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The Top Ten Things Reproductive Lawyers Can Help You With – Part 2

February 23, 2016 | By: | Filed under: anonymous sperm donation, Birth Certificates, Birth Orders, Current Affairs, Egg Donation, Embryo Disposition, Embryos, Family Building Law, Frozen Embryos, fund management in third-party assisted reproduction, Gestational Carrier Arrangements, infertility in the media, known sperm donation, Parentage Orders, Pre-Birth Orders, Reproductive Law, Reproductive Lawyers, Same Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Surrogacy, surrogacy escrow management, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction

So in Part 1 we discussed some of the agreements you might need to enter into when building your family through third-party assisted reproduction and how my colleagues and I can help you with them.  Now let’s take a look at some of the more obscure but equally important issues that might come up.

back to our top ten list:

(6) Using cryopreserved embryos in the event of a divorce or after a death.  Do you know whether you can use frozen embryos after a divorce or separation?  Did you know that this is one of the hottest legal issues in third-party assisted reproduction law (Hello Sofia!).  What if you want to conceive a child using frozen embryos after your partner dies?  Will you be a legal parent?  Will your child be entitled to inherit from your partner’s estate, or your partner’s social security benefits?  These are some of the most complicated and cutting-edge issues in reproductive law and you don’t have to be Sofia Vergara to regret not having had a thorough discussion with an attorney before you make decisions (or have a pre-conception embryo disposition agreement prepared or even just check off a box on a clinic consent form) that has the power to change your life plans.  And heck, just look at Sherri Shepherd and her battle not to have child support obligations.  That case just turns my stomach.

(7) Managing money in a surrogacy arrangement:  You may be spending over $100,000 in connection with your surrogacy or receiving tens of thousands of dollars in compensation as a surrogate.  Do you know where the money is being held?  Do you know how and when it is being paid and what documentation, if any is being provided to support the payment?  What happens if your agency goes under and the escrow account was held by the agency?  Are independent escrow managers necessary and when should you retain one?  Do the state laws which govern your surrogacy arrangement provide special rules for how and where money must be held?  How do you know if your money is safe?

(8)  Doing a home insemination:  It may be a more affordable way to conceive your child (and more intimate as compared to the stirrups in your doc’s office), but will you have a legally recognized family if you do a home insemination?  Did you know that in some states a doctor must perform the insemination in order to terminate the sperm donor’s parental rights and ensure that the intended parents are deemed legal parents?

(9) Getting your birth certificate:  How and when can you get a birth certificate with the intended parents'(s) name(s) on them?  Can you get them before the baby is born or only after birth?  Do you need to do a second or step-parent adoption?  Is the law in the State in which your baby will be born uniform throughout the State or does it vary County by County or even Judge by Judge?  Do you know what you need to do, where you need to do it and when you need to do it in order to obtain a birth certificate for your child with your name on it?  One of my colleagues has a fairly famous quote from an interview he gave about the fact that the ease with which he can or cannot obtain parentage orders sometimes comes down to the button he pushes in the elevator in the courthouse.  Are you walking into a courthouse like that?  Do you have any alternative?

(10) Understanding the impact of changing laws:  Third-party assisted reproduction is a new and emerging area of the law.  Some states have statutes governing egg and sperm donation, and surrogacy, others have only case law (or judge made) law.  Some states have statutes or laws which are unfavorable and others have laws which are favorable to different types of third-party assisted reproduction.  Some states have outdated laws that may change in the near future.  Other states have laws which may be unconstitutional given recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court, but the state may not yet be complying with or adhering to new and evolving constitutional principles.  When and how will these evolving laws impact your family building and the recognition of your family, as a family?  And as long as we are discussing the status of various state laws, doctors (as much as we love and need them in this process) don’t always fully understand the laws, especially the nuances with which my colleagues and I have become familiar.  Just as I would never try and tell my clients what their latest blood test results mean,  and my clients should not listen to me with great seriousness when I put on my honorary lab coat, they shouldn’t listen to their doctor’s advice about what they can and cannot do to build their family.  Sure, get her opinions on what options you have, but check with someone who actually practices reproductive law before you cross a type of third-party assisted reproduction off your list because your doctor tells you that option isn’t available it to you.  

