Friday, June 8, 2012

Surrogacy and the Media

Surrogacy has become more well known than it was previously. It may be in part with the surge of celebrities who have expanded there families with surrogates.

In 2008, Ricky Martin was present at the birth of his twin sons being delivered by a gestational carrier. He said it seemed quicker and easier, although plans for adoption may be in his future.
In 2009, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick announced that they would be having twins via a gestation carrier.
In 2010 Neil Patrick Harris and his partner, actor David Burtka, used an anonymous egg donor and a separate surrogate to give them twins.
In 2010 Nicole Kidman and Husband Keith Urban welcomed a little girl via a gestational carrier.
In 2010 Elton John and his partner, ad-exec-turned-filmmaker David Furnish, sought help from a surrogate mother. Friend and fellow parent via surrogacy, Neil Patrick Harris, was one of the first to know of the upcoming arrival of their baby son.
In 2011 Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman decided that after years of TTC and failed Fertility Treatments to use a gestational carrier, who delivered a little boy to them.

In recent news, controversies of foreign surrogacy are headlining. This, I feel is another big part of why more people are finding out about it. Of course, the media isn't always shedding a good light on it. 

The following information can be found by clicking HERE.

In her book, the Intended Mother (IM) explains: Surrogacy advocates in the United States will tell you not to get involved with poor surrogates under any circumstances because it can lead to exploitation,""I initially disagreed with this line of thinking. Charges of "renting a womb" and exploitation have long tarnished the practice of surrogacy. But in my mind, a woman going through the risks of labor for another family clearly deserves to be paid. ((While the idea of doing a completely free surrogacy is wonderful. It's not practical. In any country. Yes, the IP (Intended Parent) will usually pay less than she would by doing it in the US, but with less money comes a few more struggles. ))To me, this was not exploitation. This was a win-win, allowing the surrogate to have a brighter future and the couple to have a child. If my money was going to benefit an Indian woman financially for a service she willingly provided, I preferred that it be a poor woman who really needed help because the money that a surrogate earns in India is, to be blunt, life- changing." ((to put this into perspective, on average a US surrogate gets paid around 1 year of salary, later the IM will explain how much they India surrogate gets))The book chronicles her struggle to cope with having a surrogate halfway across the world while fielding criticism from others over the decision to spend about $30,000 on the process, less than half of what IVF costs in the United States.

In an interview with CNN she spoke about the entire process.

CNN: What were some of the moral and ethical dilemmas you had to confront in using a foreign surrogate?
Arieff: I never wanted to exploit anyone and there's so much exploitation in India. (( This is where I would be, if I were in the IMs shoes, hesitant. You need to know that while the money is wonderful they genuinely want to help someone who needs it. )) I definitely wanted to make sure that my surrogate was really on board and wanted to do this and felt empowered as a woman to be doing something to help me and her family. The whole "womb for rent," that's where the medical contract and the business transaction side of things comes in, but after doing my research I felt comfortable that she was helping me because she wanted to and I was helping her. You have to be an advocate for yourself and surrogate and I always made sure she was OK. I wanted her to feel special because for the rest of your life I was going to put her on pedestal. With a lot of clinics in India you never meet the surrogates and that's weird, so there are definitely a lot of horrible things that happen in India with surrogates. It's big business but like with anything, you have to do your homework and be really smart about what you're getting into, financially, professionally and personally. So yes, there is a lot of corruption and exploitation with surrogacy in India but that was not the case in our journey. ((Obviously, as a GC in the US, I'm glad when people choose to work with surrogates here. However, I think it's important to know that you cannot judge all experiences with foreign surrogacy as equal. Just as there are good and bad experiences with it here in the US. )) I was surprised by some of the criticism I got from people, especially ones who knew about my infertility and our history with miscarriages. This wasn't the way we'd planned it or wanted it. But still, it was shocking sometimes to hear the judgments in spite of everything we'd been through.

CNN: How did the relationship evolve?

