Have you ever read an article, and midway through you begin to feel your blood boil because they just didn’t get it? That’s how I felt reading the article below.
The worst part is this piece was published in the Wall Street Journal. It’s titled, “Surrogacy Gives Birth to an Unusual Alliance.” However, the subtitle says it all: “Ethical concerns about paying for babies bridge the sacred-secular gap.”
Its writer, Christopher White, begins the article by mentioning how the states of New York, Minnesota and Washington D.C. have legislation pending to legalize commercial surrogacy.
That’s a step forward – but not in this article.
White reports, “The Catholic Church has long opposed surrogacy, whether paid or unpaid. Nowadays, with increasing pressure for the legalization of paid surrogacy, the church has found itself with an unfamiliar ally: feminists.” He presses on, “The Catholic Church and women’s rights groups are accustomed to clashing over policy matters involving contraception and abortion. But now the two camps can often be found working hand in hand when it comes to protecting both women and children from being exploited in the growing and largely unregulated fertility industry.”
Oh, really? Did I miss that e-mail announcement and invitation?
White sensationalizes his point by mentioning the unfortunate “Baby Gammy” surrogacy, which of course, is not the norm.
With a religious spin he writes, “Catholic feminist Lucetta Scaraffia took to the pages of the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romana, to describe the Baby Gammy story as evidence of the ‘throwaway culture’ that Pope Francis has decried. ‘We should not be surprised,’ she wrote, ‘if parents who have ordered a baby and rented a woman’s womb refuse it at birth if it is not healthy and perfect.’”
White goes on to mention how the laws in the U.S.A. differ in terms of paid or unpaid surrogacy.
White pushes on with the following, “Leaders of the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, writing online in April for the reproductive-health publication RH Reality Check, urged serious consideration regarding surrogacy: ‘Having insisted so powerfully on women’s rights, how do we ensure that we are not pitting one woman’s rights and well-being against another’s?’”
Did he say women “pitted” against one another?
A grown woman, represented by legal counsel, after meeting with her agency’s representative (if she has one), a doctor and his or her staff and a trained psychologist, doesn’t know her own mind and can’t decide on her own if surrogacy is right for her and her family?
What a ridiculous argument. If the writer bothered to look back at the landmark 1993 ruling in the Johnson v. Calvert case, heard by the California State Supreme Court, he would have found that the courts rejected that very same argument put forth by the surrogate’s attorney that she didn’t know her own mind when she signed the contract. The court held 6-1 that the surrogate mother had no parental rights to the baby.
White also said in his article, “Too often paid surrogacy appears exploitative. Women who serve as surrogates tend to be poor and are tempted by the fees even though they’re taking on a nine-month, 24-hour, seven days a week physical and emotional commitment. For $25,000—a common surrogacy fee—the arrangement comes out to less than $4 an hour.”
Again, White didn’t do his research.
Aside from the money aspect, it’s not easy being a surrogate and it takes a lot of hard work. Most women who think it is “easy money” never pass the screening or drop out when they realize how tough it is. And, most agencies that I work with do not work with surrogate’s who are poor. The money these women receive has to be the “icing” on the cake – not the entire “cake.”
White then mentions the risks of being a surrogate.
Yes, there are risks and that’s why the surrogates in my practice all have their own, separate counsel. It’s the law in California, but I also participate in contract negotiations where surrogates are in other states where it may not be the law. And while most surrogates don’t think they need an attorney, I really don’t care — they get one.
Just when you thought you’ve read enough, White pushes on about a study which highlighted an “unsettling aspect” which cut off the natural maternal bonding of pregnancy after the surrogacy delivery.
Write reports, “A prominent June 2013 study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that children born through surrogacy are at great risk of adjustment difficulties and psychological problems.” He goes on to vaguely write, “There are no long-term studies gauging how young adults conceived through surrogacy are faring, but the anecdotal evidence from such children’s countless blog posts and interviews suggest that many are wary of the very practice that allowed for their conception.”
If that’s his claim, then why didn’t White do his research, interview these adults, and document their statements?
