Monday, April 30, 2007

Australia's surrogacy debate continues...


The surrogacy debate among the states’ top law officers may lead to federal reforms that recognise same-sex parents, with attorney-general Philip Ruddock waiting on agreement between the states.
The meeting of federal and state attorneys-general in Canberra last week began on shaky ground, with Ruddock initially accusing Victoria and the ACT of “holding childless couples hostage” over gay rights.
Later a spokesperson for Ruddock told Sydney Star Observer the attorney-general would look into amending commonwealth laws once the states agreed on a uniform model for surrogacy laws.
“He’s happy to do that once the states have agreed on a model. He’ll be happy to move forward and assess all these other issues,” the spokesperson said.
“He wants to see agreement among the states and not say ‘we’ll wait till they get their house in order’.”
The states have accused Ruddock of “lacking understanding” of the issue’s complexity and agreed to wait for a comprehensive Victorian Law Reform Commission report into parenting laws, including same-sex issues, due to be tabled by 20 June.
A spokesperson for John Hatzistergos said the NSW attorney-general will “carefully examine” the Commission’s report but any reforms required the federal government to examine its own laws too.
“Surrogacy is linked to other complex interrelated ethical and legal issues, including same-sex couples, access to IVF and access to payments and entitlements – issues that must be addressed by the federal government,” the spokesperson said.
Rob Hulls, Victorian attorney-general, said in a statement to the Star that Ruddock’s comments about gay rights were “just huff and nonsense”.
“He finally got it through his head that there are a range of complicated issues around surrogacy including the requirement that commonwealth will have to amend about a dozen pieces of legislation,” he said.
A spokesperson for Hulls elaborated that they would include superannuation, inheritance and family law for children of same-sex couples not provided for under commonwealth legislation.
“Ruddock was claiming that it was fairly easy to make federal changes to allow a national approach to surrogacy,” the spokesperson said.
“But it was pointed out to him on the matter of same-sex couples that the government had committed to removing discrimination but hadn’t done it – so obviously it wasn’t that easy.”
Any reforms dependent on state unanimity are unlikely to happen soon as the states agreed to discuss the Commission report with their respective health and child welfare ministers and defer the debate to a later meeting.
The committee will meet again in July and November, but the spokesperson for Hulls said it would be “highly unlikely” to be decided at either meeting due to the issue’s complexity and the upcoming federal election.

Adoption Curtailed for Lesbian Couple

Adoption curtailed for lesbian couple
Judge instead amends birth certificate
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jo Brown's heart sank yesterday when she heard a judge say, "There's going to be no adoption today," just after she entered a courtroom.
For nearly a year Brown had been trying to adopt the twin girls she is raising with her partner, Robin Brown. Due to fertility problems, Jo Brown's eggs were implanted into Robin Brown through in vitro fertilization and their daughters, now 23 months old, were born. But only Robin's name was allowed on the birth certificate.
Although Superior Court Judge Gerald Council did not permit the adoption to go through, saying it was unnecessary since Jo Brown is the biological mother, he did issue an order to amend the little girls' birth certificates to add Jo Brown's name.
"He found that (Jo) is in fact the biological parent so she need not adopt," said Kimberly Gandy Jinks, the couple's lawyer. "He will simply give her an order recognizing her as the mother in fact."
"The order will say that my client has all the rights and responsibilities of a parent," said Jinks.
As the laws are written now there was no statute for Jinks to cite other than the adoption statute, she said.
"I'm a little bit upset," said Jo Brown. "They could have told us this months ago. Why did he have to wait for the article to be in the paper for a court date?"
The Times wrote about the Browns' plight earlier this month. Brown is a fictitious name. The Hamilton couple has requested anonymity to protect themselves and their children.
Jinks was also concerned that Council called Robin the "gestational surrogate" because "surrogacy has the connotation you're not keeping the child."
However, her name will not be removed from the birth certificate

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Designer babies, what do you think?

First designer babies to beat breast cancer
Mark Henderson, Science Editor

Two couples whose families have been ravaged by breast cancer are to become the first to screen embryos to prevent them having children at risk of the disease, The Times has learnt.
Tests will allow the couples to take the unprecedented step of selecting embryos free from a gene that carries a heightened risk of the cancer but does not always cause it. The move will reignite controversy over the ethics of embryo screening.
An application to test for the BRCA1 gene was submitted yesterday by Paul Serhal, of University College Hospital, London. It is expected to be approved within months as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has already agreed in principle.
Opponents say that the test is unethical because it involves destroying some embryos that would never contract these conditions if allowed to develop into children. Even those that did become ill could expect many years of healthy life first.

Some critics fear that the tests move society farther down a slope that will lead ultimately to the creation of “designer babies” chosen for looks or intelligence.
However, the first patients say that the technology will allow them to spare their children a devastating genetic inheritance. One couple in their twenties, who would only be named as Matthew and Helen, have lost three generations to breast cancer.
Last May, the watchdog ruled it acceptable for doctors to screen embryos for genes such as BRCA1, which raise the risk of cancer in adulthood by between 60 and 80 per cent. Embryo screening was previously restricted to genes that carry a 90 to 100 per cent chance of causing disease.
The application is the first to be made under the new regime after a year of research to identify the precise mutations that affect Mr Serhal’s patients. Approval is likely in three to four months, once the HFEA has confirmed that the tests are reliable.
Women with a defective BRCA1 gene also have a 40 per cent risk of ovarian cancer. It is linked to prostate and breast cancer in men, who can also inherit it benignly and pass it on to their daughters.
Mr Serhal said that objections to screening ignored the harrowing family histories of the patients he is seeking to help, who have a chance to ensure their children avoid similar experiences. “We are talking about a killer that wipes out generation after generation of women,” Mr Serhal said. “You can have a preventive mastectomy, but this is traumatic and mutilating surgery that does not eliminate the risk.
“What we are trying to do here is to prevent this inherited disease from being a possibility in the first place. At least with these people’s children, we can annihilate the gene from the family tree.” Genes have also been identified that raise
the risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and mental illness. However, more than one gene is usually involved and the HFEA will not currently approve screening for these.
Supporters of screening point out that patients must use IVF even if fertile, and that many couples carrying defective genes will not choose this option. The HFEA code of practice also makes it clear that screening is allowed only for serious conditions.
When the licence is awarded, the couples will have IVF. This will allow a single cell to be removed from the embryo at the eight-cell stage, and tested for the defective BRCA1 gene. Only unaffected embryos will then be transferred to the womb.
Though the HFEA decided last May to accept applications to do this, after a public consultation was supportive, it has taken Mr Serhal’s team a year to develop a robust test for the specific mutations in the gene that each family carries.
The HFEA will not reconsider the ethics of screening, but will ask independent experts to review the reliability of the tests before awarding a licence. “We are very confident because the HFEA has already said in principle that this is OK,” Mr Serhal said.The HFEA said: “Each application for conditions such as this must be considered on a case-by-case basis because of the difference in the way that families are affected by these conditions.”
Josephine Quintavalle, of the embryo rights group, Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “There has to be a better way of curing disease than this. It is very likely that in the not-too-distant future there will be a way of treating breast cancer that doesn’t rely on eliminating the carrier instead of curing the disease.”
Last year, The Timesrevealed the conception of Britain’s first “designer baby”, screened as an embryo for inherited cancer. The baby has since been born healthy, free from the gene carried by her mother that would have given her a 90 per cent chance of developing retinoblastoma, an eye tumour.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Space for Adoption

This couple turned to My Space to search for a baby to adopt!

