to help the couple once again and is pregnant with two twin boys.

Kelly told the reporter, “The money is nice, but we could manage without it, and it’s not why I’m doing this.”

While surrogacy started in the United States nearly 30 years ago, legal experts claim the emergence of surrogacy may spark new court cases, and inevitably, new laws.

Because surrogacy is allowing couples all over the world an opportunity to have a child, the next issue is addressing how to bring these babies home.

Lewin wrote, “For those from abroad, getting an American-born baby home can involve tangled immigration problems. Some countries require a new birth certificate, a parental order or an adoption. Some will not accept an American birth certificate with two fathers listed as the parents.” She continued, “Occasionally, a baby can be denied entry into the parents’ home country.”

Intended parents who are thrilled to bring home their new baby sometimes come face-to-face with the laws in their country which may deflate their immediate joy.

Having worked in this legal field for more than a decade, I can offer some sage advice with these scenarios.  It’s very important that couples or a single intended parent work with an experienced attorney who understands the international market as there are things you need to tell your client.

For example, bringing home a baby through surrogacy from the states is different for France, Spain and China.  Every country is different and how they handle it, so having an adept attorney on your side makes all the difference in the world.

Likewise, the recent ruling in France regarding surrogacy also shows changes ahead. Published by the AFP, in a June 27 article entitled, France accepts EU rights ruling on surrogacy children, things are becoming more progressive.

The author wrote that France, “would not dispute a ruling by Europe’s top rights court forcing it to legally recognise children born to surrogates, a practice that is illegal in the country.  Authorities in France had refused to register three children born to surrogates in the United States as the couples’ legal offspring, a crucial move as it would secure them nationality and full inheritance rights.”  The article went on to say, “But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday that this denial by French authorities ran contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights.”

As controversy swirls regarding surrogacy, one thing is undeniable: When all goes smoothly with surrogacy, an insurmountable amount of joy occurs when a newborn baby is in the arms of loving parents.


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Shepherd’s change of heart toward unborn surrogate baby

Posted by in Uncategorized

Sherri Shepherd recently announced she no longer wants ties to an unborn surrogate baby.  The baby’s expected delivery date is estimated within the next few weeks.

Why the change of heart?

It all comes down to her recent marriage breakup with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Lamar Sally.

According to Mail Online, Judy Moult reported from her own sources, “The 47 year-old has no genetic connection to the infant who was conceived through IVF with an egg donor and her estranged husband’s sperm.” Moult went on saying, “Sources told the website on Saturday that she believes her TV writer ex defrauded her into having a child so he could get child support – knowing full well he was planning to file for divorce.”

ShepherdThe news article indicated that following a failed IVF attempt with Shepherd’s own eggs, the couple ultimately decided to choose an egg donor and a surrogate to carry their baby.

This mindful process takes time and dedication.

From her own sources, Moult wrote, “….the former, The View host, does not want to be considered a parent because she does not want to take financially responsibility…. she allegedly wants a judge to rule she has no parental rights for the baby due at the end of the month.”

Shepherd may not be granted this legal plea. There are cases and statutes that dictate something Shepherd does not want to hear: that she is the parent.

More on that later.

During a recent court hearing, the judge allowed Shepherd to speak of the divorce publicly, but was not permitted to divulge the name or location of the surrogate.

Interestingly, on May 2, it’s reported that when Shepherd filed for divorce she requested full custody of the unborn surrogate baby.

Now, she’s changed her mind.

According to Andrea Johnson of Minot Daily News, she said the unborn child’s right to the financial and emotional support of two parents trumps Shepherd’s right to back out of this arrangement and avoid future contact with her ex-husband.

“If she [Shepherd] intended to become the child’s mother when she arranged for its conception, she should be required to act as his or her mother when the child is actually born,” Johnson writes.  She continued, “Presumably both the egg donor and the surrogate/gestational mother have no desire to be this baby’s mother and have signed away any parental rights they might have.”

I hate to break to to Sherri, but she’s a mom unless she can prove otherwise.

Across state lines, the laws vary regarding egg donation and surrogacy.  And while Sally filed for divorce in California and Shepherd filed in New Jersey, what matters is the laws of the state where they signed their surrogacy and egg donation agreements.

As for this case, California has a very clear statutes and case law regarding surrogacy and the “intent to parent” controls. Genetics do not matter. So it does not matter that Shepherd said she used a donor. That argument won’t work. As mentioned earlier, we have cases and statutes that protect the parties and if she signed a contract saying she is the intended mother, she’s the mom when that baby is born.