I have 13-year old children born via surrogacy; and, I know a lot of families and children born via surrogacy. I can tell you from experience that those children do not have adjustment issues because of how they were born. That’s like saying my dad had issues being a father because he had one arm and one leg. He had issues because he had one and one leg, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know how to love a child. That was just my dad’s story of his life. Just like children have their story of how they were created and born. It’s just that: their story.
Let’s not make it any more than what it is.Read More
The pendulum has swung in favor towards some European couples and individuals who have had their baby through surrogacy in the United States.
The great news is that a spotlight is shining bright on how it’s in the best interest of a child to be recognized by their parents and be given Nationality in their country.
That may sound simple enough, but it’s been a struggle, and in many ways continues to be a challenge.
In Switzerland, surrogacy is still deemed illegal.
Regardless of this, two gay fathers recently won an unparalleled ruling which made them beam with victory as the legal parents of their child who was born via a surrogate in the states.
According to Mitch Kellaway, an author at The Advocate, “The two St. Gallen-based fathers, whose partnership is legally registered in their home country, chose to have their child through the artificial insemination of a donor egg by one partner’s sperm. Both were listed as fathers on the U.S. birth certificate, after their California-based surrogate mother delivered the newborn and abdicated parental rights. Kellaway continued, “But when Swiss law still considered the surrogate mother and her husband the legal parents of the child, the two gay fathers petitioned the Swiss national registry for parental recognition, supported by their own local registry.”
The request pushed it to St. Gallen’s courthouse in where it recognized the newborn’s birth certificate issued in California.
An item remaining on record at Federal Office of Justice paperwork will be the surrogate’s paternity.
While an appeal may still be issued, to date, none has been filed.
On the heels of this case, is the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) breakthrough decision which occurred a few weeks ago.
Parenthood in the 21st century is changing not only here in the states, but is rippling across the pond.
The recent ruling in the Mennesson v. France is an excellent example of this.
Before a final decision, there was a movement to prohibit a relationship between a father, who is a citizen of France, and his children born via a surrogate in the United States. In a press release issued by the Registrar of the Court, it clearly spelled whatever forbidden measures were in place should be cast away.
Regarding the case of Mennesson v. France, “Totally prohibiting the establishment of a relationship between a father and his biological children born following surrogacy arrangements abroad was in breach of the Convention, The European Court of Human Rights….”
In detail is stated that the case, “concerned the refusal to grant legal recognition in France to parent-child relationships that had been legally established in the United States between children born as a result of surrogacy treatment and the couples who had had the treatment.”
Ultimately, the ECHR recognized a zero violation of Article 8, which underscores a right to respect for private and family life. As well, the ECHR deemed there was a violation of this same article in terms relating to the children’s rights for respect and private life.
In addition to the Mennesson family, the Labassee family was also named since they also had children via surrogacy in the United States and had also been fighting to have their children recognized.
The press release pointed out in its summation, “The Court observed that the French authorities, despite being aware that the children had been identified in the United States as the children of Mr. and Mrs. Mennesson and Mr. and Mrs. Labassee, had nevertheless denied them that status under French law. It considered that this contradiction undermined the children’s identity within French society.”
What this all means is that the decision of the ECHR could provide a significant change for its 47 member states. A handful of these countries include France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and Spain. Those who seek surrogacy overseas could be granted parental rights due to a genetic connection. This genetic connection equals citizenship for the children even if surrogacy is deemed illegal in that country.
Like the Switzerland case mentioned earlier, this ECHR judgment has three months for an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court.
No appeal has been mentioned at this time which means we are moving in the right direction.Read More
The recent surrogacy upheaval in Thailand is tossing intended parents into a state of confusion, and for many, in an emotional panic.
It’s an absolute nightmare.
In a CNN report titled, “Babies caught in Thailand surrogacy crackdown,”journalist Hilary Whiteman uncovers this upsetting story.
She writes, “What’s been happening is an unprecedented crackdown on a lucrative industry that has flourished in the absence of rules and regulations. In recent weeks, Thai authorities have raided a number of surrogacy clinics, closing some down and throwing hundreds of couples into a legal and emotional maelstrom.” She continues, “Families Through Surrogacy (FTS), a non-profit organization that helps intending parents through the process, says there are currently around 400 couples with pregnant surrogates or frozen embryos in Thailand.”