TAYLOR, Mich. - A suburban couple who spent five years trying to conceive has turned to in search of birth parents so they can adopt a child.
Sherry and Karl Dittmar already have a biological son and two adopted sons, but they also want a little girl.
“Dear birthmother,” their MySpace posting begins. “We cannot imagine how difficult making an adoption plan for your child must be. ... Thank you for including our profile in your search for the right family to raise your baby.”
Story continues below ↓

The MySpace page had not drawn any offers of a baby by Wednesday morning, although the couple got a lead on a pregnant teen who was considering adoption, Sherry Dittmar told The Associated Press. She said she had received more than 1,700 messages since Monday alone.
“It’s crazy,” said the 31-year-old homemaker.
It wasn’t clear if others had used the social site, popular primarily with young people, to find pregnant women considering adoption. Other Web sites specifically about adoption also post hopeful adoptive parents’ profiles.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One woman's personal surrogacy journey

This website was created by a woman named Heather who shares her three surrogacy journeys. I thought her website was really informative and helpful to both intended parents and surrogates.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Surrogacy Documentary

Documentary Explores Controversial Side of Reproduction By Gena Hymowech

Philanthorpist Gwendolyn Baba and director Nicole Conn (Claire of the Moon) thought they were doing the right thing when they hired a surrogate to give birth to their second child: Nicole could not medically carry the baby, while Gwen was getting too old to have one. Nicole was a little wary of the surrogate process, however, because she didn’t trust people to be honest. Ironically, the surrogate they chose did not present herself accurately, even though they had investigated her thoroughly. She had a medical background that made her a very bad candidate to be pregnant. While the surrogate is pregnant, it is clear the baby is not developing normally, and everyone, including Gwen, is advising Nicole not to go through with this process—that it will just be too heartbreaking.
But Nicole is in love with her baby already, and adamant about giving him the best chance possible. Because she is, the pregnancy continues, since both parents have to be against the surrogate’s pregnancy for it to be terminated. While the surrogate is pregnant with the baby, she develops a blood pressure so high that Nicholas must be delivered, even though he will be premature (100 days early, to be exact). If he is not delivered, the surrogate may die. And so begins Nicholas' own valiant fight for survival. He is extremely tiny and doctors are not optimistic he will survive. But Nicole has a strong faith that he will, and an equally strong desire to see him make it, despite the obstacles. Yet she also doesn’t want him to suffer. Nicholas cannot breathe for himself and is put on a respirator after birth. He also cannot eat and must have a tube in his stomach delivering him nutrients. Nicole cannot touch him for too long a period of time because his nerves cannot handle it. He is surviving, but just barely. In the meantime, Nicole and Gwen are becoming emotionally estranged from one another, while Nicole worries she is neglecting her first child, Gabrielle, because she's spending so much time with Nicholas. Nicholas survives and is taken off the respirator, then discharged from the hospital. But his troubles are not over. He still needs special equipment and gives Gwen and Nicole a major medical scare. And then there is the question of the future. His central nervous system is shattered, and he is already proving to be developmentally behind other children his age. What kind of life will Nicholas have and for how long? Little Man was the winner of 12 film festival awards and it’s easy to see why. This is a very emotional, moving, and fascinating story. And it's not just about a family’s love. Practically the whole hospital is in love with this amazing little boy. The DVD release is enhanced by a number of extras, including deleted scenes and a preview of Conn’s next film, about the amazing nurses Nicholas had. As a director, Conn never flinches from sharing her innermost, and sometimes contradictory feelings about her son, even when it’s painful for her to do so. Everyone else involved in Nicholas’ journey also speaks freely about their emotions, and that, coupled with the amazing video footage, makes us feel like we are on this journey with them. What also makes Little Man a good film is that it tackles a very complicated and controversial question: When is it worth it to save a baby’s life, and when will saving it simply torture the child? It’s a question previous generations didn’t even have to ponder. But we do, because we live in a technologically advanced age where very premature babies can be kept alive much longer than once was thought possible. It’s not an easy question to answer, but once we see Nicholas in his house, giggling and crawling around, it's clear Nicole made the right decision.

Jeff's top 10 list for home inseminations

Jeff's Top 10 List for Home Inseminations

1. Begin taking zinc & selenium supplements ASAP. Not sure how old you are, but we did this when we were 39 and 42. When we initially had our swimmers tested prior to beginning the process, we were told we were "average" which is something NO man EVER wants to hear. We started taking these supplements - and our follow-up swimmer test showed major improvement, into the ABOVE AVERAGE range!!!! We took them almost every day (there were days we'd forget) about 1 month before we started insems and then kept on them throughout.

2. Boxers are better than briefs - make the switch at least a month before you begin insems.

3. 72 hours before the first insem, you want to "clean the pipes" --BUT, then no activity until your insem. This way, your first batch is full of maximum quantity and quality (no old spermies). You want to wait 24 hours before your next insem to let them build up again.

4. No alcohol 72 hours before insems. Marijuana should be avoided as well -- and there's evidence that it slows sperm's movement for up to 3 months - because it actually affects the sperm that are still developing in the testicles. So, if you partake of the doobage, you might want to stop now!

5. No hot tubs 72 hours before (or during the days of insems). Even when taking a shower, don't have the water too hot, and don't let it hit the boys too long.

6. Have an espresso or Mountain Dew about 30-45 minutes before you produce -- there's evidence to show the caffeine makes the little guys swim faster.

7. NO LUBRICANT during masturbation in producing the samples. There's evidence that lubricants (even K-Y, other non-oil-based ones, and saliva) can slow down sperm. There's a product called Pre-Seed that you can get online that is all right to use if you need/want lubrication for masturbation.

8. PRACTICE getting your ejaculate into a cup. You may laugh - but how many times have we actually had to do that??? I wish we would have practiced!

9. When you get it into the cup - some will stick to the side and be sort of difficult to draw up into the syringe. Get some preservative- free saline (in the contact lens solution section of a drug store), and you can squirt a little bit of that on the side of the cup and swirl it around to get all the sperm into the bottom of the cup where it's easier to draw up into the syringe.

10. As soon as you are done - MAKE A JOKE! Have your surro make a joke about it when she's done too. It's absolutely essential, in my opinion, to laugh about this!!!!

