Recently it has been reported an Australian couple refused to take their child born through surrogacy because he has Down syndrome. It was learned four months into the pregnancy the fetus had Down syndrome, and the intended parents requested the surrogate mother, a native of Thailand, to have an abortion. She refused to do so, as she is a Buddhist. A surrogate pregnancy is always a cause for concern, as this incident demonstrates, it is an interestingly legal conundrum.
The boy, named Gammy, has a twin sister, whom the Australian couple did take with them back to Australia. The boy also has a congenital heart condition. The woman became a surrogate mother through an agency in Bangkok, has never met the Australian couple, and currently does not have money to treat the child for his heart condition. A campaign to raise money for the boy’s medical expenses is underway and approximately $53,000.00 has been raised. This situation raises are few questions about surrogacy and the procedures for both parents and the surrogate.
One of the main reasons a woman carries another woman’s child is infertility. Some couples are unable to conceive a child through the most obvious means. 12 percent of women who are of childbearing age, or 7 million people in the U.S. are affected by infertility. There are instances where infertility is treated with hormone therapies, or drugs and sometimes surgery. Other cases, approximately three percent, may be treated with donor insemination or in vitro fertilization. Options also include adoption, or some couples opt to use a surrogate, where the child is carried by an individual not related to the child inside her.
There are two types of surrogacy, gestational and traditional. In the case of gestational variety, the carrier is not genetically or biologically related to the child in her womb. Carriers of the gestational process are impregnated through in vitro fertilization. This process is accomplished when an embryo is created from the sperm and egg of the actual parents and then implanted into the uterus of the surrogate, usually for a period of 40 weeks.
A traditional surrogate will donates her own eggs through artificial insemination with sperm from a donor the father of the couple seeking a surrogate. A surrogate of this nature is related to the child genetically, as her eggs are being used in this process. The gestational period is usually of the same length, 40 weeks.
A pregnant pause is more than just a phrase where surrogacy is concerned. Surrogacy is usually divided into two different types; altruistic and commercial. Altruistic surrogacies are arrangements usually conceived and made between friends or relatives of the intended parents and the carrier is not compensated financially. Commercial surrogates receive financial incentives, paid travel expenses, and medical expenses not covered through insurance. In most cases the parents of the intended child and the surrogate do not know each other or are not related.
The expense of surrogacy varies with each individual situation. How complex the surrogacy agreement is determines the cost of the arrangement. An average cost for each situation is currently between $20,000 and $27,000. Providing a sperm or egg donor may increase the cost by thousands of dollars. Other procedures and fees; in vitro fertilization, counseling for all parties involved, insurance costs, attorney fees, travel expenses, if necessary, and medical costs raise the amount to an average of around $100,000 to $120, 000.
Though the financial burden may be considerable, for many couples it is a viable and satisfying option. Perhaps there were too many miscarriages, or a genetic defect a parent does not want to pass along, or perhaps a gay couple prefer a genetic link to their children. The reasons and circumstances for couples wishing to use surrogacy as an option to be parents varies as much as the amount of people on earth.
As far as the surrogate herself is concerned, studies have shown money is usually not the main motivating force in being a surrogate. Some women enjoy being pregnant, some understand the need for couples who want children, but are not able to be parents in the traditional manner, and some chose a surrogacy route for financial gain.
At this point most couples and the surrogate are interviewed by mental health professionals. The next step is being matched with a surrogate through a psychological assessment and the usual tests for sexually transmitted diseases. All parties fill out profiles for compatibilities with each other. Surrogates also go through a screening process that includes a background check, a driving records check and a criminal background evaluation.
Unfortunately there can be no pause in pregnancy once the surrogacy has begun and concerns evolve into possible anxious months of waiting. The final hurdle in this drawn out process concerns legal issues. This type of activity is still considered controversial in the United States and that means the laws covering this procedure vary widely between the states. Two main issues remain. A carrier must live in a state in which surrogacy is allowed, even though the law in that state may be vague. The intended parents must have their parental rights legalized and in order to be identified as the parents.
By Andy Towle