As you can imagine, this non-profit has been swamped with calls from scared, intended parents. According to the records at FTS, these couples are from Australia, Canada, Israel and the U.S.A. Half of them, however, are from Australia.
Founder of FTS, Sam Everingham, told CNN, “Many clinics are being run on a skeleton staff, or staff working from home. As a result it’s very hard for parents to contact their clinics.” Everingham added, “We want to assure parents that their surrogates are being looked after. They shouldn’t panic, they shouldn’t try to contact their surrogates direct. This is a difficult time but clinics are doing all they can to ensure those existing pregnancies are looked after.”
Not panic? That’s a hard thing for intended parents to do when their surrogates are in the midst of such turmoil.
Whiteman reports, “The recent police raids have exposed the extremes of surrogacy in Thailand, including the case of a 24-year-old Japanese man suspected of fathering at least 12 surrogate babies because he wanted ‘a big family,’ according to his lawyer.”
The article goes on to highlight the case of baby Gammy– the baby with Down Syndrome, who is being cared for by his surrogate mother, after its intended parents abandoned him but took his twin sister back to Australia.
This highly, negatively charged press has placed Thai surrogacy in the line of fire.
Change in the industry was already underway, Whiteman writes, with the announcement by Thailand’s military government in late July that clinics would be reviewed to ensure they were abiding by the Medical Council’s code of conduct.
Whiteman continues to report, “Last week, the interim Thai Cabinet approved a draft law to make commercial surrogacy a criminal offense. It’s unclear when it will be formally approved by the National Legislative Assembly and endorsed by the Thai King.”
Everingham told CNN that he thought it would be highly unlikely that those in current surrogacy arrangements would be charged and prosecuted.
Nevertheless, the fear of uncertainty is still there.
Everingham was quoted, “The Thai government has assured us in recent days that there will not be penalties for those in current arrangements, whether they be surrogates or intending parents. (But) there will be a new process for exit from the country.”
In fact, this past week, a couple from the U.S.A. and Australia were prevented from leaving Thailand with their newborns.
Apparently, they needed more documentation, which they furnished.
They have now safely left.
However, Whiteman wrote, “A spokeswoman from the U.S. Embassy said: ‘We are aware of reports of cases where the parents were not permitted to exit, and we are seeking clarification about Thai Immigration requirements.’”
Whiteman then highlighted the legal limbo situation. Now, intended parents with pregnant surrogates need to undergo a Family Court ruling. This ruling is required before taking a baby out of Thailand.
According to Everingham, the process could take up to a half year. He also noted, “The extra costs and delays are an unexpected blow for couples who have already spent thousands of dollars on surrogacy services, but there’s little they can do.”
I think it’s incredibly tragic that parents do not know what has happened to their surrogates, their children or both. Could you imagine? I feel that surrogacy should be allowed as a carefully and reasonably regulated industry and not be punished by imprisonment, or fines or both, like in some parts of Australia.
Regulate surrogacy, like we do here in California, and in other states.
Preventing it so strictly like Australia and other countries is what led parents to seek surrogacy in Thailand.
Now looks what’s happened.
When people place their faith in someone, and in turn have been cheated financially, it can be agonizing. But when it’s about dreams of starting, it’s utterly heart-breaking for the victims and beyond despicable for the cheater.
Planet Hospital, founded by the regarded shyster, Rudy Rupak, 45, has caused both financial and emotional distress for many couples wanting a baby.
Established in California in 2002, Planet Hospital is a medical tourism company and a self-promoting soapbox for Rupak.
In the New York Times, Tamara Lewin wrote a comprehensive article titled, A Surrogacy Agency That Delivered Heartache.
Lewin writes about Rupak and his business, “Over the last decade he has held forth about how his company has helped Americans head overseas for affordable tummy tucks and hip replacements. And after he expanded his business to include surrogacy in India for Western couples grappling with infertility — and then in Thailand, and last year, Mexico — he increasingly took credit for the global spread of surrogacy.” She continues, “But now Mr. Rupak is in involuntary bankruptcy proceedings, under investigation by the F.B.I. and being pursued by dozens of furious clients from around the world who accuse him of taking their money and dashing their dreams of starting a family.”
