Saturday, August 21, 2010

Surrogacy in China

Surrogate sweep comes up empty

Alerted by a report in a local Chinese newspaper, the Hongkou District Health Bureau swooped into an office building on Tianbo Road in Shanghai yesterday, looking for evidence of a secret business in surrogate mothering.

Officials found no sign of any illegal practice in the raid on the 10th-floor office. But they said they would continue to investigate the company, whose alleged activities were described by the Shanghai Evening Post.

Surrogates are women who are not genetically related to the babies they carry. They make an arrangement with clients who can not go through a pregnancy, or choose not to.

Commercial surrogacy is banned in China, but goes on through underground agencies. There are no firm statistics on how many surrogate cases are arranged in Shanghai.

Many such agencies advertise online. Shanghai Daily yesterday called one company in Beijing and was told it is an agency working with hospitals in the central city of Wuhan. It said its surrogacy business, started in 1994, has produced more than 3,000 births.

The Shanghai Evening Post visited the Tianbo Road company on Wednesday and said it used a trading company name as cover.

A woman surnamed Lai, described as being in charge of the agency, told the newspaper on the phone that success can be guaranteed in most cases, adding the agency "has good reputation after years in service."

The cost is about 500,000 yuan (US$73,650) including medical procedures, payment to the surrogate mother and agency fares, the newspaper said.

The newspaper saw two couples visit the company for consultation within 15 minutes.

According to the company's introduction materials, its business is centered in Shanghai and Wuhan.

"For those clients whose age below 35 years old, the surgery costs 60,000 yuan," said the material. "The cost will be raised by 10,000 yuan each time the client is one year older."

During the newspaper's investigation, a woman who identified herself as a surrogate mother showed up to talk to the company.

Calling herself "a volunteer," the woman, 30, said she was very poor back in her hometown in central China's Henan Province. She said she needs the money.

"I can not even pay formula milk for my own baby," said the woman.

She said she had successfully given birth to a baby for a couple, earning 150,000 yuan.

During her pregnancy, the woman said, the couple visited her and brought nourishment products.

"I am not worried that I would have affections with the baby I helped to bear," said the woman. "What would make me depressed is that the clients suddenly decide not to want the baby."

The surrogate mother might not get paid if the clients back out.

Local health officials said surrogacy is an area fraught with ethical and legal concerns. "Any professional facilities or staff involved in it will face penalties and even imprisonment," said Song Guofan, an official from Shanghai Health Bureau.

Song warned residents to avoid surrogacy, noting that any parties having a dispute with the service can hardly be protected by laws.

Source:Shanghai Daily

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Surrogate Mothers win Insurance Battle!

Surrogate Mothers Win Insurance Battle In Court
Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruled Unanimously Friday

Text SizeAAAMADISON, Wis. -- Surrogate mothers have won a fight over insurance benefits in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The court unanimously ruled Friday that insurance companies may not refuse to pay maternity costs to surrogate mothers.

The case involves a dispute between MercyCare HMO of Janesville and two surrogate mothers denied coverage by the company during their pregnancies.

The company had a policy of covering pregnant women, but excluding surrogate mothers who act as "gestational carriers" for others' babies.

The Supreme Court said insurance companies may not make routine maternity services unavailable to surrogate mothers based solely on the reasons or methods of becoming pregnant.

The decision overturns a lower court's ruling in favor of the HMO.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Surrogacy: Mitzvah or Money Maker?

Surrogacy: Mitzvah or Money Maker?

Israeli anthropologist studies the issue and controversies surrounding it
May 27, 2010 - Daphna Berman, Jewish Exponent Feature

What motivates a surrogate mother to carry a baby that is not genetically related to her through nine months of pregnancy, only to give the child up just moments after it's born?

Elly Teman, an Israeli anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has been researching this question -- and other issues relating to surrogacy -- for the past decade. In her recently published Birthing a Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self, Teman explores the cultural assumptions about surrogacy, debunking some along the way, as well as misunderstandings that surround the controversial process.