My colleagues and I can help you answer most, if not all of these questions.  We can help you make smart (or smarter) choices as you begin the often complicated process of building your family using donor gametes like egg, sperm, or embryos, or with the help of a gestational surrogate.  We can protect you in almost all of the scenarios and situations discussed in this top ten list.  Reproductive lawyers are here to help you become a parent and help make sure that your legal parent-child relationship and family are recognized by the government and other people who might try to challenge your status as a mom or dad.  It’s that simple.  And it’s that important. 

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Successful Surrogacy in New York: Myth or Reality?

March 5, 2015 | By: | Filed under: New York Reproductive Law, Surrogacy

Successful Surrogacy in New York

Myth or Reality?

 Most people think surrogacy is illegal in New York. This is true, in part; but it’s not completely true. I have tried demystifying this topic, but confusion remains despite my best, and repeated efforts.  So let’s try again because there are a lot of people in New York State who need to use a surrogate to build their family and they should know the scoop on surrogacy.  And there are a lot of women interested in carrying a baby for another couple or parent, who would like to be a gestational carrier or surrogate but don’t know what rights they have under NY law (please note I use the terms surrogate and gestational carrier interchangeably except where otherwise noted).

There is no doubt that we, as New Yorkers seeking to build a family and we, as New Yorkers in the family building business, are at a HUGE disadvantage when compared to states like Connecticut and California, or Illinois or Massachusetts where surrogacy is legal and perhaps even governed by statute. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have options. As a prospective or intended parent you can enter into a gestational surrogacy relationship, you just need to know when and how you can do it. As a lawyer or doctor, you can certainly help people have babies through surrogacy, you just need to know what aspects of your role in this family building process are legally proscribed or permissible. (This blog addresses only those aspects of family building through surrogacy for prospective or intended parents or gestational surrogates.)

The three biggest myths surrounding surrogacy in NY are:

Myth Number 1: Surrogacy always is illegal in New York

Myth Number 2: Traditional Surrogacy is illegal in New York

Myth Number 3:  NY will not recognize a surrogacy relationship entered into in another state.

 This blog will debunk the first myth that surrogacy always is illegal in New York.  Subsequent blogs will address traditional surrogacy, another type of surrogacy where the surrogate uses her own egg to help conceive a baby for prospective parents, and what happens when NY courts get involved in enforcing or recognizing gestational carrier arrangements made in other states.

So back to our first myth.  Only certain types of surrogacy are illegal in New York, not all surrogacy. As a NY resident and intended parent you:

(1)  cannot pay another NY resident to carry a child for you; and/or

(2) enter into a contract for that NY resident to carry that baby deliver in NY.

Any contract for a compensated gestational carrier/surrogate who resides in the State of NY and will deliver in the State of NY violates NY law.  The contract itself is illegal and unenforceable and the compensation is illegal.  Drafting the contract and matching the prospective parents with the surrogate also happen to be illegal but that gets us more into the work that attorneys and doctors perform with relation to gestational surrogacy.

A NY prospective parent,  however, can enter into a contract to have someone outside of NY carry a baby for them; and they may compensate that gestational carrier (provided of course she lives and will deliver in a surrogacy friendly state–more on this in a moment). So let’s break it down to what is illegal:

            Paying a gestational carrier in NY to carry and deliver a baby in NY.

            Entering into a contract to pay the gestational carrier in NY to carry and deliver the baby in NY.

      I have oversimplified this a bit, but I think you get the essential points.

No contract, no payment.

Prohibitions aside, if you are a NY intended parent and need to use a surrogate, or you are interested in becoming a gestational surrogate you have very doable options:

You can have a friend or family member act as a gestational carrier for you, or you can carry a baby for a friend or family member, as long as there is no compensation.  This is called “compassionate surrogacy”.  Strange as it may seem, this happens more frequently than you would think and more women are willing to help their friends and family members by acting as “compassionate gestational carriers” than you might expect.  If you are a prospective parent, don’t write-off this option just because you can’t think of anyone who would do this for you.  You might be surprised to find out that your sister-in-law or best friend from college would be willing to carry a baby for you, and expect or want nothing in return.  Some things to conisder about compassionate surrogacy:  Of important note, you cannot have a contract in this type of relationship, but you do need legal documents prepared before the baby is conceived which explain the process and the laws of the State of New York as they apply to compassionate surrogacy.  This legal document, albeit not an enforceable contract, will discuss the parties’ intent to conceive a child through third-party assisted reproduction, explain how the intended parents’ parental rights will be established and when the surrogate’s parental rights (and her husband if she’s married) will be terminated as she will be deemed the child’s birth and legal parent at the time of birth (as will her husband), and how and when a birth certificate will be issued with both intended parents names (assuming there are two intended parents – it could of course just be a single prospective parent).  That’s a quick summary of compassionate surrogacy and NY.