Let me intervene here by saying that according to CBS News, although Rupak’s surrogacy business is closed and undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, he still operates his other medical tourism procedures around the globe.
Dumbfounding, isn’t it?
Now, let’s get back to the New York Times publication.
The article goes on to highlight how Planet Hospital attracted intended parents to countries such as Mexico and India because of the price tag. Egg donors, IVF clinics and surrogates were half the cost as compared to the U.S.A.
In the article, Johnathan C. Dailey, an attorney in Washington, had the misfortune of doing business with Rupak. In Dec. 2013, he wired his initial installment of $37,000 to Planet Hospital. The intended monies were going toward a surrogate living in Mexico.
The reporter writes, “He [Dailey] and his fiancée flew to Cancún to leave a sperm deposit at the clinic that would create the embryo and to visit the downtown house where their surrogate would live while pregnant. They picked a ‘premium’ egg donor from the agency Planet Hospital sent them to.”
Then all activity stopped.
Dailey said in the article, “It was just outright fraud. It’s like we paid money to buy a condo, they took the money, and there was no condo. But it’s worse, because it’s about having a baby.”
Then there’s Rhyannon Morrigan and her husband who signed a surrogacy contract in 2012 based in India.
She told the reporter, “By the time you realize how deep you’re in, you’ve lost all your money and you’re stuck.”
Looking back, Morrigan said how Planet Hospital exchanges were mainly verbal, and rarely, was anything put in writing.
Morrigan also admits that there were red flags early on.
She said to the press, “Even at the start, when we sent the contract in and asked for a signed copy back, we never got one.” She went on to say, “We got so tired of excuses and lies. By July 2013, I’d pretty much let go of the idea of getting my money back, but I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
To help warn others of the heart-wrenching scam, Morrigan posted her reviews and complaints on cyberspace. In return, she received “threats” from Rupak.
The list of Planet Hospital complaints is a lengthy one.
In the article, former Planet Hospital employee, Catherine Moscarello, chimed in. She described the company as dealing in “unsavory practices.
Moscarello told the reporter, “The object was to get money.”
Like a revolving door, Moscarello explained how Rupak would frequently change fertility clinics.
“….whenever his relationship with a clinic in India or Thailand or Cancún broke off, he would disparage the clinic and the doctors there.” Moscarello said. She continued, “But what was really happening was that he wasn’t paying his bills.”
Back on his soapbox, Rupak said in an interview, “What happened is entirely 100 percent my fault, but its mismanagement rather than outright fraud.”
More lies, don’t you think?
The New York Times reporter so eloquently writes, “The emerging Planet Hospital story, which Mr. Rupak characterized as one of mismanagement rather than fraud, stands as a cautionary tale about the proliferation of unregulated surrogacy agencies, their lack of accountability and their ability to prey on vulnerable clients who want a baby so badly that they do not notice all the red flags.”
Quite honestly, I couldn’t have stated it better myself.Read More
The announcement of the surrogate delivering a baby boy this week for Sally and Shepherd sparked a new wave of media frenzy. The couple are in the midst of a divorce and according to reports, it’s Shepherd who wants to terminate the surrogacy contract.
Through IVF, Sally’s sperm was used as well as an egg donor for the couple.
Reporter for the New York Daily News, Nancy Dillon reports, “Shepherd was not present for the birth of Lamar Sally Jr. and wants the courts to dismiss the surrogacy contract she signed with his dad, Lamar. She claims she was tricked into the contract and shouldn’t have to pay child support to Lamar Sally, who filed for divorce.”
The reporter goes on to say that Sally is thoroughly enjoying fatherhood.
The reporter who spoke to close Sally sources writes, “He’s loving everything about being a dad, but he misses (Shepherd) and wishes they could have all been a family, because the baby is wonderful.”
Lamar Sally Jr., also known as “L.J.,” has yet to be seen by Shepherd and it appears that’s how she wants it. She’s pleading to the courts to dismiss the surrogacy contract deeming it was based on fraud.