While Shepherd is allegedly claiming fraud, this will be tough to prove, unless she can substantiate that she didn’t sign the contract and, that would mean she wasn’t involved in the egg donor and surrogacy contracts. It’s hard to believe she didn’t know what was going on, but stranger things have happened.

If her husband forced her to sign the contracts this would not be fraud, but rather, duress.  And from the media reports, she’s not claiming that.

The consensus regarding Shepherd’s refusal to care for this unborn baby is rather unanimous. While the majority understand how she may not want to associate with her estranged husband, what’s hard to understand is her willingness to cut ties with this baby.

Heated controversy and emotion is often entangled in divorce.  Let’s hope this gets resolved soon for the baby’s sake if no one else’s.


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Couple Speaks Out Against Jennifer Lahl

Posted by in Fertility, Infertility, Surrogacy

1403727872000-ht-jennifer-lahl-breeders-jc-140624-16x9-992While Jennifer Lahl is promoting her highly criticized documentary, “Breeders: A Sub-Class of Women,” in her attempt to outlaw surrogacy, there is a long line of couples and women who are insulted by her film and comments.

Susan Donaldson James of ABC News reported, “Lahl explores the issue of third-party reproduction, focusing on several women whose experiences point to what she sees as flaws in the surrogacy process. She argues that surrogacy has become a baby-buying operation that allows wealthy couples to exploit vulnerable women, often those of lesser means.”

James went on to quote Lahl who told ABC News, “It’s obviously expensive technology and people with financial means want what they want.”

This statement, among others, has sparked controversy.

A couple from Chesterfield County in VA, decided to speak out regarding Lahl’s documentary and her attempt to outlaw surrogacy. Jenn and Brad Nixon have undergone a seven-year fight with infertility. The heartbreak of failed pregnancy attempts rendered them defeated until they chose the surrogate pathway.  Now, their dreams of parenthood are coming true.

The WRIC reported, “The Nixon’s chose to use a surrogate, or gestational carrier, after they learned Jenn’s heart problems would make it dangerous for her to get pregnant.”

Jenn told 8News that she disagreed with the recent Lahl claims, one of which was that the process of surrogacy to help a couple become parents was a “baby-buying operation” which took advantage of and exploited women.

In the interview, Jenn told 8News, “It isn’t fair to generalize and make it seem like every surrogacy situation is that way.  My experience and the people I know, they’re doing it because that’s the only way they can have a biological child and I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

Jenn, excited about becoming a mother through surrogacy, has blogged about her experiences, and ultimately, her pure gratitude after finding a woman to help. Also weaved within the blog, are the couples’ anguish during their years of infertility.

While Lahl highlights how affluent couples are using and exploiting surrogate services, more objections are raised from couples who have experienced infertility who are not in this income bracket.

Infertility is a disease affecting more than 7 million Americans.

Couples like the Nixon family don’t have the luxury of a padded bank account. They are crunching numbers to have a surrogate.

Jenn told 8News, “We are budgeting it out and I’m estimating it’s going to cost $40,000 for us to do this.  With my husband being a police officer and me on a small salary, this is going to be loans. But we’re gonna make it happen.”

Couples facing infertility who use a surrogate should not be confused with “Social Surrogacy,” a term used to describe women capable of pregnancy and carrying to full term, but choose not to.

The couples who need a surrogate because of a fertility disease strongly outweigh this group.

8News went on to say that the $40,000 estimation will pay for medical care, only.  Jenn and Brad are not paying their surrogate –she does not want the money.

“She’s [surrogate] helping the couple because she believes it’s the right thing to do,” the article stated.

Jenn went on to say in her interview that rather than focusing on the negative comments regarding surrogacy, she and her husband have another focus in mind: to be a family once and for all.

Lahl, who is also a pediatric critical care nurse, voices concerns of a “primal wound” when a baby is taken away from its gestational surrogate.

Much criticism has also surfaced regarding this claim, including the view on adoptions.  While Lahl reinforces her religious beliefs, some of familiar faiths argue at the same side of the table.  Their question is what is the difference between “this separation scenario” when a woman decides to give her baby up for adoption or that of a surrogate?

Once a baby ends up in the arms of its parents, the nurturing love continues.