You also can look for gestational carriers in surrogacy friendly states – outside of New York.  In those states you can compensate the gestational carrier (it usually is easier to find a gestational carrier who will be compensated than one who will do this out of love and affection and without compensation), and enter into a binding, enforceable contract. In many of these states you can get a pre-birth order that identifies the prospective or intended parents as the legal parents from birth and relieving (for lack of a better word) the surrogate of any parental rights or obligations she does not want to have.  Other states permit you to obtain a post-birth order that identifies the intended parents as the legal parents for purposes of the issuance of a birth certificate with their names on it. Sometimes, a non-genetic parent (for example, when an egg donor was used, or for same-sex couples where one parent may not be genetically related to the baby) may have to enter into a step-parent adoption when they get back to NY, but that isn’t a huge burden if you have found a wonderful surrogate.

There is no doubt that the laws as they pertain to surrogacy both in and outside of NY are complicated and can be overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do this. It is simply a question of who will carry your baby. If you have a friend or family member who is a NY resident and who wants to carry a baby for you, as long as you don’t pay them money to carry the baby it is legal to enter into surrogacy arrangement. If you don’t have a friend or family member willing to carry on a compassionate (uncompensated) basis, then you need to go outside the borders of NY and find a surrogate whom you will compensate.

For more information on surrogacy-friendly states (NY is, of course, not considered surrogacy-friendly because you cannot compensate a gestational surrogate), and for more information on the laws of other states that might help you locate a surrogate check out this website:

http://creativefamilyconnections.com/surrogacy-law-by-state/

 

Nothing in this blog is intended to, nor shall it be considered legal advice.  Nothing herein shall be deemed to create an attorney-client relationship.  The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only.

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Reproductive Lawyers and ART for Gay Parents to Be

March 31, 2014 | By: | Filed under: Birth Certificates, Birth Orders, Gestational Carrier, Gestational Carrier Arrangements, Parentage Orders, Pre-Birth Orders, Questions about the Office, Sam Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Surrogacy, The Journey to Parenthood, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction

Sometimes I feel like people don’t get what I do for a living.  At parties when someone asks me what I do and I tell them I am reproductive lawyer, I get a blank stare and an “uh huh” response.  I then explain that I am a lawyer that helps people have babies.  I may get a smile but I usually can tell that my fellow partygoer remains confused.  He or she will often ask me a question about adoption, assuming that I am an adoption attorney.  I next explain that while adoption law is part of my job, with my specific area of practice most of the time the adoption is just for one parent in a same-sex relationship who is seeking to establish parental rights after a surrogate birth.  If I am really lucky I get to talk about third-party assisted reproduction and all the ways people can have babies these days–and all the risk that comes with this technology.  And I am not talking about medical risks, or the risk of not getting pregnant, as third-party assisted reproductive technology (“Third Party ART”) is unbelievably successful.  I am talking about the risks presented by the laws that may apply to these family building arrangements.  Most people have no idea how complicated these laws are and how important my job can be to help ensure that all the work doctors are doing to help people become a family, results in a legally-recognized “forever” family.

And it is not just my fellow partygoer who fails to understand the importance of what I do with respect to Third-Party ART.  Many doctors have no idea the complexity of the legal landscape their patients may be facing.  So when Gay Parents to Be in partnership with RMA CT recently contacted me and told me about an upcoming event it was having with the Triangle Community Center in Connecticut, and that they needed a reproductive lawyer to help round out the panel, I jumped at the opportunity.  How could I not participate when asked if I could help explain why a reproductive lawyer needs to be a part of a patients’ ART team, and why what I do really matters?  Would I help?  No brainer, just tell me where to go and when to be there.

