February 10, 2016 | By: Liz
Sometimes when I tell people what I do for a living they look at me like I have two heads.
Reproductive Lawyer? What’s that???
In this day and age when celebs like Sofia Vergara and her Ex are all over the news fighting over which one of them is going to get to use their frozen embryos, I am really surprised that so many people have no idea what it is that reproductive lawyers do. Or more to the point, why reproductive lawyers are not only helpful, but often play a critical and essential role for individuals and couples building their family through third-party assisted reproductive arrangements like surrogacy, egg, sperm, and embryo donation.
So what is it that we do for our clients? How is it that we play such an important but poorly understood role in the formation of our modern families? Here, in no particular order, is an overview of the top ten things reproductive lawyers can help you with as you begin to build your family through third-party assisted reproduction. Now these may not be humor-worthy of top ten list legend David Letterman, but for anyone going through third-party assisted reproduction or considering it, this is an important list:
(1) Reviewing your agreement with your surrogacy or egg donation agency (sometimes called a service agreement): If things go south with your relationship with the agency this is the document that is going to be your agency’s safety net and the document you will look to in order to seek a refund of all or some of the money you paid. Shouldn’t you know your rights and the agency’s obligations and responsibilities before you sign an agreement and work with the agency?
(2) Reviewing your surrogates insurance policy: What if it doesn’t cover a surrogacy pregnancy? What options do you have to avoid a potentially catastrophic financial liability?
(3) Preparing contracts for you: Egg, sperm, and embryo donation agreements (anonymous or known), and gestational surrogacy agreements are all critical documents in protecting your family in the future and protecting you and your donor/surrogate during the IVF process and/or pregnancy. Understanding the role this agreement plays in third-party assisted reproduction and the necessity for having them drafted is far too often overlooked. How do you make sure your sperm donor is really a donor and not something more (like a parent)? When does your egg donor relinquish parental rights? What happens if she changes her mind about donating? How and when can you use any leftover frozen eggs or preembryos? What happens if you and your surrogate disagree over something really important like selectively reducing the pregnancy?
(4) Using boilerplate contracts with your agency, or contracts you find on the internet: Do they really protect you and what issues might arise if you use one? Did you know that you are probably violating copyright laws by using one? Did you know you cannot be forced or compelled to use an agreement provided by an agency and that you have the right to use an independent lawyer?
(5) Entering into a known sperm donation agreement (with a friend or a Starbucks Sperm Donor): What do you need to know about these sometimes very dicey situations? What makes them so risky and how can you avoid those risks? What can you do to protect yourself whether you are the intended parent or the sperm donor? How can you protect yourself from a known sperm donor asserting parental rights or an intended parent trying to impose parental rights, custody or child support obligations? Does a sperm donor need to be worried about the State asserting a claim that he has child support obligations? Good intentions aside, everyone thinking about this form of family building is (in my humble opinion — IMHO) a fool for not consulting with an attorney before entering into this type of family building arrangement.
These are just a few of the important ways reproductive lawyers can help you through the obstacle course of third-party assisted reproduction. We want to help you make smart future-thinking decisions and ensure that everyone has their rights protected as they intend them to be and as they move forward through this process.
Up Next in Part 2 We Explore:
(6) Planning for Divorce or Death.
(7) Managing money in a surrogacy arrangement.
(8) Doing a home insemination:
(9) Getting your birth certificate:
(10) Understanding the impact of changing reproductive laws:
Filed under: anonymous sperm donation, Birth Certificates, Birth Orders, Current Affairs, Egg Donation, Embryo Disposition, Embryos, Family Building Law, Frozen Embryos, Gestational Carrier, Gestational Carrier Arrangements, In the News, infertility in the media, Infertility on Television, Insurance for Infertility, IVF, known sperm donation, New York Reproductive Law, Parentage Orders, Personal Musings, Pre-Birth Orders, Reproductive Law, Reproductive Lawyers, Same Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Surrogacy, Surrogacy in New York, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Uncategorized, Uncompensated Surrogacy
June 16, 2015 | By: Liz
Frozen embryos have been in the news quite a bit recently. There is the Sofia Vergara/Nick Loeb embryo battle. I don’t think anyone could have missed the media coverage on that story. Then there is a case in Illinois involving embryos created before a woman, Karla, underwent chemo therapy and which embryos represent her last chance to have a genetic child. The man, Jacob, who agreed to help her create the embryos (and allowed his sperm to be used for purposes of fertilizing her eggs) no longer wants her to use the embryos to have a genetic child. This case also is getting a lot of media attention. And there are a host of other cases which have not been talked about in the media but which are winding their way through the court system. There is a lot to learn from these cases and a lot to think about. And I mean think about NOW, before your IVF cycle starts, and cerainly before you break-up, separate, or get divorced. I know none of us want to think about unpleasant things when we are trying to get pregnant, but this is one of those times when advance planning might be a better idea than telling yourself something like this would never happen to you. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a lot to deal with no matter what but, as in most cases, ignoring this issue is likely to make things worse, not better.