Our Book Club-this month - Waiting for Daisy


A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother

Peggy Orenstein discusses her book, "Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Fertility Doctors, An Oscar, An Atomic Bomb, A Romantic Night, and One Woman's Quest to Become a Mother." The memoir chronicles her six-year struggle to have a child.
By Peggy Orenstein
Bloomsbury. 228 pp. $23.95
The book business loves a niche, especially a profitable one. So it's easy to understand the burgeoning category of what might be called Repro Lit, fueled perhaps by delayed parenthood or by the increased incidence -- or is it heightened awareness? -- of infertility. Some of the books in this category treat adoption, others miscarriage; some address gay parenthood, others single motherhood. And while some are serious investigative studies, many more are personal narratives. The real challenge, especially for the literary memoir writer, comes when she (or sometimes he) wants to transcend the obvious rubric and appeal to a wider audience.
This, I suspect, is Peggy Orenstein's ambition for Waiting for Daisy, and she succeeds in places. In spite of her book's histrionic subtitle -- you can almost hear the agent or editor whispering in her ear, "More! Worse! Farther! Bigger!" -- she treats her efforts to become a mother with intelligent skepticism and a brazen sense of humor (a quality not often found in Repro Lit). It takes chutzpah to begin a chapter: "I married a man who is far better looking than I. It's not that I'm a candidate for a dogfight, exactly, but no one's ever going to confuse me with Adriana Lima."
Unlike many women who have written about the experience of trying and failing to have a baby, Orenstein doesn't leave her feminism at the door. She writes frankly about her initial reluctance to become a mother and traces the complicated evolution of her feelings from "no! never!" to single-minded passion. Once launched on the all-consuming path, she makes stops that will be familiar to many of her readers: joyless "fertility sex"; miscarriage after miscarriage; fertility test after fertility test; expensive, uncaring reproductive-medicine specialists; adoption near-misses; attempts at the brave new universe of surrogacy. But her voice makes all the difference in the world. Far from the anguished, often reverential, super-serious tone of Internet discussion groups is this passage on her introduction to the world of fertility medicine:
"Clomid was my gateway drug; the one you take because, Why not -- everyone's doing it. Just five tiny pills. They'll give you a boost, maybe get you where you need to go. It's true, some women can stop there. For others, Clomid becomes infertility's version of Reefer Madness. First you smoke a little grass, then you're selling your body on a street corner for crack. First you pop a little Clomid, suddenly you're taking out a second mortgage for another round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). You've become hope's bitch, willing to destroy your career, your marriage, your self-respect for another taste of its seductive high."
In addition to her slightly skewed stance, Orenstein engages in some interesting cultural peregrinations. Traveling to Tokyo on a research grant while pregnant, she visits a doctor who tells her that her fetus may have a chromosomal abnormality and then quickly adds that there is an 80 percent chance all will be well. But Orenstein doesn't buy the optimistic outlook: "Japanese doctors lie to protect their patients' feelings. It's considered legitimate, for instance, to withhold a cancer diagnosis from a woman even after a mastectomy so that she won't fall into a suicidal funk. So I didn't believe Dr. Makabe."
And she was right not to. While still in Japan, she experiences both a miscarriage and a D&C (dilation and curettage). For solace, she turns to the practice of Jizo, in which women who have had miscarriages, stillbirths or abortions leave offerings at the feet of statues. She realizes that there is no American term for a fetus that doesn't become a child, whereas the Japanese have a word -- "mizuko," water child. She explains that, historically, Japanese Buddhists thought that "existence flowed into a being slowly, like liquid." Children aren't considered completely in the human realm until they're 7, and a mizuko exists in "that liminal space between life and death but belonging to neither." Beautifully said.
Although much has been written on many facets of the fertility quest -- the medicines, the miscarriages, the adoption process -- surrogacy is less discussed, still more veiled and verboten than other aspects of the experience. Orenstein does a great job with her chapter on "Fish," the young girl who began a correspondence with her after reading her book Schoolgirls and who eventually became her surrogate. She wonderfully describes surrogacy as another stop on the slide down fertility's slippery slope -- one of "perpetually raised stakes and overly inflated expectations." As she and Fish go through the surrogacy process together, Orenstein gives both of them a humanity that enables the reader to see why each would enter this not terribly well-charted territory.
One of the best things about this book is that when she succeeds in her quest (the baby's name is Daisy), Orenstein refuses to take refuge in the smug pieties so prevalent in fertility discussions. When a friend tells her that everything happens for a reason, Orenstein bristles (bless her!):
"That's not something I believe, not when women I love die leaving babies behind, not when children are starving, when adults are tortured. Nor do I like its corollary: 'God only gives you what you can handle.' If so, God is a sadist. I refuse to view life through such a simplistic, superstitious lens, whether it's held up by religion or by New Age. . . . My infertility was not a result of my ambivalence about motherhood."
As Daisy moves on through life, and her mother and father move with her through the parenting maze, it would be interesting to hear Orenstein's intelligent, skeptical voice ruminate on the next stages. For if any writer has the verve and tenacity to supersede the typecasting of Mommy Lit, it's Orenstein. ?

American Society for Reproductive Medicine Gathering

Everything Conceivable’

Published: April 22, 2007

Every industrial convention has its own eccentric flavor, and the 2005 gathering of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine was no exception. That year the annual meeting of American fertility doctors was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of Canadian fertility doctors; the massive conference, which took place in Montreal over five days in October, was attended by emissaries from North America as well as from England, France, Europe, Japan, China, Africa, India, Asia, Israel: anywhere that humans live and wish, as humans usually do, to be fruitful and multiply. So numerous were the babymakers that airport immigration was bogged down and the city's downtown was transformed; the hospitality rooms of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth were booked for events like "Cocktails with the Middle East Fertility Society." Converging on the downtown convention center, reproductive endocrinologists, embryologists, andrologists, urologists, therapists, and psychologists attended courses in packed seminar rooms. But the real action was in the cavernous exhibition hall, where an array of twenty-first century conception technology was on display, rivaling anything unveiled by the military-industrial complex.