 Answer:

Saturday, April 5th 12pm – 2pm

Triangle Community Center

618 West Avenue, Norwalk CT

 

I often think that although we are all blessed when we become parents, those of us who faced challenges in becoming parents are more appreciative of our children and our family.  There are simple and seemingly insignificant things that couples that conceive without jumping through hoops take for granted, like the birth certificate with their name on it.  For those people who may have to spend tens of thousands of dollars and most certainly need a team of doctors and nurses and other reproductive angels to have a baby, that birth certificate is the symbol or proof of their victorious transition to parenthood. The birth certificate is often the one document that says “forever” family more than any other.[i]

While Third-Party ART, like surrogacy, is helping more and more people achieve their dream of having a family, it also raises more and more legal issues about how we protect that family.  My job often boils down to making sure that birth certificate is an “untouchable” document and to do that I need to be involved in the process just as early – sometimes even earlier – than the medical team.  Preparing the legal landscape ahead of time is just as important as preparing a surrogate’s uterine lining.  Just as a reproductive endocrinologist is going to monitor hormone levels and the thickness of a surrogate’s uterine lining in preparation for embryo transfer, one of my roles as a reproductive lawyer is to make sure everything that the medical ART team is doing to create this family, will be legally protected.

Most people entering into surrogacy arrangements understand that they need a contract with their surrogate.  What they often fail to understand is that the contract isn’t just about addressing the relationship with the surrogate or the financial commitments being made to her.  That surrogacy agreement is going to lay the foundation for obtaining a birth certificate and sometimes having the wrong wording, or not having specific wording in a surrogacy agreement can prevent the birth certificate from ever being issued, or being issued with the right people’s names on it.  Although many states have statutes or cases that specifically provide mechanisms for obtaining this birth certificate, in far too many states the complexities regarding the establishment of parentage is far more complicated and/or downright tricky.  Although a state may be “surrogacy friendly” the laws in that state may vary county-by-county and even judge-by-judge.  Even more, as the country becomes friendlier to marriage equality, and state laws are becoming more progressive, the definition of what a family is may now include three parents, or “intimate partners” who share parenting responsibilities.  It is this ever-changing legal landscape applicable to Third-Party ART that makes addressing the legal side of these family building plans essential.

As one of my colleagues has [not so] facetiously said, sometimes whether or not you can get a birth certificate comes down to which elevator button you are pushing in the courthouse.  I am really thrilled that I am going to have this opportunity to explain what I do, and hopefully ensure that more people who are considering entering into Third-Party ART arrangements understand how reproductive lawyers can help them, when we can and should be helping them, and helping ensure that when it is time for them to get their birth certificate it (hopefully) doesn’t come down to which button they are pushing in the courthouse elevator.  And if it does come down to elevator buttons, that there is confidence that the attorney who has been hired to press the elevator button can successfully navigate the legal landscape necessary to obtain that birth certificate.

 

 

 

 


[i] This blog does not address issues regarding the enforceability of birth certificates for same-sex couples.

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The painful silence of recurrent pregnancy loss and stillbirth. A first hand perspective and perhaps finally, a voice.

February 15, 2013 | By: | Filed under: Current Affairs, Deadly Silence, Faith and Infertility, infertility in the media, Infertility In The Movies etc., Infertility on Television, IVF, Miscarriage, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction

The shrowd of silence around stillbirth and pregnancy loss finally is being lifted.  Someone is making a documentary about miscarriage, recurrent pregnancy loss, and stillbirth.  This morning I watched the trailer of “Still”  a documentary devoted to raising awareness of the pain of the loss of a pregnancy, a child born too soon, or a stillbirth.  I think “Still” may focus more on stillbirth or pre-term delivery, but some of the articles I read as I researched its production indicated that the documentary intends to address recurrent pregnancy loss and/or miscarriage more than is touched upon in this trailer.

