Legal Conflicts

Straight off, I will say that I am NOT in favor of gestational surrogacy. My primary objection is separating babies from the mother who’s womb they developed in. There is definitely an in-utero bond. I probably do know more families with donor conceived children than most ordinary citizens do. I know of situations where a surrogate was used. One in which the intended mother was actively undergoing chemotherapy at the time her twins were born and who did die when the twins were about 2 years old. They are being raised by their genetic father who donated the sperm in that assisted reproduction effort. I also know of a couple of women who simply didn’t want to wait any longer to have children with no husband in sight. They used both egg and sperm donations. BOTH carried their own children and I know them as awesome moms. These children are all 18 years old now including my youngest son.

The situation that inspired today’s blog regards couples from other countries entering into surrogacy contracts with women here in the United States. In this particular case, the intended parents have refused to come and get their twins for over a year now (they were born in February 2021). The surrogate and her husband are on the birth certificates as the parents but lack any legal custody because the surrogacy contract supersedes any hospital created birth certificate. The woman has both TikTok and Instagram accounts but both are private (possibly due to the legal complications) but I really don’t need to see them myself. The Instagram has a cute profile photo of the twins.

The United States is a destination country for couples who find they have to undergo surrogacy abroad due to the laws in their own country. Surrogacy is allowed in the United States for international patients by law. Not all of the states here are equally “friendly.” The website on LINK> International Surrogacy notes “surrogacy arrangements are legal in the following territories: Nevada, California, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Utah.” The states that ban surrogacy arrangements include Arizona, Michigan, New York, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska cautioning that surrogacy is even considered a criminal offence in some of them.

In the USA, a birth order is the legal document used to assign parentage to a child. These can be either a post- or pre-birth order that establishes the parental rights for the intended parents. This is key when undergoing surrogacy in the USA. Pre-birth orders can be started in the fourth month of pregnancy, whereas post-birth orders are granted on day 3 or 5 following the birth. This choice is very pricey for the intended parents – $95,000 to $290,000 – due in part to the fact that the US healthcare system is run by private businesses.

So back to our “trapped” surrogate and her husband. In order to have legal custody, they will have to go to court. They would have to sue for custody because simply being on the birth certificate doesn’t circumvent the surrogate contract in place. A complication of course is that they are not genetically related to these children and had no intention of parenting them to begin with. This even though they have been effectively raising these two babies for about a year. The intended parents have “broken” their contract but that doesn’t simply negate it legally.

Being a legal parent on a birth certificate does not always mean you have legal custody of your children – if there is another entity involved (like surrogacy, Div of Human Services/Child Protective Services with foster care, adoption until it is finalized, guardianship). It really depends on the country and this is the reason so many contracts, legal fees and lawyers are involved with situations such as surrogacy. Every situation is extremely unique.

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