"There is a common belief that surrogate mothers bond with the baby they carry, and later decide to keep it," she said in a recent interview. "The truth is that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of cases end up in court. Surrogates don't bond with the babies. They bond with the women -- the women they are making into mothers."

Teman's research focused on Israel, one of the few countries where surrogacy is legal and also tightly regulated. Unlike in the United States, where surrogacy is legal only in select states, close distances between the surrogate and the intended mother in Israel meant that the women were constantly interacting.

Teman followed these women as they embarked on an exciting and emotionally charged journey that transformed them from strangers to something much more complicated.

"In the U.S., the surrogate could be in Oregon and the intended parents could be in New York, so most of the communication is done through e-mail and the phone," she said. "But in Israel, the intended mother sees the surrogate's belly growing, and she goes with her to ultrasound appointments. The Israeli version is intensified because they see each other so often."
Elly Teman

In Israel, some of the intended mothers even started to develop symptoms of pregnancy -- rashes, bloating, weight gain -- because they were so close to the women who were carrying their genetic child.

"People would say that the intended mothers were glowing," Teman said, "and for them, feeling 'a little pregnant' meant a lot."

The costs of surrogacy are prohibitive for many couples in the United States, often running upwards of $100,000, which includes the cost of in-vitro fertilization. In Israel, where IVF is covered by the state, the cost is about half.

Surrogacy has been legal in Israel since 1996; the first baby born to a surrogate mother came two years later. The bill to legalize it passed through the Knesset in record time, and as a result, Israeli law is very strict in regulating the process.

Criteria for the surrogate, as well as the intended couple, are determined by a state committee.

And the committee is strict: a woman must be married to be eligible, and she needs to have gone though at least seven failed IVF attempts or have other medical problems to prove her infertility.

The United States, however, has no such legal safety net. Surrogacy in New York is illegal, but in Pennsylvania, for example, it is not expressly prohibited, which means that women often cross state boundaries to contract surrogates.

California, meanwhile, is a "mecca" for surrogacy, Teman said, though it isn't regulated at all. The result is that couples from around the United States, as well as countries throughout Europe and Japan, often travel there to contract a surrogate mother, but individual agencies -- rather than the states themselves -- are then responsible for screening.

Also, "there is no back up in court. No one knows what will happen in a court of law if the surrogate wants to keep the baby," she said.

Money and the Mitzvah

Teman, who was born in New York and raised in Portland, Ore., immigrated to Israel with her family at age 12. She studied at the Hebrew University and became interested in the issue of surrogacy after meeting a woman who was born with ovaries, but no uterus, and was looking into options.

Teman also said that her research -- which was conducted between the years 1998 and 2006 -- was made possible because of Israel's liberal approach to the issue. The state's Jewish character, she noted, caused it to go "very far" in legislating surrogacy.

"Surrogates are doing it for the money and for the mitzvah," she said. "These two don't contradict each other, and they don't take away from each other. That's sometimes hard for people to digest.

"People think that if there's money involved, then it's a business transaction, and if there is no money, then it's a mitzvah. But the surrogate gives more than money can buy

Surrogacy in India: not an option for gay and lesbian couples

NEW DELHI: Gay and lesbian couples, Indian or foreign, can't have children born with the help of an Indian surrogate mother.

According to the draft `Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2010' prepared by a 12-member committee headed by Dr P M Bhargava under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which was submitted to the health ministry recently, till gay and lesbian relationships are legalised in India, gay couples would not be allowed to have children through a surrogate.

Ministry officials told TOI that India was seeing a growing number of male couples from foreign countries hiring surrogates to bear children. This is mainly because assisted reproductive technology (ART) is not regulated here at present.

"However, once this bill is endorsed by the law ministry and becomes an Act, such couples will not be allowed to have surrogate children in India," said member secretary of the committee Dr R S Sharma.