Shepherd’s claiming Sally intended to have this baby, divorce her, and receive child support.
As I mentioned in previous blogs about this topic, fraud will be hard to prove.
Dillon writes, “A judge handling the couple’s divorce case heard arguments Wednesday but declined to issue a dismissal decision ‘at this time’ pending ‘further findings’ by a court in Pennsylvania.”
A continuance date is set for Oct. 29.
Meanwhile, the reporter points out, Sally intends to raise the boy as a single parent but wants Shepherd to help with the cost.
While the legal battle continues, let’s not forget that there’s an innocent baby in the middle of all this. Moving forward, we hope the judge rules quickly — and in the best interest of this child.Read More
We can all unanimously agree that the news on Baby Gammy saddens us all.
Recent reports are lighting up cyberspace. And as always, there seems to be conflicting information in the crossfire. While I have provided, here, some recent media selections, at the end, I will share my thoughts in an effort to shed more light.
For those who need an update on the situation, here is an excerpt from CNN’s recent article, Australian couple defends decision to leave Down’s baby with Thai surrogate.
Hilary Whiteman, reports, “What was supposed to be a straightforward cash deal to carry a child for desperate parents has turned into an international spat over who said what, and exposed the darker side of a business credited with creating happiness for many couples. At the center of the debate is Gammy, a seven-month-old Down Syndrome baby with a congenital heart condition who is currently receiving treatment for a lung infection at a private hospital in Thailand. She continues, “For days, Gammy’s surrogate mother, 21-year-old Thai food stall worker Pattharamon Chanbua, has been telling local and foreign press that the couple abandoned their son, taking home his healthy sister.”
The Western Australian couple, David Farnell and his wife are under fire. In the article, their friend tells the media that the Farnell family was told that Gammy was extremely ill and would not survive a day, at most.
With the all the media attention, the husband, Farnell, has been scrutinized and reporters dug up an alarming sex offender past.
Hours ago, Yahoo News published their article, Baby Gammy Court Documents Reveal Father Of Surrogacy Babies Has Been Convicted Of More Than 20 Child Sex Offences. It uncovered that Farnell had 22 child sex convictions.
Yahoo reporter wrote, “Mr. Farnell was sentenced to three years’ jail in 1997 for sexually molesting two girls, who were aged 7 and 10 at the time of the offences, in 1982 and 1983. Court documents reveal he molested the children when they were visiting him at his home. The victims made complaints when they were adults, and Mr. Farnell pleaded guilty to 18 charges.” The article goes on to read, “In sentencing, Justice Michael O’Sullivan said the victims had been ‘robbed of their childhood’ and suffered emotional problems as a result.”
The article states how the Western Australia’s Department for Child Protection has launched an investigation into the safety of Gammy’s twin sister.
And we all hope that this investigation is swift and the right decision is made regarding the best interest of this little baby girl.
The Baby Gammy case and everything that is being revealed naturally shakes our inner foundation and forces us to question the core of humanity.
Through it all, as heart-wrenching as it is, there is something I need to convey. Not just from an attorney standpoint, but as a woman who struggled with her fertility.
Without the help of a surrogate 13 years ago, I never would have had my incredible twins. It’s because of my surrogate’s selflessness and her willingness to make my parenthood dreams come true, that I have my children.
Although we don’t know all sides, the case of Baby Gammy, especially in reference to Farnell’s sexual predator history is very upsetting. However, I don’t want this to be the focus, and ultimately, the “poster” for surrogacy — because it’s not.
Including my husband, and myself so many other couples and individuals have become parents because of a surrogate.
That’s what surrogates do: they help make women and men become mothers and fathers.
This one case should not ruin it for the entire industry.
If it did, not only would it be unfortunate to so many intended parents, but it would be a huge disservice to the industry if that’s how the world-wide community responded, including The Hague and other countries.
While the news on Baby Gammy continues to emerge, including Farnell’s sex convictions on minors, let’s not forget that this is not the norm.
Baby Gammy updates are making mainstream news. And yes, it wholeheartedly deserves the attention.
However, as a professional assisted reproductive law attorney, and also a mother from my surrogacy journey, Baby Gammy is not a representation of how surrogacy is conducted in the U.S.A.