As I watched the trailer I was reminded of a long call I had with a new client this week.  It is rare that I have a client who has a similar background to my own experience with infertility.  Like me she has experienced 12 unexplained pregnancy losses (although I sort of stopped counting about a year ago when I went through it again . . . something about hitting the number 13 and I really decided it didn’t matter how many I had, I have had enough, one is enough).  Only in addition to experiencing a number of first term (non-chemical) pregnancy losses, my new client also lost pregnancies in the second trimester and near the beginning of the third trimester.  We had a lengthy conversation about how isolating it is, how lonely it is, how there is no person other than your partner or spouse who “gets it” (and even then sometimes perhaps they don’t totally get it because it isn’t their body), and how the silence that surrounds pregnancy loss can engulf one’s life, one’s existence.  Our call also reminded me of a blog I posted about a gravestone I once saw that marked the death of fetus.  As I commented in that blog, it wasn’t a pro-life stunt.  It was a family who had been given permission not only to mark the death of their baby while in utero (or loss of their pregnancy) but to recognize all those other families that have suffered the same pain.  In silence.

Reproductive medicine has provided so many advances to assist infertile couples in achieving their dreamed of family but recurrent pregnancy loss remains largely unexplained.  While theories abound, there are far too many of us who don’t know why this happens to us, repeatedly.  Reproductive medicine and reproductive law now give us the option of having our biological child carried by someone who is likely to deliver that child when we can’t.  Indeed, the option to use a surrogate after experiencing pregnancy loss is perhaps the driving force behind at least half of my clients who come to me to assist them with legal agreements as they begin their journey using a surrogate.   As is the case with the call and the client I just mentioned.

As many of you know, in the absence of an explanation of why my babies die, I was too frightened that a surrogate might lose my child.  I couldn’t ask another woman to risk experiencing the pain I have dealt with so many times.  Adoption was always something my husband and I had wanted to pursue so when we were faced with the [dreaded] conversation where our doctor told us we were out of options other than surrogacy or adoption, it was a no-brainer for us.  It was going to be adoption.  And as one of the women in the trailer for “Still” points out, I wouldn’t turn back the clock or make different decisions; because without those pregnancy losses I wouldn’t be parenting the two beautiful children I have now.  I cannot imagine a life without these particular little souls in it.  It seems like a heartbreaking price to pay but as I told my new client, one day when this is all over and you are holding your baby in your arms, it will make sense and you will know that but for all that came before (all 12 of those horrendously difficult pregnancy losses) this little baby wouldn’t be yours.

But as she journeys toward that day where she hopefully does feel that sense of peace and gratitude for the child in her arms, she is left with a huge void.  She has no one to talk to.  I had no one to talk to.  Even my best IVF friends didn’t understand how I felt.  Excuse me:  how I FEEL.  I still feel pain on a day that one of my longtime friend’s celebrates, the day she heard the heartbeat of each of the babies she was carrying.  I don’t begrudge her that joy.  I celebrate with her.  But for me, inside, it always is a reminder of the miscarriage that I experienced just a few days earlier.  My client and I share a special bond, one of knowing what each carries inside her and the thoughts that creep into our mind throughout the day.  Thoughts that largely go un-shared with anyone.

Will “Still” do justice to this topic, to this diagnosis, to the countless women and men who have endured the loss of a life growing inside them or one that came into the world far too early to survive?  I think so.  I hope so.  Because I would like nothing more than for women like me who are going through what I went through, women like my new client, to have a voice in the reproductive community.  To have doctors pay attention to our kind of infertility.  To have better resources and support groups.  To just plain have a voice to express their pain.  Amazing options for family building notwithstanding, the pain associated with recurrent pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and stillbirth shouldn’t continue to be shrouded in silence.

And so today I thank the people behind this documentary entitled “Still”.  THANK YOU for initiating a dialogue that is long overdue.

And one final note, to all those physicians who have dedicated their careers to exploring the mystery of recurrent pregnancy loss . . . THANK YOU.

 

If you would like to watch the trailer click here 

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Surrogacy Symplified — The Masked Marauder of Misinformation Unmasked!

July 28, 2012 | By: | Filed under: Birth Certificates, Birth Orders, Current Affairs, In the News, IVF, Parentage Orders, Personal Musings, Pre-Birth Orders, Questions about the Office, Sam Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Same Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Surrogacy in New York, The Journey to Parenthood, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Uncompensated Surrogacy

My phone has been ringing off the hook with questions from prospective clients about surrogacy. Everyone with whom I speak is terribly confused and seems to have received bad or misinformation from someone or somewhere. At first I thought it just a coincidence but now I wonder whether there is someone out in the world spreading vicious rumors about surrogacy thus causing many, many people to live as if they were in the fun house at the amusement park — you know the one with all those crazy mirrors that makes you look totally distorted (and always insanely fat or ugly) — sadly thinking that surrogacy is or will not be an option for them for building their family. As if the world of infertility wasn’t enough of an amusement park fun house, we now need the NOvary(tm) to have another partner in crime, a masked marauder (or perhaps multiple marauders) disseminating incorrect information about surrogacy? I don’t think so!