Arieff: When I first met her it felt like a business transaction. She needed some money for her family, it was the equivalent of 10 to 15years of salary and I had fertility challenges so it was win-win, but initially it felt like more business transaction. It's surrogacy, it's not ideal but we came up with a business agreement for both parties. (( Following are the additional struggles I mentioned before)) I saw her for the first time in the beginning. After I left, we'd exchange e-mails through a translator and Dr. Patel would send photos during the course of the pregnancy. One of the most challenging things was the distance. When your surrogate's in the U.S. you're able to talk to her every day and you're free to be engaged in her life so I didn't have that option, which was really sad and unfortunate because I really wanted to feel connected to the pregnancy. I had been pregnant before, once until very far in, so it was hard for me. If I could do it all over again I would stay in India the whole time. I think it's such a big part of the process and that was definitely a huge challenge for me.When I couldn't do it any longer I got on a plane, and I was so happy that I did. We'd do things like braid each other's hair, do each other's makeup. We don't speak the same language so the relationship was based on these basic human principles and exchanges.We'd take short walks, watch movies, some Indian films. I got this drum set, and we played that a couple of times. Music, we really bonded on music and had fun making fools ourselves. There were lots of iPhone films and looking at films together and sitting around doing nothing. We'd look at magazines I'd brought. I think her favorite was when I bought Toblerone chocolate.

While this particular interview didn't really form negative opinions on surrogacy, others are completely different.

In 2004 a surrogacy mishap was reported in the UK. A Traditional surrogate who on accident gave her and her partner's baby away.  The full article can be found by clicking here.

Carole gave birth to a 9lb 4oz boy for a delighted London couple. The mother was unable to conceive and so Carole self-inseminated herself with sperm from the husband, a wealthy businessman.
Six weeks after the birth the furious father phoned  to inform them a DNA test had proved the baby was not his. A second DNA test revealed that the boy was in fact the son of Carole's partner Paul.
"When (they) phoned me I laughed at first because I just couldn't believe it and insisted on having my own DNA test carried out," says Carole.
"When the results came back we were stunned.
"This couple were very cross. They were threatening to call the police and have me arrested for fraud. They were demanding all their expenses back and said they weren't sure if they wanted to keep the baby.
"They even demanded that all my couples have their children DNA tested, which they refused to do. It was the most traumatic time in my whole life."
COTS advises all surrogates to abstain from sex while trying to conceive a baby for a client couple and, although Carole admits she ignored this, she insists she and Paul did take precautions and handed the baby over in good faith.
"I never promised I would never have sex.
"How can you expect married couples to abstain for months?
"We used a condom and it wasn't my fertile time, so I felt 100 per cent certain when I fell pregnant the baby wasn't Paul's," says Carole who insists this was her only slip-up.
You might have expected Carole and Paul to demand their baby back - as they were legally entitled to do - but no.
Carole is quite happy for their son to be brought up by an aggrieved couple who feel they've been cruelly deceived.
"They obviously wanted him otherwise they wouldn't have kept him. I kept my part of the agreement and refuse to give any money back. They got a baby didn't they?"
Since then, Carole has had no contact with the couple, unlike her other families.
Carole remains "very good friends" with two couples, "casual friends" with most of the others, but two have proved rather testing and have left her feeling "used".
Apart from the furious parents of Baby Number Nine, she also doesn't see the parents of Baby Seven any more - a 7lb 7oz baby boy, born in January 2002.
"They were very distant throughout the pregnancy. The mother would phone me once a month and after the baby was born they withdrew completely.
"Surrogates hold a lot of power over couples.
"Some women do enjoy that and it goes to their head. They like feeling important and being fussed over, but I've never abused the relationship because I have my own children and my own life."

With stories about "surrogacy gone bad" it's no wonder, really that so many people form negative opinions on surrogacy as a whole, without taking time to research it before coming to a decision. 

Nothing should be taken as fact blindly. In the same way I don't expect you to support Surrogacy blindly, I'd hope that you don't form a negative opinion. The good stories never get reported as widely as the bad ones. Remember that.

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