According to Dr Sharma, under present laws, the definition of a couple is "persons living together and having a sexual relation that is legal in India".

"But though homosexuality has been decriminalised in India, it has not been made legal. Till gay and lesbian couples get legal status in India, they can't avail surrogacy," Dr Sharma said.

Some time back, a gay Israeli was prevented by a Jerusalem judge from taking his twins, born with the help of a surrogate mother in Mumbai, back to his home town.

The draft bill also says that foreigners or NRIs coming to India to rent a womb will have to submit two documents -- one confirming that their country of residence recognises surrogacy as legal and second that it will give citizenship to the child born through the agreement from an Indian mother.

As reported by TOI earlier, the draft bill also includes a provision which says that foreign couple will have to identify a local guardian in India to take care of the surrogate mother during her gestation period as well as after the delivery, till the child is handed over to the commissioning parents. However, if the foreign parents fail to take delivery of the child born to the surrogate mother within one month of the child's birth, the surrogate mother and the local guardian will be legally obliged to hand over the child to an adoption agency.

Only in such a case will the baby get an Indian citizenship, says the bill.

So what makes India an attractive destination for surrogacy? Experts cite two reasons. In the US, surrogacy costs up to $120,000 while in India, couples pay only a fourth or so of that amount. Having a child could cost anything between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh here. The second reason is lack of regulation of the ART sector making India an easy place to have a surrogate baby.

The Law Commission, however, strongly pitched for legalising surrogacy in India last year and recommended several steps to protect the interests of the surrogate mother and also the baby.

In its 228th report submitted to law minister Veerappa Moily, the commission recommended banning of sex-selective surrogacy, financial support for surrogate child in the event of death of commissioning parents or unwillingness to take the child later and providing life insurance cover for surrogate mother.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Surrogate Twins in India finally get to head home to Germany!

Twins head for Germany, apex court seeks law on surrogacy

New Delhi: As the last hurdle was cleared Wednesday in the travel of surrogate twins to Germany with their natural father Jan Balaz, the Supreme Court said the central government should enact a legislation to take care of surrogacy and related issues.

A vacation bench headed by Justices G.S. Singhvi and C.K. Prasad said that no surrogate child should undergo the difficulties faced by Nicolas and Leonard.

Justice Singhvi said: 'We can only wish good luck to them.'

The travel was cleared after Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam informed the court that the ministry of external affairs had already issued the 'exit permit' for the twins, born in 2008 to a Gujarati surrogate mother from Anand.

The twins have been in India since their birth due to immigration problems.

Solicitor General Subramaniam told the Court that even before it (the court) expressed its concern over the absence of statutory backing to surrogacy, he had impressed upon the government to enact such a law. The court which would go into the legal dimensions of the case then adjourned it till October 2010.

However, the surrogate twins have to cross yet another obstacle of acquiring German citizenship. Jan Balaz would move the German Court for acquiring German citizenship for his children. The big hiccup in the final lap is that the German government does not recognize surrogacy as a means of parenthood. Surrogacy is illegal in Germany.

It was on this count alone that the hearing into the matter was prolonged in the apex court because of the apprehension that after leaving India the twins may become stateless.

The case, which took many twists and turns, eventually saw the central government issuing identification papers to the twins and the German government issuing visa.

Surrogate mother abandons child in hospital

However, before boarding the plane to Germany which they, according to Jan Balaz, might take tonight itself, the twins needed 'exit permit' from the ministry of external affairs.

On this score, the hearing into the matter in the morning was adjourned till 2 p.m. and the solicitor general was asked to state the position of the centre government on the 'exit permit'. Soon after the court assembled after lunch break, Subramaniam informed the court that the 'exit permit' had already been issued and was with the court registry.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vietnam Lacks Sperm Donors

Vietnam’s sperm banks lack “capital”

VietNamNet Bridge – In Vietnam, around 5-10 percent of infertility cases are caused by problems with men’s sperm count. The need for donors at sperm banks is high, but men are not eager to donate their semen.