While Baby Gammy is initiating discussion on surrogacy, there must be proper educational dialogue on the positive impact that surrogacy makes to so many families.
Let’s not let this one unfortunate case destroy the dreams of parenthood for so many.Read More
The debate regarding egg and sperm donation continues. And I suspect we are going to see a lot more of it.
It’s one of monumental importance, because in this century, we are redefining family law and all its nuances.
In courtrooms, we’re hearing questions regarding “who is” or “who is not” considered a legal parent, challenging state laws across the nation. It’s marking a new type of courtroom drama.
And high profile cases are sprouting in California.
For instance, Hollywood celebrity, Jason Patric, and his former girlfriend Danielle Schreiber are in the middle of a contentious case. Patric is seeking custody of his four-year-old son who he fathered by after Schreiber was artificially inseminated. She says he’s a “sperm donor” and should have no legal rights. He says he’s a “dad” and should have all legal rights.
This case, among others, is netting the attention of the Golden State.
“California lawmakers will consider updating family law and parental rights to keep up with the evolving nature of families when they return from summer break,” wrote Fenit Nirappil of the Associated Press in an article entitled, Bills aim to bring family law into 21st century. “Bitter, high-profile disputes have inspired legislators to modernize laws molded for ‘Leave it to Beaver’-era families.”
In the article, among Patric are the children of the late Casey Kasem. Also fathered through sperm donation, these children fought Kasem’s wife to see him during his declining health. Likewise, she is their stepmother.
Nirappil writes, “Supporters of these bills say such cases demonstrate that laws are lagging behind technology and social change. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat and longtime gay rights advocate, said updating the laws is just one way for nontraditional families to gain acceptance.”
Firsthand, on the legal frontlines, I am seeing how times are changing. We are now in an age where nontraditional families are transforming into traditional ones.
In the Associated Press article, Ammiano states, “As a lawmaker, what you can accomplish is changing what’s in the law that’s being detrimental and dehumanizing.”
This point of view aligns well with a recent legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown. Last month, he removed the definition of marriage between a “man and woman” in family law. Now, any indication of a husband or wife has now been swapped with the word, “spouse.”
Nirappil goes on to report, “With gay marriage legalized in California last year, the Senate is considering Ammiano’s ‘Modern Family Act’ to confront thorny situations same-sex and other couples have found themselves in under existing law. The bill, AB2344, would expedite adoptions for non-biological parents, such as a lesbian woman whose spouse gave birth to their child.”
Nirappil pointed out how the bill would take away any procedural requirement(s) which add to a court hearing or state mandated investigation.
Non-biological parents are encouraged to formally adopt children because some states do not recognize them as parents even though California does, the reporter writes.
For surrogates and sperm donors, AB2344 also highlights their legal or financial responsibilities. Some legal experts in the family law field, Nirappil reports, do regard this as an important step toward better clarification to avoid disputes.
Also in the article, Bills aim to bring family law into 21st century, law professor at the University of California at Davis, Lisa Ikemoto, voices her opinion.
“Most of the laws we have in place deal with the use of these technologies once they have already been used and the child is born.”
This new legislative bill, among others, will help fill that gap.
“Broader legislation that failed last year would have allowed sperm donors to petition for paternal rights if they demonstrate involvement in their biological children’s lives,” Nirappil wrote. He continued, “The new bill, AB2344, instead would create an optional form that would clarify what, if any, role a sperm donor should have in a child’s life.”
The reporter goes on to point out that in a legal battle such as Patric’s, what’s not addressed is what happens if a donor takes on a parental role despite how the initial agreement was originally signed.
Personally speaking, I’m sure Patric’s ex-girlfriend wished she used an anonymous sperm donor instead of a known one. But of course, some people are not comfortable with using anonymous donors — it’s all a personal choice.
Hopefully, new progressive assembly bills waiting in the wings can resolve messy “sperm donor” cases like Patric is embroiled in.
Social conservatives, of course, don’t want to shake up the status quo of traditional family law.
But look around, and you’ll see that the “traditional family status quo” is no longer the “status quo.Read More