At the entrance to the hall, unavoidable to all who entered, was a booth maintained by Scandinavian Cryobank, a subsidiary of Cryos, one of the world's largest sperm banks. As one might expect, Scandinavian Cryobank specializes in Scandinavian sperm donors: specifically Danish donors enrolled in graduate programs at "major Scandinavian universities," men so mentally and physically superior that they passed "some of the most exacting genetic testing in the industry." Deliberately recalling another era when northern European men inflicted their genes on women of other nations, sales staff were distributing wry little buttons announcing "Congratulations! It's a Viking!" underneath which was a photo of a very blond, very sturdy-looking baby. A banner advertisement noted that the company caters to gay and straight, black and white, male and female. Under the happy we-are-the-world tableau of patients, it added that it serves patients "as energetically as our ancestors once grabbed countries."
Not far away, one of the other principal players in the realm of international genetic redistribution, Los Angeles-based California Cryobank, was advertising its sperm bank by means of an indoor hockey game. It was not clear what hockey was supposed to symbolize. Maybe it was an homage to Canada. Maybe it was supposed to underscore the importance, in this crowd, of being deft and competent enough to shoot a small, frenetically moving object into a stationary target. No matter: setting down the espressos and Belgian chocolates that were being freely dispensed, the medical men and women lined up to whack away at the puck, cheering whenever a colleague, you know, scored.
Nearby, Cryogenic Laboratories was hoping to edge out this competition by offering a service called Lifetime Photos. For a price, clients can obtain photos of a sperm donor, from infancy to adulthood, and thereby see how their child's own appearance might unfold if they select that donor's genetic product to conceive their baby.
The conference was dominated and underwritten by the pharmaceutical industry. Standing everywhere were cheerful representatives from Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Organon USA, Serono Inc., Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and others, who together do an estimated $3 billion a year business selling the drugs and medical devices that are an integral part of childbearing through assisted reproduction technology (ART). By now, ART comprises a spectrum of procedures of varying levels of sophistication. They include the fertility drugs that control and stimulate ovaries to produce more eggs; artificial insemination, or the injection of washed and treated sperm directly into a woman's cervix or uterus; in vitro fertilization, the more high-tech laboratory procedure in which sperm and egg are removed from the body and brought together in a culture dish; and a host of speedily developing related technologies such as genetic testing of embryos.
There were booths operated by the companies that make products to facilitate these procedures-sometimes all of them at once-there were booths operated by the companies that make media (Life Global: The ART Media Company!) for culturing embryos; flexible catheters for removing eggs and transferring embryos into uteruses; and long, terrifying surgical scissors for-one didn't want to think what. There were companies that make specialized petri dishes (test-tube babies are never made in test tubes); incubators for keeping developing embryos warm; freezers for keeping frozen embryos cold. There were software programs with names like BabySentry, for keeping track of the contents of all those dishes and incubators and avoiding that most dreaded of laboratory mishaps: the wrong embryo going into, oops, the wrong uterus.
There were microscopes with joysticks controlling hollow needles that enable lab technicians to suck a single cell out of a three-day-old, eight-cell human embryo. That cell can then be fixed onto a slide and sent off to a lab so that its chromosomes might be tested for any one of almost a thousand genetic diseases. After the testing is done, embryos that carry a genetic disease can be discarded and only unaffected embryos used, with the hope that these will grow into healthy children. "Cystic Fibrosis Testing: There is a difference!" said the advertisement for one of the labs that weeds out defective embryos. "RMA Genetics: Technology for New Beginnings, Offering Power through Knowledge!" said another.
Nearby was a booth run by the Genetics and IVF Institute, a Fairfax, Virginia-based fertility clinic that was distributing pink or blue M&Ms, scooped into urine specimen cups, as a way of advertising a patented sperm-sorting technique called Microsort(r), which offers parents a way to select the sex of their baby.
The hall was an enormous rectangle. The biggest and most profitable entities were located prominently at the front, where they lured passersby with everything from sperm-shaped pens to ice cream pellets (a favorite way to advertise any technology involving cryopreservation). But equally interesting were the smaller outfits located toward the back of the hall, jostling to attract browsers to their bunting-covered folding tables, and often not prosperous enough to be offering freebies. There were support groups for women with endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. There were general advocacy groups for the infertile. There were cutting-edge groups dedicated to helping women find ways to delay childbearing and still bear children. One of these is Fertile Hope, run by a cancer survivor named Lindsay Nohr Beck, whose mission is to help cancer patients preserve their fertility during treatment. One of Beck's mentors is a businesswoman named Christy Jones, a former dot-commer who now runs a for-profit company called Extend Fertility, which offers career women the chance to freeze their eggs with the hope of becoming pregnant later, when relationships and/or work schedules permit.
Since egg freezing is in its infancy, however, what the modern woman often needs to conceive-if things have been left too long-are the eggs of a younger woman. Snuggled against the back wall were egg-donation agencies, none of them as large or gleaming as the front-of-the-room sperm banks, since it is not-yet-possible to stockpile human eggs in the mass-market, quasi-industrial way in which human sperm can be stored and shipped. Egg-donation agencies are a sort of cross between a real estate brokerage and a dating service: for a fee, they connect infertile patients with live, real-time egg donors, and manage what is, legally, a property transfer. Egg donation is an invasive, time-consuming medical procedure, requiring physical risk on the donor's part. Which is not to say you can't build up a decent inventory: all of the banks were offering databases of winsome yet wholesome, sexy yet motherly young women, with profiles that detailed their height, weight, SAT scores, and lifetime goals. You could see how hard the agencies had to work to recruit them. One booth belonged to Global ART, an international outfit with a branch in Richmond, Virginia, that procures egg donors from Romania. Circumventing those aspects of reproductive technology (like egg freezing) that do not work reliably yet, and taking advantage of those (like sperm freezing) that do, Global ART rather ingeniously conducts transactions by shipping a prospective father's frozen sperm to the lab in Bucharest, where it is thawed and used to fertilize the eggs of a Romanian donor. The resulting human embryos-half-American, half-Romanian-are then frozen and shipped back to the United States, where they are thawed and transferred into the prospective American mother, all for much, much cheaper than can be done with a U.S. donor, in part because Romanian egg donors are paid so much less than U.S. donors are. And you don't even need a passport for the embryos!
Also there was an L.A.-based agency, Fertility Futures International, which does a brisk trade in providing egg donors to gay men, another rapidly growing customer base. Surrogacy agencies were also there, catering to straight and gay alike.
There were also, of course, lawyers. Not so long ago, running a "family-building" legal practice meant handling adoptions, foreign and domestic. Increasingly, attorneys are called upon to negotiate scenarios that involve a transfer of sperm or egg-part of the babymaking process-rather than the entire baby. "Half adoptions" you could call them: adoption of half the child's genetic makeup.
And then were the companies that have evolved to deal with the problematic presence of the frozen embryo. Though it's still pretty hard to freeze and successfully thaw human eggs, it is strangely easy to freeze and thaw human embryos. Embryos don't get freezer burn. Unlike, say, hamburgers, human embryos can be frozen, and thawed, and frozen, and thawed again, and used. There are about a half-million frozen embryos in storage in the United States alone. These embryos present terrible moral difficulties for patients, and for doctors, who for fear of lawsuits are reluctant to destroy or thaw frozen embryos, even when patients divorce or move or disappear or otherwise fail to pay "storage fees." Enter ReproTech: standing by one display was a man named Russell Bierbaum, who operates a company that for a fee will take over a practice's frozen embryos, and also is willing, collection-agency style, to track down delinquent patients and persuade them to make what has come to be known as the "disposition decision."
"There are ways of getting people to respond," said the affable Bierbaum, who declined, for proprietary reasons, to reveal how he locates patients and encourages them to decide what to do with their frozen embryos. He did not seem to recognize the menacing significance of any phrase beginning "There are ways." Keeping things upbeat, Bierbaum would say only that "the Internet is a wonderful tool for finding people." Also nearby was the National Embryo Donation Center, one of a number of brokerages that help one couple "donate" surplus human embryos to another. Really good quality embryo batches are sometimes passed among three or four families before they get all used up, or born, or both.
Standing in yet another cubicle was-could it be true?-Professor Robert Edwards, the Bob Edwards, the British scientist who with his partner, the gynecological surgeon Patrick Steptoe, enabled the birth of the first IVF child in Oldham, England, in 1978. The very man who set this elaborate reproductive machinery into motion. Edwards was wearing a tan suit jacket, pale gray slacks that did not match the coat, and beige slip-on shoes. He was grayer but otherwise little changed from the photos that show him and Steptoe celebrating the birth of the infant Louise Joy Brown almost three decades ago. There was the same voluminous, side-parted haircut, the same big rectangular glasses, the same stout and genial look, more like a satisfied fly fisherman, or a Rotarian, than the scientific visionary he is.
Robert Edwards, who is probably the most knowledgeable embryologist in the world, now edits a Web publication called Reproductive BioMedicine Online, a British-based journal that publishes scientific papers and essays on the many ethical issues raised by the field he helped create. He was standing in the RBM Online cubicle for the purpose of saying hello to a long line of visitors, and, when possible, to sign them up as subscribers. Edwards was also, it emerged, brooding. I stood in line with the vague hope of asking whether back in 1978 he had had any idea of the array of services and situations that would arise from his work. I knew the answer in part: Edwards has a reputation for having been remarkably prescient. He had an early fascination with genetics and is widely credited with having foreseen that science someday would be able not only to produce embryos but to diagnose their genetic makeup before placing them in the womb.
Still, it would be interesting to hear what the man himself had to say.
it turned out, the man had a lot to say and not much time to say it: Edwards, who was raised in the north of England, speaks in a wonderfully non-establishment, workingman's burr. He had been standing in the RBM Online cubicle for two days and needed to leave to catch a plane. An assistant was meaningfully clasping a rolling suitcase. Nevertheless, almost before I had finished my question Edwards began by commenting on a speech given by a prominent stem-cell scientist. "Did you hear the talk this morning?" he wanted to know, smoldering over an assertion that embryonic stem-cell research-one of the most promising, and controversial, realms of modern medicine-was an unforeseen consequence of IVF. Edwards wanted to correct the record here. Well before Louise Brown was perking along in her dish, he had indeed envisioned that the cells of the human embryo might be coaxed into making a medical therapy. And so many other things! Babies, period! Millions of babies! "Four percent of the babies in Finland are from IVF!" pointed out Edwards with a kind of defensive glee. It seemed that he, Bob Edwards, had seen coming much of what surrounded us, and found it, for the most part, good. Not just babies but delighted parents, of all stripes and varieties and ages. "Eye hoop they all have babies!" Edwards called out as he was being pulled away by his assistant, leaving behind a line of disappointed pilgrims who had hoped to shake his hand. "What coood be better than a baby?"
"Cancer Patients Aren't as Motivated as Infertility Patients"
What indeed? Through the displays wandered doctors, male and female, young and old, many of whom find it hard to believe that Steptoe and Edwards never received a Nobel Prize for what they did. What they did, after all, was conceive human life-human life-outside the womb. What they did was create a situation in which millions of human beings would be born who otherwise never would have existed. What they did was find the first effective treatment for infertility, an ancient affliction as old as humankind itself, and for most of history one of the most dreaded and untreatable; if you don't believe that, why are fertility totems found among the earliest human artifacts? According to more than one doctor, what Steptoe and Edwards accomplished in 1978 was one of the medical breakthroughs of the twentieth century, ranking with the discovery of penicillin and Christiaan Barnard's first human heart transplant. . . .