A couple in Hanoi’s Gia Lam district has been married for six years, but they have no children yet. Doctors report that the husband is unable to produce sperm, so the couple has turned to in-vitro fertilization. Since the hospital has limited sperm donations, they asked the couple to find a sperm donor in exchange for the service.

Doctor Vu Minh Ngoc from the Hanoi Obstetrics Hospital explained that many couples are unable to find sperm donors and that hospitals face the same trouble. The hospital’s sperm bank is almost empty.

Physicians note that men don’t want to donate sperm because the collecting process and regulations are complicated. Sperm donors in Vietnam must be less than 40 years old and healthy, so physicians must perform many tests to determine that the donors don’t have sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B, HIV, etc. The donors also have to return to the hospital three months later to complete a second round of tests. After that, if the results are all fine, the hospitals can then collect their semen.

Dr. Ngoc still remembers one man who went to the Hanoi Obstetrics Hospital to donate sperm several years ago. “The first tests were okay. We collected three samples of sperm and made a second appointment for three months later. If the second tests were all good, then the sperm samples could be used. The man never came back,” Ngoc recalled.

People also worry that if they donate, terrible mix-ups may happen, such as their children may get married by coincidence.

Dr. Ngoc observed that sperm donation and use of donations is based on a privacy rule that the donors and the recipients don’t know each other. The donors also give up the right to find out any information about recipients.

Patients who wish to receive donations from sperm banks must seek donors for the hospitals so that the supply remains steady. In return, they can receive sperm from a previous donor.

Hospitals collect three samples of sperm from each donor. If one sample is used and a recipient becomes pregnant, the two other samples will be destroyed.

Surrogacy Bill in India looks to protect children

Surrogacy bill looks to protect child's interest
Manoj Mitta, TNN, May 23, 2010, 05.22am IST

NEW DELHI: Having emerged as the hottest destination for surrogacy, it is but natural for India to take the lead in evolving a law that safeguards the interests of all the parties concerned, including the child born through assisted reproductive technology (ART).

There is no precedent to the proposal under consideration that foreigners or NRIs seeking to rent a womb in India be made to give evidence that their country of residence recognized surrogacy and would give citizenship to a child born through agreement.

Both conditions are reasonable as they are designed to deal with the legal uncertainties thrown up by a couple of surrogacy cases that did not pan out in the agreed manner. In the Manji Yamada case, the baby was embroiled in litigation as the commissioning Japanese parents had divorced by the time it was born in India.

And in the subsequent case involving German parents, the twins found themselves in a no-man's-land as their country did not recognize surrogacy as a means of parenthood.

The bill drafted by an ICMR expert committee is in keeping with the recommendations made by the Law Commission in August 2009.

There is no way the surrogacy agreements will be enforceable unless the commissioning parents are in a position to take the child back to their country and it is accorded citizenship, which it would have automatically received had it been born to them in the natural course.

Correspondingly, the proposed law will recognise the surrogate child as the legitimate child of the commissioning parents, without there being any need for adoption or even declaration of guardianship. Such an enabling provision cannot however be enforced unilaterally. So, the government cannot just go by the word of the commissioning parents. The safeguards of the child's interests need to have official imprimatur in the form of certificates from the foreign government concerned.

As a corollary, the legislation also provides that the birth certificate of the surrogate child given by the Indian government will have names of only the commissioning parents. In a bid to prevent abuse of the child, the government is also considering provisions stipulating that at least one of the commissioning parents needs to be a donor of the sperm or the egg. This is based on the assumption that a biological link between the commissioning parents and the surrogate child would reduce chances of abuse.
Under the scheme of the proposed law, surrogacy cannot be misused for sex selection and it will be governed by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to prevent unauthorized abortions.

It also seeks to provide a measure of privacy to the commissioning and surrogate parents.