Successful Surrogacy in New York: Myth or Reality?
March 5, 2015 | By: Liz
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:
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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