For those following Madonna's adoption

Madonna Leaves Malawi After Charity Visit -

Published: April 22, 2007
Filed at 2:46 p.m. ET

LILONGWE (Reuters) - Madonna jetted out of Malawi on Sunday after a six-day visit focused on her charity work in the impoverished southern African country.
Madonna, wearing dark glasses and carrying the one-year-old Malawian boy she is adopting, boarded a private jet at Lilongwe airport at the end of her visit, a Reuters witness said.
Officials said she spent Saturday meeting people involved in the charities she set up in Malawi.
Raising Malawi, a charity co-founded by Madonna, provides food, education and health services to 32,000 orphans in the country through seven community-based organizations.
This is Madonna's second visit to Malawi six months after she and her film director husband Guy Ritchie signed interim adoption papers for custody of local toddler David Banda.
David will stay with the couple for 18 months at their home in London before a decision by the Malawian government on whether to finalize the adoption.
Rights groups have accused Madonna of using her fame and wealth to circumvent the country's adoption rules, but the singer has insisted she is following the law.
Madonna's spokeswoman has denied media reports the American star plans to adopt a second child and said she is focusing on her charity work in Malawi during this visit.
On Thursday Madonna visited the Home of Hope orphanage where David once lived, and where witnesses said he met his biological father.
HIV/AIDS has killed millions in Malawi, leaving more than a million orphans.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Japanse Couple Pleads for Surrogacy Laws

Japanse Couple Pleads for Surrogacy Laws-
TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese couple who had twins through an American surrogate appealed Wednesday for the nation to recognise the practice after a court decision led them to decide to raise their children as US citizens.
Japanese laws do not specifically stipulate the legal status of children born through surrogacy, which is not a crime but is banned by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
"I read the ruling over and over again, and to be honest, I was disappointed and felt angry," television personality Aki Mukai, 42, said at her first news conference after the ruling.
Mukai, whose womb was removed due to cancer, has ignited a public debate in Japan on surrogacy.
She and her husband, professional wrestler Nobuhiko Takada, have launched a high-profile campaign to have her twin sons recognised as her and her husband's blood-related offspring.
But last month the Supreme Court ruled against the couple's demand, although it called on the legislative branch to keep up with the new realities of fertility treatment.
Mukai said she had decided to leave her twin boys with the US citizenship they now hold after losing the court battle.
"We went to the court because there are no clear laws, but the court's conclusion was only to say laws should be created soon."
The twin boys were born in 2003 through a Nevada woman, who offered to become impregnated with eggs fertilised by the Japanese couple.
Many Japanese couples are reported to have children through surrogacy overseas, but simply report the child as their blood-related offspring when coming back without disclosing how the baby was born.
"I want to see an answer as soon as possible for such cases in which babies are born legally through surrogacy overseas," Mukai said.
Japan has one of the world's oldest populations as it struggles with a low birth rate, while many women wait longer to get married and start having children.

An adoption poem: An Openly Adopted Child's Legacy

An Openly Adopted Child's Legacy-

Once there were two expectant mothers. One carried and cared for you beneath her beating heart She became your Birthmother. The other carried the hope of you within her.She became your Mom.As the days passed, and you grew bigger and stronger, Your Birthmother knew that she could not give you all you needed after your birth. Meanwhile, your Mom was ready and waiting for you.
One day your Birthmom and your Mom found each other.
They looked into each other’s eyes and saw a friend. Your Birthmom saw the life your Mom could give you. Your Mom saw how much your Birthmom loved and cared for you.
They decided that what you needed was both kinds of love in your life.
So now you have two families, One by birth, the other by adoption.
And you have a home where you can get: your questions answered, your boo boos bandaged, your heartaches soothed, And much needed hugs.
And a place where you can find: answers to your questions, your image in the mirror, a part of yourself, And much needed hugs.
Two different kinds of families Two different kinds of loveBoth a part of you.
© Brenda Romanchik

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bringing a Child Home from Cameroon, Africa

Bringing a child home
By Jackie Burke, American News Writer

Local teenagers reached out to help a couple bring their adopted child from Cameroon, Africa, to Sioux Falls.
Seven teenagers at Zion Lutheran Church in Aberdeen spent nine months fundraising for a youth group trip to San Antonio, Texas.
"They prayed to God for this money," said the Rev. Marcia Sylvester, a pastor at Zion Lutheran Church. "They promised if they raised more than they needed, they would give it back to God."
It turns out the group had about $1,700 left after raising more than $8,000 for the Texas trip, Sylvester said. That's when Esther, the baby from Cameroon, and Roy and Yvette Christion came to mind.
"We had a couple choices of who to give the money to," said Trene Henderson, one of the teenagers who donated the money. "It was a unanimous decision."
The kids learned of the Christions and their situation from Sylvester, who had met the family while they were working as missionaries in Cameroon.
About three years ago, Roy and Yvette Christion were expecting a child. When the child was stillborn, the Christions made a deal with God.
Roy said they prayed to God, saying that if adoption was what he had in mind for them, they would be willing. He said they weren't interested in going through the application process, but if the child came to them, they would be ready.
Five months later, a baby named Esther was left at the doorstep of a Cameroon hospital.
"We thought of the prayer we made five months ago," Roy said.
The same day the Christions decided to adopt Esther, Yvette found out she was pregnant.
Now, three years later, the Christions have a 2-year-old son, Stephen, and are still filling out the paperwork for Esther's adoption.
Difficulties: The adoption process has been anything but easy, Roy said.
"It's a longer process because of the two different systems," he said.
In Cameroon, the Christions went through the adoption process only to find out the United States wouldn't honor the adoption.
"They said it was legal guardianship," Roy said.
Now, the Christions have to go through the same process in the U.S. In other words, Esther had to be adopted twice, Roy said, once in Cameroon and once in the United States.
The Christions returned to the United States in December 2005. Because the adoption process wasn't finished, Esther wasn't allowed to leave Cameroon - she had to live with Yvette's parents until the Cameroon government would let Esther join her family in the United States.
They had to pay a fee to bring Esther to the United States, Sylvester said. She said the $1,700 helped cover that cost.
In January, 13 months after her parents returned to the United States, Esther joined her family in Sioux Falls.
"It's really fulfilling to have been able to help," Henderson said. "It's really nice."
Help came as surprise: Yvette said the family had no knowledge of the money from the youth group until it was donated to them. She said they found out about the gesture from a friend who had met Sylvester through Lutheran Social Services.
"We had no idea," Yvette said.
Esther and the Christions were in Aberdeen on Sunday to visit the youth group. It was the first time the kids met Esther.
Roy said he was looking forward to meeting the kids who helped bring Esther to the United States.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Boulder's Fourth Adoption from Ethiopia

Family circle -,2792,DRMN_107_5486345,00.html

Boulder couple's fourth adoption from Ethiopia will reunite sisters
By Lisa Marshall, Special to the Rocky