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Craigslist sperm donor faces special hearing

Posted by in IVF, Sperm Donation

The Kansas Supreme Court continues to make headlines on the Craigslist case where a William Marotta donated his sperm after reading an online ad.

On the flipside, the ladies who placed the ad were Jennifer Schreiner, and her former partner, Angela Bauer.

Here’s some background to bring readers up to speed.

In 2009, the ladies decided to undergo IVF.  Although they fostered and adopted several children, they wanted to have their own.

Reporter Aly Van Dyke from The Capital Journal wrote in 2012, “The Topeka couple initially tried to obtain a specimen from a cryobank in Chicago, Bauer said, but ran into trouble with their family practitioner. The doctor refused to sign a release stating the couple capable of raising a child, she said.”

Instead, the ladies placed an ad on Craigslist for a sperm donor.

During their screening, the ladies chose Marotta and did the insemination in the privacy of their own home.  After one try, Schreiner became pregnant.

11860837Van Dyke wrote, “Today, that child is in the middle of a state lawsuit. The Kansas Department of Children and Families has filed a child support claim against the sperm donor for the couple’s now 3-year-old girl, despite a signed contract waiving his parenting responsibilities.”

How did the Kansas Department of Children and Families get involved?

Well, it all started with Medicaid.  Bauer earned the main source of income, but after being diagnosed with a serious illness, her partner sought Medicaid for their daughter.

This heated court case is to determine if Marotta is obligated to pay child support; and, while Bauer and Schreiner are no longer a couple, they still co-parent their children.

Now, let’s fast forward to the latest court hearing.

A few days ago, The Capital Journal published, “The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a Shawnee County District Court to conduct a hearing to determine whether genetic testing of William Marotta is in the best interest of the child he allegedly fathered through a sperm donation.  The court, in a split decision released this past Friday, negated a May 2014 ruling by Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi ordering Marotta to undergo genetic testing to determine if he is, in fact, the father of the now 4-year-old child.”

The Kansas Department of Children and Families still maintains that if Marotta is the biological father, he must pay up.

The Capital Journal went on to report, “Marotta claimed he had signed a contract forfeiting all rights to fatherhood, but the state DCF claimed he was still liable for child support — a position supported by Mattivi’s ruling.” The article also pointed out, “Mattivi ruled the contract between Marotta, Schreiner and her female partner was moot because the women didn’t follow a 1994 Kansas statute that Mattivi said required a licensed physician to perform the artificial insemination in cases involving sperm donors.”

When the state made a motion to mandate genetic testing for Marotta, his defense sued to stop it.  The defense underscored a “Ross Hearing,” which concludes if genetic testing is in the “best interest of a child.”

And it got noticed.

“In a majority order written by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, the high court ruled that Kansas law dictates that the best interests of a child must prevail in determining parental rights and obligations,” Van Dyke reported.

For these legal proceedings, Nuss wrote, ‘“Ross held that the shifting of parental roles from a presumed parent to a biological parent could be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of any child, thus necessitating a hearing to determine if the shifting is in the best interests of the child.”’

The next court- ordered step is for Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi to conduct the “Ross Hearing.”

Obviously, there is a clear public opinion divide.

One group says Marotta’s sperm donation was nothing more than helping a lesbian couple conceive and he should not be forced to pay for child support.  The other consensus argues Marotta is responsible because he should have done his legal due diligence before donating his sperm.


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The search for my egg donor on Katie Couric show this week

Posted by in Egg Donation, Infertility, IVF, Uncategorized

Katie Couric has traveled the globe reporting world news and interviewing prominent people.

This Wednesday, on her afternoon show, Katie, championed a unique interview.

1485884731001_3616585034001_egg-donor-segment-2-vsFollowing a taxing search, a Nashville teen is finally meeting her biological mom who donated her eggs.

Here’s a brief background.

Janet Schreibman went into early menopause which prompted her and her husband to seek egg donation.  Though IVF, she became pregnant and gave birth to their daughter, Brittan Gilmore.

Early on, Schreibman was candid with her daughter.

Heidi Hall, a journalist from The Tennessean wrote, “Sometimes mommies and daddies need help if they want to have a baby, Schreibman would say. Children are created in all different ways. One way is called in vitro fertilization.”

Gilmore, a curious seven-year-old, asked her mother the poignant question, “Are you my real mom?”

Always transparent, she told her daughter she had two mothers.

The other mother was JoLana Talbot.