I’m going to take this opportunity to try and clarify surrogacy and all it’s intricacies especially in New York (most of them legal issues so it’s a good thing I’m a lawyer). As we are dealing with this Masked Marauder of Misinformation (who hereinafter shall be referred to as “MMM”), I am putting on my favorite caped crusader costume (wanna guess which character it is?) and I am taking the MMM, DOWN!

So what is my biggest beef with our friend the MMM? Mostly that s/he is telling everyone, including doctors, things about surrogacy that are so totally wrong people think surrogacy is not an option for them when in fact it may be a very viable option to become a parent. For some of us, surrogacy is our ONLY option to become a parent, and in this case MMM is doing the greatest disservice by making people believe that unless they MOVE half way across the good ol’ USofA they won’t be able to have a baby (and yes, one person with whom I spoke recently was told he would have to move to a different state in order to become a parent).

Before I begin my discourse and try and simplify these issues so you have the basics under your belt, I want to state for the record that I have no clue who or what MMM is or why all of this wrong information is circulating. Nor do I think MMM is one person. Rather, I think MMM is a combination of information being provided by physicians and their staff, people’s well meaning friends, and the Internet.

We know we all have to be careful about what we read on the internet (including this blog, don’t rely just on me, if you want to pursue surrogacy please find a good reproductive lawyer, find out what laws are going to apply to your individual situation and then start the process). So if you are reading this because you’ve had a web-based MMM encounter, I’ll do my best but I don’t know what you read and where you read it.

With respect to what our friends tell us, if your MMM experience came from a well-meaning waiting-room compatriot . . . well my attitude about that is that unless they actually went through it, they know Bubkis (Yiddish or born and bread NY’er for: “nothing”, “jack sh-t”, or “less than nothing”). And even then, when I say went through it, there is a vast array of what people think they “went through” as an infertile person. There is nothing more annoying than the person who goes on an on about how hard their battle with infertility was and how painful, expensive, and emotionally demanding it was (as you listen and think “OMG I’ve finally met someone who ‘gets it'”) and then you find out they did two IUI’s and conceived twins and are back for number three. Whereas you did 5 IUI’s and are on your third IVF cycle and also have had a miscarriage somewhere in there and, you’re still trying for number one! (BTW, doesn’t that just drive you crazy, those people who did one or two IUI’s — and who no doubt suffered — and who think they know how you feel; who think they have a clue how hard infertility can be?!?). So in this context I am not just talking about infertility, I mean surrogacy, and unless your “friend” had a child or attempted to have a child through surrogacy you have most definitely had an encounter with MMM.

With respect to information provided to you by a physician, here I must tread carefully. All I can say is that yes, you have had an experience with MMM. As noted above, in this blog I am addressing the legal issues because I am a lawyer. I defer medical issues to dr’s because even when I put on my “white doctor’s coat” (ala The Infertility Survival Handbook), I acknowledge that I did not go to medical school or become a licensed, board certified reproductive endocrinologist and thus should not be considered to be providing medical advice or information (although the book was read by three physicians before going to print). Just as I will not talk about medical issues to which I may not have full and complete information, I don’t think doctors should be giving you legal information. Some of my colleagues and I have a real “thing” about how frequently doctor’s do and say things that constitute practicing law without a license. It’s MMM at its most annoying (and personally offensive).

What MMM myths do I need to dispell or simplify? Well let’s start with what is annoying me the most and what I know most about: surrogacy in NY.