April 16, 2007
The goodbye was so painful to witness that Rick Romeo still tears up when he thinks about it.
Standing in an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2005, he watched as Tadu, the teenage girl he'd adopted and was bringing home, offered a baby doll and a parting embrace to a dark-eyed, round-faced little girl. Just days earlier Romeo had learned that Tadu had a little sister named Yenu.
As he left the impoverished, disease-ravaged nation to deliver Tadu to a new life in Boulder, his joy was overshadowed by guilt. "It was a heart-wrenching situation," says Romeo, a Boulder lawyer, recalling the last words Yenu uttered before her older sister walked out the door: "When are you coming back to take me to America?" Soon, she'll get her answer.
Last fall, Rick and his wife, Karen, began the long, complex process of bringing 10-year-old Yenu to Boulder, where she will complete a family of eight, including their two biological children in their 20s and three other school-age children adopted from Ethiopia.
In the seven years since the Romeos welcomed their first Ethiopian child, Asha, into an elegant home in the shadow of the Flatirons, adoption from Africa has gone from being virtually unheard of to being the stuff of talk shows and blogs, thanks to celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie.
High-profile adoptions from the world's poorest continent also have shed light on the plight of the estimated 18 million African children who have been orphaned by AIDS, and appear to have influenced more adoptive parents-to-be to look to what has long been considered "the forgotten continent."
According to the U.S. State Department, 732 Ethiopian orphans were issued immigrant visas to come to the United States in 2006, up from just 82 a decade ago, making it the fifth-most popular country from which to adopt. Local agencies predict the number will continue to rise.
"Ethiopian adoption is probably one of the most popular adoptions at the moment," says Linda Donovan, international program director for Adoption Alliance of Denver, which has nine families waiting to bring children home from Ethiopia. "Suddenly, it has just taken off."
Rick Romeo, 55, and his wife Karen, 51, already had two teenagers and were beginning to build a nest egg for retirement when, in 1998, they decided to adopt.
"We are absurdly fortunate," says Karen, an accomplished violinist and former director of the Boulder Arts Academy. "If we can give back, we have to give back."
In June 2000, 18-month-old Asha joined the family, followed in October 2003 by 3-year-old Dante, who arrived with a jagged scar on his leg and teeth so decayed they would have to be extracted. In August 2005 came Tadu, a painfully shy teenager whose shaved head and downcast eyes hinted at a life with too much hardship for her 14 years.
This spring, the Romeos completed their paperwork for adopting Yenu, who, like roughly 2 million other children in sub-Saharan Africa, is infected with the HIV virus. They're awaiting approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which must clear the international adoption of an HIV-positive child. They estimate that the adoption will cost them $20,000, and Yenu's medication will run about $5,000 annually.
"We don't know how much her immune system has been compromised, but we do know that her prospects here are much better than any she may face over there," says Karen.
On a recent afternoon at the Romeo house, the three youngest children carried on like typical siblings, bickering and joking as they made cookies in the kitchen and ran around in a backyard littered with bikes and toys.
But for Tadu, a quiet, serious girl who listens only to Ethiopian music and keeps a picture of her little sister by her bed, the longing for something missing is palpable.
When her parents recently informed her that they were going to take her to Ethiopia to get her sister, she quietly wept in disbelief.
"My hope is that Tadu will now feel like the loop has been closed," says Rick. "This has been a huge hole in her heart."

Foreign Adoptions on the Rise

On the rise

According to the U.S. State Department, 20,679 visas were issued for foreign adoption in 2006, up from 10,641 in 1996. Here's a look at the top 10 countries of origin:
1. China: 6,439
2. Guatemala 4,135
3. Russia 3,706
4. South Korea 1,376
5. Ethiopia 732
6. Kazakhstan 587
7. Ukraine 460
8. Liberia 353
9. Colombia 344
10. India 320

Friday, April 13, 2007

Baby Born from Frozen Sperm/Frozen Egg

Baby Born From Frozen Sperm, Frozen Egg---

Apr 13 12:51 PM US/Eastern

try { insert_digg_btn('world_news'); } catch(e){}

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (AP) - A woman gave birth Wednesday to the first baby conceived in the U.S. by means of frozen sperm and a frozen egg, according to the fertility firm that sponsored the study in which she took part.
Adrienne Domasin, 36, decided to participate in the study by Extend Fertility after being told two years ago her fallopian tubes were blocked.
Domasin, who is single, was unable to afford in vitro fertilization but was determined to have a baby.
"When they told me my tubes were blocked, I was naturally devastated," she said. "Here I was, ready to finally have the baby of my dreams and I couldn't."
Egg freezing traditionally has been reserved for women who suffered from illnesses that might leave them infertile and has a low success rate. But there has been recent demand for the procedure by women in their 30s who want to have children in the future but are afraid they will be too old to conceive the traditional way, said Dr. Jane Frederick, who oversaw Domasin's fertility treatment.
The low viability of frozen eggs is due, in part, to ice crystals that can damage the egg's structure, though freezing sperm has been done for decades, said Richard Paulson, a professor of reproductive medicine at USC.
There have been about 200 documented births from frozen eggs worldwide, Paulson said. But he had not heard of other cases of frozen egg/frozen sperm conceptions. The Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics reported one case last year in Australia.
During the study, Domasin received shots and pills to stimulate egg production. Fertility personnel harvested the eggs, froze them, and after four months, injected them with thawed donor sperm. A fertilized egg was then placed insider her.
Domasin's son, Noah Peter Domasin, was born at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces.
"I kept waking up in the middle of the night and I would glance over at him," Domasin said. "I just kept saying to myself 'he's my son.'"

The Prospect of All Female Conception

The prospect of all-female conception -

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 13 April 2007
Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.
Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.
The researchers said they had already produced early sperm cells from bone-marrow tissue taken from men. They believe the findings show that it may be possible to restore fertility to men who cannot naturally produce their own sperm.
But the results also raise the prospect of being able to take bone-marrow tissue from women and coaxing the stem cells within the female tissue to develop into sperm cells, said Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne .
Creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters because the Y chromosome of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons. The latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer.
"Theoretically is it possible," Professor Nayernia said. "The problem is whether the sperm cells are functional or not. I don't think there is an ethical barrier, so long as it's safe. We are in the process of applying for ethical approval. We are preparing now to apply to use the existing bone marrow stem cell bank here in Newcastle . We need permission from the patient who supplied the bone marrow, the ethics committee and the hospital itself."
If sperm cells can be developed from female bone-marrow tissue they will be matured in the laboratory and tested for their ability to penetrate the outer "shell" of a hamster's egg - a standard fertility test for sperm.
"We want to test the functionality of any male and female sperm that is made by this way," Professor Nayernia said. But he said there was no intention at this stage to produce female sperm that would be used to fertilise a human egg, a move that would require the approval of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
The immediate aim is to see if female bone marrow can be lured into developing into the stem cells that can make sperm cells. The ultimate aim is to discover if these secondary stem cells can then be made into other useful tissues of the body, he said.
The latest findings, published in the journal Reproduction: Gamete Biology, show that male bone marrow can be used to make the early "spermatagonial" stem cells that normally mature into fully developed sperm cells.
"Our next goal is to see if we can get the spermatagonial stem cells to progress to mature sperm in the laboratory and this should take around three to five years of experiments," Professor Nayernia said.
Last year, Professor Nayernia led scientists at the University of Gottingen in Germany who became the first to produce viable artificial sperm from mouse embryonic stem cells, which were used to produce seven live offspring.
His latest work on stem cells derived from human bone marrow suggests that it could be possible to develop the techniques to help men who cannot produce their own sperm naturally.
"We're very excited about this discovery, particularly as our earlier work in mice suggests that we could develop this work even further," Professor Nayernia said.
Whether the scientists will ever be able to develop the techniques to help real patients - male or female - will depend on future legislation that the Government is preparing as a replacement to the existing Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.
A White Paper on genetics suggested that artificial gametes produced from the ordinary "somatic" tissue of the body may be banned from being used to fertilise human eggs by in vitro fertilisation.
Making babies without men - a literary view
Aristophanes (c. 411BC)
After 21 years of war, the women of Athens , led by Lysistrata, take matters into their own hands. Lysistrata suggests every wife and mistress should refuse all sexual favours until peacetime. Before long it proves effective, peace is concluded and the play ends with festivities.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1914)
On the eve of the First World War, an isolated society entirely comprising Aryan women is discovered by three male explorers. The women reproduce asexually and live in an ideal society without war and domination. This feminist utopia is a 20th-century vehicle for Gilman's then-unconventional views of male and female behaviour, motherhood, individuality, and sexuality. It is said to be based on Gilman's version of utopia through Aryan separatism.
Philip Wylie (1978)
At four minutes and 52 seconds past four one afternoon, the world shatters into two parallel universes as men vanish from women and women from men. With families and loved ones separated from one another, life continues very differently as an explosion of violence sweeps one world while stability and peace break down in the other.
Doris Lessing (2007)
In her novel, which has made this year's International Man Booker shortlist, Lessing portrays a group of near-amphibious women who have no need of men, known as Squirts, as they are impregnated by the wind, wave or moon. But this is no feminist utopia: the women behave brutally, mutilating male babies before placing them on a rock for eagles to devour. The eagles turn out to be the men's allies, transporting the babies to the forest where they are suckled by does. Lessing reveals she was inspired by a scientific claim that "the primal human stock was probably female, and that males came along later, as a kind of cosmic afterthought".