I remember that when I was presented with consent forms at my IVF Clinic, and I tried to read and digest what the forms meant, the last thing I cared about was what would happen to my embryos at some random point in the future. I ignored issues that I found unpleasant. If it didn’t involve a potential positive pregnancy test, my head went deep into the sand. However, as I did more and more cycles, I started to care more about my responses on the forms. To be honest, it was really only because I became more concerned about what would be happening to “my” embryos under various circumstances which did not involve my uterus. As I became more familiar with the process of ART and IVF and more invested in the outcome, I started to think of the embryos less in the abstract; the embryos became more a part of me and thus I became more invested in how they might be “used”, other than to get me pregnant. But never in a million years did I think about what would happen to frozen embryos if my DH and I got divorced. For that matter, none of the health professionals at my clinic discussed issues regarding the disposition of these embryos in the event we got divorced. Perhaps this issue wasn’t on the radar way back in the dark ages of infertility treatment (when I did my IVF cycles), but it is on the radar now and people are definitely fighting over who can use the embryos after they separate or get divorced.
In retrospect — and hindsight really is 20/20 — I know that if I had separated or divorced with frozen embryos that I would have fought to the proverbial death to be able to use those embryos, regardless of what anyone else might have thought or felt about the embryos. So I get why people fight over this. And as a lawyer helping people understand the legal issues involved in assisted reproduction, one of my jobs is to educate people about what can happen if they later disagree about the who, when and where of embryo disposition.
The cases which have been litigated and those which are winding their way through the court system, unfortunately are inconsistent in their decisions. That is, some courts enforce consent forms, some enforce oral agreements, some enforce the rights of the person who doesn’t want the embryos used, and some courts might be said to have enforced the rights of the embryo (IF embryos can be said to have rights, and I am not going down THAT path in THIS blog). So what can we do? We can read those consent forms for one thing. We also can discuss this issue with our partners.
Reproductive law has one common theme, it looks to the parties’ intent at the time ART is used to create an embryo to decide who is supposed to be a parent, and under what circumstances the embryos can be used by those parents if they are no longer in a relationship. If a court is going to be looking for evidence of our intent about whether we can use a frozen embryo against the wishes of our partner after we break-up, then it behooves us to figure out what that intent is. Sadly most of us do not have the financial resources to fight a battle like Sofia Vergara’s. But in our minds and hearts, we all have as much at stake as do Karla and Jacob in the Illinois case. And while all of us might want a baby now, Sofia Vergara and Jacob (just to name two) provide ample evidence that what “all of us” want now may not be what we “all” want in the future.
Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes – How do you measure your life in infertility treatment?
March 26, 2015 | By: Liz
Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes
How do you measure your life in infertility treatment?
How do you measure a day, or a year?
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred tests
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments, oh dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred dollars
How do you measure, measure an IVF year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In phone calls, in cups of coffee
In inches, in pounds, in needles, in surgery
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year of infertility?
How about love for the baby you’re creating?
How about love for the people helping you conceive?
How about love for your partner or a friend?
Measure in love
Cycles of love
Cycles of love
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred blood draws
Five hundred twenty five thousand follicles to count
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred heartbeats
How do you measure the life of an infertile woman or a man?
In diagnoses that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In money they lost or the day the baby died?
It’s time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends
Remember a year in the life of our infertile friends
Remember to love
Oh, you got to, you got to remember to love
Remember to love
You know that love is a gift from up above
Remember to love
Share love, give love, spread love
Measure in love
Measure, measure your infertility in love
Cycles of love
Cycles of love
Measure your infertility, measure your life in love
Inspired By Rent — Seasons Of Love, Lyrics
Filed under: Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, Infertility Awareness, infertility in the media, IVF, Miscarriage, National Infertility Awareness, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction, Treatment, Uncategorized, visualization