Contrary to the MMM you have heard, you CAN do surrogacy in NY!! However, MMM is definitely impacting people’s ability to do it as many clinic’s are so afraid of surrogacy laws in NY that they won’t even discuss it or do an embryo transfer even in a completely legal, uncompensated compassionate surrogacy arrangement. What you cannot do (and dr’s should not do) is an embryo transfer within the State of NY when your surrogate (a/k/a gestational carrier) is being compensated and lives in and will deliver in NYS. A NY State resident cannot carry a baby for another NY State resident for compensation above and beyond limited pregnancy-related expenses (please talk to a reproductive lawyer, adoption attorney, or family lawyer about what expenses are considered “pregnancy-related” and would be permissible under NY law). If you have a friend or family member who is willing to carry a baby for you for free that is amazing, and legal. If she needs reimbursement for pregnancy-related expenses that MAY be okay, depending on the type of expense and the amount (this where you need legal advice). I typically am very strict about whether or not these expenses can be paid; I am very conservative because I don’t want anything to cause problems when I am getting birth certificates and just like every where else in the world we go, you get the wrong judge and what you know is legal, permissible and you have even done before, THIS judge won’t let you do! Indeed, I was reading an article written in The Family Advocate, a magazine published by The American Bar Association for its members, written by my colleagues Diane Hinson, Esq., & Maureen McBrien, which addressed the status of surrogacy laws around the country, and they printed a quotation from another reproductive lawyer that made me laugh out loud: “[a]s one ART attorney put it, the result in any given case can depend on ‘which elevator button you need to push at the courthouse.'”

So the bottom line in NY is that if you have a friend or family member who will carry a baby for you, who will be your surrogate, you can enter into a surrogacy arrangement with her. She cannot be compensated or paid the way surrogates are in many other states, but depending on circumstances, she may be entitled to reimbursement of minimal expenses directly related to the pregnancy. You also can obtain birth certificates with your names on them. You will need legal documents before you can do the embryo transfer and it is very important you have these documents prepared. However, the documents you will have prepared are different from gestational carrier or surrogacy “contracts” and are not enforceable the way surrogacy contracts are in certain other states. That said, the documents your attorney will prepare for you can be very helpful if something were to go wrong during the pregnancy or after birth, and may also help your attorney get the birth certificate. Every attorney has their own practices and procedures (in every state), so you may want to interview a couple of attorneys to find one whose personal practice make you feel the most comfortable.

One issue you may have, however, is finding a doctor in NY to perform the embryo transfer even when you are doing a compassionate surrogacy like that which I have been describing. Unfortunately, due to the power of MMM, some clinics are electing NOT to do any embryo transfers under any circumstances or fact patterns, period. They are losing business by taking this position and it’s sad when you have been working with a clinic for years and they tell you that you need a surrogate, your sister agrees to carry the baby for you for free, and your beloved doctor refuses to do the embryo transfer. I am so upset by this increasing trend that I have on my (way too long) “To-Do” list, to write a white paper or perhaps law review article on why doctors are wrong to take this position.

However, in my opinion doctors may not be wrong in declining to perform embryo transfers in the State of NY when the surrogate is going to be compensated, or paid when she resides in a state in which surrogacy is legal. If you have found a surrogate in Illinois, a State in which surrogacy is legal and reasonably easy to do, you likely cannot bring your Illinois surrogate to NY to do the embryo transfer at your clinic even if this is where your embryos are stored. There are a few clinics that may do the embryo transfer if everything about the surrogacy is legal in another state, in this case Illinois, but arguably because you are a NY resident and the embryo transfer is taking place in NY, a doctor might be found to be violating NY’s statute against facilitating paid surrogacy arrangements. Arguably, this statute was meant to apply to paid surrogacies taking pace within the state of NY (not Illinois) but a your doctor may not want to risk a potential felony violation over an issue of statutory interpretation.

MMM aside, as a NY resident you also have the option of locating a surrogate in a state in which it is legal to compensate the surrogate (Connecticut is another example of a state in which compensated surrogacy is legal), and once you have all the appropriate legal documents in place, you can either have any frozen embryos transferred to CT or undergo the IVF cycle in CT with your surrogate undergoing the embryo transfer procedure. The baby will be born in CT and you will obtain a CT birth certificate with your names on it.

So let’s recap for NY’ers: MMM notwithstanding: it is not illegal to enter into a surrogacy arrangement. You can either find a friend or family member to carry the baby for you within (or outside of the state) New York or you can find a surrogate in another state, preferably a surrogacy friendly state, to carry the baby for you, and you will compensate the surrogate. Depending on the State, whether New York, Illinois, or Connecticut, you will need legal documents before the embryo transfer can take place; and the process by which you obtain birth certificates with your name on it differs between the states and even within a state (they can vary county by county and even sometimes Judge by Judge — this is why I cracked up over the elevator button quote; it’s beyond accurate).