Thursday, April 12, 2007

U.K gays go stateside for in-vitro babies

U.K. gays go stateside for in vitro babies -

In the United Kingdom it's illegal to pay a surrogate mother or an egg donor. But for about $65,000, gay British couples can create a baby—and designate its sex—in an American in vitro fertilization program for two-father families.
Nearly 20 male couples from the United Kingdom have signed up for the Fertility Institute's program, in which they purchase a university student's eggs, which are then implanted in a paid surrogate, who bears the child.
With offices in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and another planned in New York City, the Fertility Institute is one of the world's largest providers of fertility services to gay people.
Of the $65,000 the clinic charges the couple, about $25,000 to $35,000 goes to the surrogate mother.
The program is thought to be the first surrogacy venture aimed at gay men. Couples can choose the sex of the baby, with 65% so far opting for male babies. Sex selection of babies, though illegal in most countries, is permitted in the United States as well as the United Kingdom.
Said Josephine Quintavalle, founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a British anti-IVF group: "This program shows we have reached the ultimate in the manufacture of the bio-baby. There always seems to be a new way of reconstructing the traditional family. On the one hand, in the United Kingdom we are saying that a child doesn't need a father [referring to last year's proposed U.K. legislation that would exempt single women and lesbians seeking IVF treatment from legal requirements to provide a father figure], but in America we are saying that two fathers is a good idea.
"It's time to ask children what they'd like rather than what selfish adults think is a good idea. I would put my money on children preferring a stable family with a mother and father."
The Fertility Institute's Jeffrey Steinberg said, "There are a lot of centers that dibble and dabble in this. But we are the only program for gay men that has psychological, legal, medical, surrogates, donors, and patients all taken care of in one place. The demand is incredible. The United States has always been busy, but we are seeing more and more demand from abroad."
Steinberg also notes the advantage of allowing parents to choose an egg donor and a surrogate. "If we separate them, we get the best egg donors and the best women to carry the babies, which is the perfect combination."
Steinberg added, "In the past two years we have probably treated 20 British gay couples, and in the past four days, since launching the dedicated program for gay couples, we have had about 25 e-mails from gay British couples. There is a pent-up demand for this."
Catholic agencies in the United Kingdom had sought exemption from new regulations compelling them to consider same-sex couples as prospective parents, but Prime Minister Tony Blair in January refused their request. (Stewart Who?, U.K.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When Birthparents Speak a different Language

What to do When Birthparents Speak a Different Language--

Many people who are planning to build there families through adoption are open to children of races and cultural backgrounds than that are different from their own. In order to do this, you must first do some soul searching as well as taking a good look at your family, friends and community to make sure that there is cultural diversity in your life in order to meet the needs of your child. I plan to discuss the subject of transracial or transcultural adoptions in a future article, but I wanted to start this article this way to lead into the possibility of a situation that many families will face: being connected with Birthparents who speak a different language.
In the area where I live there is a huge Hispanic population. I am fortunate enough to be able to speak Spanish fluently. When I started working at the pregnancy counseling and adoption agency where I am employed nine years ago, I immediately began offering our services to the Hispanic community. Throughout the years I have learned things and refined things as I have gone along, but there are a few important things that I wanted to pass on to you if you ever find yourself in the position of being chosen by Birthparents who speak another language. These concepts include both legal and emotional aspects. I will start with the legal side of things.
When a Birthparent does not speak the native language of the country, in my case English, it is important that all the legal documents and counseling documents be translated into their language for their review and understanding. Even though I can speak Spanish fluently and have a small translating business on the side, I found a Hispanic volunteer to translate all of our documents and to be involved in the adoption process if I am working with a Hispanic client who has decided to make an adoption plan. It is important to have a third party involved for many reasons.
First of all, I can be sure that the clients I work with are getting the appropriate information and that they understand every legal aspect. When I go to court with a Birthparent to sign a consent to adoption I always take an interpreter with me. This way the judge knows a non-biased third party is translating information correctly and the Birthparent is being told about their rights and the adoption process. I have never had it happen, but I wouldn’t want a client to come back years from now and state that I did no inform them of all their legal rights regarding adoption and that they signed the consent with having false information. Typically the consent that they actually sign in front of the judge is in English because that is what is filed with the courts, so I need to be sure that there is no way that a Birthparent has misunderstood or not understood a particular aspect of the consent before signing it.
Second of all, I have help in giving emotional support to a Birthparent by someone who knows their native tongue. In many cultures, such as the Hispanic community, adoption is still considered taboo. I have many Hispanic clients who don’t have any support other than me. Through the use of a trained volunteer that speaks their language I am able to offer them emotional support from someone else.
In addition to making sure that all legal aspects are covered when working with a client that speaks a language other than your own, there are some important emotional aspects and issues surrounding future contact and exchange of information that need to be covered. Let’s start from the beginning: putting together your adoption profile. Obviously if you are open to children of different cultural backgrounds, you could not have your profile translated into every language. However, if you live in a community with a high population of a particular ethnic group such as Hispanic or Laotian, you could have your profile translated into that particular language. You can have this done for a reasonable price through a local community college or high school where students or even teachers are always looking for projects. If you have a friend or acquaintance that speaks that particular language you could ask them for help in translating your profile. When I am working with a client that speaks Spanish they are typically more likely to choose a family whose profile was translated than to choose a family whose profile I have to read and translate for them.
If you are selected by Birthparents that speak another language, I also encourage you to try to learn that language either through classes or tapes. Even if you can’t say more than “Hola” and they can’t say more than “Hi” you are both at least attempting to communicate. It will be important for your child to learn that language as well and about the customs and traditions of their Birthparents’ native country. Make sure that you take the opportunity to learn about these things so you can pass that information on to your child. If you are planning to maintain contact with the Birthparents, always have a translator present at least for the first few meetings and make the extra effort to have letters or photo captions translated so that Birthparents will know what you are trying to say. It is also important for you to remember that some gestures are universal. A hug, smile, handshake and kiss on the cheek all mean pretty much the same thing from country to country.
The thing that you need to keep in mind when working with Birthparents who speak another language is that you want to ensure that their legal and emotional needs are being met and you want to be sure that you understand each other and how each other feels. Although it does take some extra effort, having documents translated and an interpreter present is beneficial to everyone involved. The more informed and involved everyone is in the process the smoother it tends to go, which is what everyone wants in the end.