“Nearly a decade later, the Nashville teen and her egg donor came together in a way as modern as her birth, after a search on an Internet database, a timid message on Facebook and, finally, a tearful introduction on Katie Couric’s daytime TV talk show,” Hall reported. She continued, “That’s not the end of the story. Brittan’s experience getting there made her an advocate for an open system that would allow willing egg and sperm donors to connect with their offspring.”

When Talbot was 23 and a military wife at the time, she made the decision to donate her eggs at the Nashville Fertility Center.  After seven separate surgical retrievals, Talbot donated 348 eggs.

Gilmore is part of that egg donation.

Talbot always felt a sense of connection to the eggs she donated.

Hall goes on to write, “She called the fertility clinic every time she moved to leave her new address, in case there was ever a medical crisis someone wanted to ask her about. ‘It would be selfish to say, I don’t ever want to be found or noticed, she said.’”

The first IVF attempt for Schreibman failed.  But on the second try, it worked.  Shreibman’s husband was the biological father, Talbot was the egg donor, and Schreibman carried to full term when she was 46.

In her interview with the family, Hall reported, “The decision to tell Brittan about her birth led to adolescent curiosity and then to the Donor Sibling Registry, the creation of Colorado mom Wendy Kramer and her son, who started it in 2000 with a group. Today, more than 43,000 donors, parents and donor offspring are registered with 11,000 sibling and other matches.”

1485884731001_3617544192001_video-still-for-video-3616544638001In the article, Kramer said honest parents like Schreibman and her husband end up having great relationships with their children. For Kramer, she feels there is no reason to keep relationships like this apart.

But there are two sides to every story.

A law professor offers his own twist in the article.

“The identity of U.S. sperm and egg donors is protected by default. In the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries, sperm and egg donors must be willing to be contacted when their offspring turns 18, said I. Glenn Cohen, a Harvard University law professor who specializes in bioethics.”  Hall quotes him again, “But some birth parents still never tell because they don’t want to be undermined by a second relationship, Cohen said, and it can be tough for a child to be rejected by the donor.”

Cohen also pointed out that if the United States were to authorize more openness, laws should be considered on how much accountability a donor must have.

Hall wraps up Cohen’s point of view by writing, “It sounds like the story on Katie Couric is a happy one, but in some cases, when people agree to be sperm donors or egg donors, they don’t want to have a relationship with the children brought into existence,” he said. “I’d rather clarify up front what people are agreeing to do.”

In any event, Gilmore began her search at 13 contacting the Nashville Fertility Clinic. While they were unable to assist, Gilmore discovered an online registry but there was no success for some time.

Then it happened – Gilmore spotted her donor.

“Within minutes, she’d found Talbot’s registry moniker on Pinterest, linked it to Facebook and messaged her,” wrote Hall.

Gilmore’s mother then contacted the clinic for the donor number which confirmed the match and shared this with her daughter when she celebrated her 16th birthday.

How did this story make it to Couric’s daytime show?

Apparently, a neighbor of one of these families is the television producer.

This first-time “meeting” can be seen on Katie Couric’s show on ABC this Wednesday, June 11.


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Govenor Jindal vetoes surrogacy bill all over again

Posted by in Surrogacy

jindalOn the second go around, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed a bill having to do with legal surrogacy births in the pelican state.

And I for one am relieved he vetoed this bill once more.  But it’s for different reasons I will share at the end.

In The Times Picayune, reporter Emily Lane writes in her article, “The veto comes after backers of the legislation made compromises with conservative Christian groups to put in it a posture Jindal could support.”  Lane goes on to report, “Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, sponsored the legislation, which allows couples and a woman to enter into a contractual surrogacy birth relationship. Currently, no one who sets up a contract governing a surrogacy in Louisiana can get it enforced in local courts.”

When Lopinto presented the bill the first time, objections from conservative groups such as Christians and Catholics voiced concerns that it was too lenient. The amended version, House Bill 187, was meant to satisfy the conservative group – but it didn’t satisfy all of them.

A portion of Jindal’s vetoed message states, “However, despite the good intentions and hard efforts of the author, this legislation still raises concerns for many in the pro-life community.”

Some Louisiana citizens who opposed the bill did so for other reasons such as citing House Bill 187 as ridiculous, claimed surrogacy is a business contract which should not be overseen by state law, and others called it narrowly written.

I was relieved of this veto, because for me, it was more of a “Republican-I-support-right-to-life-and-marriage-between-a-man-and-a-woman” bill than it had to do with surrogacy.

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