You will need a reproductive lawyer in the state in which your surrogate is to deliver the baby to tell you what that process will be AND what needs to be included in the agreement you enter into BEFORE you do the embryo transfer (the surrogacy agreement or contract). Florida, for example, requires that specific statutory language be included in your surrogacy contract. BTW, another MMM fact to dispel. If you enter into a surrogacy in Florida, you are NOT adopting your baby. You are doing a surrogacy or gestational carrier arrangement just as you would be in Illinois or Connecticut (or many other states). The MMM on this issue stems from the fact that the surrogacy statute is included within the Florida Adoption Statute. Just because the surrogacy provisions are contained in the adoption statute does NOT result in or mean that you are adopting the baby, your baby, which your surrogate delivers in Florida. A reproductive lawyer in Florida can explain this process in greater detail.

Wherever you live, whether NY or another state, MMM has led to lots of confusion over what you can and cannot do with respect to surrogacy. NY’ers are, I think, experiencing the most confusion right now. Hopefully statutes will be passed in the next year or two that will make almost all forms of surrogacy legal in NY, and which will permit NY’ers to stay in NY to have their babies via surrogacy. A member of the NY legislature, Amy Paulin, has introduced a bill that will make surrogacy legal in NY. She needs help from her constituents and other residents of the State of New York, so if you are interested in helping another state become surrogacy friendly, please seek her out on FaceBook (she specifically requested that people post to FaceBook) or send her a letter in support of her efforts. Please, for me??? FaceBook, quick post, Go Amy, Go Surrogacy, Go NY!

Surrogacy is easy in many states, but due to MMM many people are confused over the process, the steps involved, and the cost. Some of the confusion is well-founded. As noted above, in some states it can depend on the Judge to whom you get assigned which will determine how easily you will obtain a birth certificate or whether it can be done pre or post birth. Many states have set procedures by statutes, others rely on cases decided by Judges, and still others prohibit it altogether or prohibit certain aspects of it. Traditional surrogacy (where the surrogate uses her own egg to become pregnant) is illegal in many, many states and if you enter into this type of surrogacy you may well have to adopt the baby in order to legalize your parental rights; and you are still at risk for the surrogate to assert parental rights as it is her genetic material she is carrying.

The questions you need to ask are as follows:

Is surrogacy legal where I live, and if so what restrictions (if any) are there on the process, what documents do I need to have prepared before embryo transfer, and what steps need to be taken to establish my parental rights? If using an egg donor in addition to a surrogate, does that impact any aspect of the process? You may for example, need to do a second-parent or step-parent adoption in the state in which you live in order to establish the parental rights of the non-genetic parent. Do not rely on anyone other than a reproductive lawyer, adoption attorney, or family lawyer to answer these questions for you. MMM runs rampant in this area of the law and in fact, the law changes fairly quickly so what may have been true a few years ago, if told to you now, may well result in a run-in with MMM. Other blogs I have written have addressed the questions you need to ask or legal documents you need to have prepared when entering into a surrogacy arrangement in greater detail than I did in this post. If you are considering surrogacy, you may want to explore those posts for additional information.

There is a wealth of information that you need as you start on this path, topics we haven’t touched on are issues related to insurance and escrow or trust account management. These subjects are less frequently discussed (and extraordinarily important) so less often subject to MMM encounters. I plan on blogging about them and am working on an series of books to demystify third party assisted reproduction in general.

But whatever you do, don’t take what people (even your doctor) tells you at face value! The Masked Marauder of Misinformation is just as stealthy as the NOvary! I am so jaded that I sometimes feel like a client is describing an MMM encounter from a friend who does not want my client to have a baby and thus has filled his or her head with utter nonsense out of nothing other than jealousy (how sick and twisted am I?) Or, political issues within a reproductive practice are causing a client to draw assumptions about surrogacy — MMM that surrogacy is illegal because her clinic won’t do an embryo transfer to an uncompensated surrogate — that are just plain wrong!

Beware the MMM. There are so many options for becoming a parent through surrogacy that odds are you can find a way to do it. Don’t believe everything you hear! Got a question, get an answer, just make sure it’s not from the Masked Marauder of Misinformation!!

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