Uniform Surrogacy Laws in Australia

States back call for national surrogacy

The New South Wales, Tasmanian and South Australian governments are supporting calls for uniform surrogacy laws across the country.
Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says he is worried surrogacy is illegal in some states - but not in others.
He will raise the issue of uniform laws at a meeting with his state and territory counterparts next week.
South Australia's Health Minister John Hill says he supports a national approach.
"I think it's a sensible issue that needs to be looked at a national level, because there are complications when one jurisdiction has a set of rules which impacts on legal issues about parenting in another jurisdiction," he said.
Tasmania's Attorney-General Steve Kons also says there is a need for national consistency and he is keen to discuss it with representatives from other jurisdictions next week.
Tasmanian law currently prohibits commercial surrogacy arrangements and makes surrogacy contracts void, as do Victoria and South Australia.

Mukai ruling on surrogacy

Mukai ruling stirs debate / Highlights gaps between law, reality over surrogate births Atsuko Kobayashi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

The Supreme Court's ruling Friday on twin sons born through surrogate birth did not address whether the medical practice should be allowed, but did strongly call for legislative action for reproductive assistance medicine.
The ruling said Aki Mukai's request to register the boys as her children by birth could not be accepted under the current law. The 3-year-old boys were born through an American surrogate mother using Mukai's eggs and her husband's sperm.
Yuki Sumi, head of the Japan Office of the Nevada Center for Reproductive Medicine in Tokyo, said, "Almost all babies born through surrogate birth overseas have been registered in Japan as the commissioning couples' children by birth."
The organization has brokered surrogate pregnancies in the United States for more than 15 years, helping 55 couples have 75 children.
Japanese law says that the woman who actually gives birth to a child is the mother, meaning registration of a child by a biological mother is not allowed if the baby was born through surrogate birth.
But in Nevada and some other U.S. states where surrogate births are allowed, couples that have used surrogate parents can obtain birth certificates for their babies stating they are their children by birth.
As the U.S. certificates do not mention the children as being born by surrogate birth, the couples can register their babies as children by birth in Japan, and such family registrations are often accepted unchecked.
Japan has no law to prohibit surrogate mothers. Yahiro Netsu, a doctor in Shimosuwamachi, Nagano Prefecture, has made public five cases in which he has overseen surrogate births using a women's kin, such as sister or mother, as a surrogate birth mother.
Netsu said the babies were once registered as children of the women who delivered them and then adopted as children of the couples.
Risks involved
The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology announced in April 2003 its guideline to ban surrogate births, and notified member doctors of the decision that the medical society does not allow any form of surrogate birth, regardless of whether it is done without charge.
The medical society cited four reasons:
-- Child welfare may be affected.
-- Surrogate mothers may be exposed to physical risk and psychological burden.
-- Family relationships may be come too complicated.
-- Surrogate births are not socially accepted.
A report compiled the same month by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's panel on reproductive assistance medicine also proposed that surrogate births should be prohibited and punishable.
The report said, "The practice of surrogate birth treats humans like tools for reproduction and imposes serious danger on third persons."
Moves to ban surrogate births are based, in addition to ethical problems, on the view that pregnancy and delivery carry too many risks.
Even though medical technology has progressed, about six women out of every 100,000 births in the country die during delivery. There was a report of an overseas case in which a surrogate mother died after having a miscarriage.
Netsu's work with surrogate births, especially one case in which a woman in her 50s became a surrogate mother for her daughter, have been questioned for the dangers involved.
In the United States, it is common to pay about 3 million yen to a surrogate mother and another 3 million yen fee to a broker. If travel and other expenses are included, a commercial surrogate birth can cost tens of millions of yen before the baby is even born.
There is a deep-rooted perception that wealthy people exploit economically disadvantaged women as tools for having babies.
Changing opinions
The Supreme Court ruling pointed out that "surrogate birth is something that had previously been inconceivable under the Civil Code, and we strongly hope that legislative steps will be taken immediately to cope with the situation."
Today, an estimated 300,000 people in Japan are receiving some form of fertility treatment, and public perception of reproductive assistance medicine is changing.
Surrogate births are divided into two kinds. One is the host mother method, in which a fertilized egg produced from the couple's sperm and egg is implanted in another woman, who later gives birth to the child. The other method uses the husband's sperm and an egg cell of a woman other than the wife, with a third person used as the surrogate mother.
The Osaka High Court in May 2005 turned down a family's registration of a child born through the second method as theirs, saying the practice offended public order and morals.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision without deciding on whether the medical practice should be allowed.
Mukai's case used the first method. Because the boys are genetically no different than if they were born through a natural pregnancy, there is less public resistance to this method.
In a survey by the health ministry in 2003 of about 4,000 people, 44 percent said they could accept the first method, under certain conditions. Twenty-four percent said it should not be allowed.
After the Tokyo High Court's decision in September that allowed Mukai and her husband to register the children as their own by birth, the government decided in November to start preparations to regulate reproductive assistance medicine.
The government has asked the Science Council of Japan to discuss if surrogate births should be allowed, how to compile basic rules if they are implemented and how to define family relationships under the practice.
The council is expected to submit a report next year. Moves to create a new framework of surrogate birth have finally started.

Relatives of Russian adoptees

from USA Today, 04/09/07

By Wendy Koch<http://www.usatoday .com/community/ tags/reporter. aspx?id=643> , USATODAY Ruslan Pettyjohn lives in a home with a pool, plays on a soccer team,goes bike-riding with friends and has two doting parents. He seems tohave everything a 13-year-old American boy would want. Except he doesn't have his big sister, Olga.When Ruslan was adopted from Russia nearly four years ago, she was leftbehind in their village, sweeping floors and living in a condemnedbuilding with broken windows and no running water. She looked after himfor years in the orphanage after their birth mother died. To give him abetter life, she signed off on his adoption.As international adoptions have soared, American parents are dealingwith an unintended consequence: siblings torn apart. More parents aresearching for their children's biological relatives, hoping to help themreconnect with their roots. Some want to adopt the kin; others just wantto visit.Now families are working together to seek a U.S. immigration fix, suchas a visitor program, that would allow brothers and sisters to see eachother. They're getting help from Empire Bay Group, a Washingtonconsulting firm, in approaching members of Congress. FIND MORE STORIES IN: Russia Family Ronald Federici Federici "We're committed to creating a path" for relatives to come to the USA,says Joan Knipe, Ruslan's adoptive mother. She and her husband, StevePettyjohn, of Scottsdale, Ariz., didn't know about Olga Lukinova untilRuslan's adoption was nearly complete. He didn't speak English, so hecouldn't tell them.They have tried to adopt her, but so far, she has been denied visas. Shelacks the formal schooling to qualify for a student visa and thefinancial assets for a tourist visa. Now they are seeking specialpermission because they're running out of time. For her to be adopted,Arizona state law requires her to enter the USA by her 22nd birthday,May 25."She doesn't know how to ride a bike. I could teach her," says blue-eyedRuslan, who clings to pictures of Olga when his mother reads HarryPotter to him at bedtime.To help other families in a similar plight, Knipe last year founded SaveOrphaned Siblings, a non-profit group that has attracted about 50families with children adopted from Russia. "We're just a group of moms who want to get some laws changed," saysJohanna Babcock, a kindergarten teacher who adopted two boys fromRussia. "We want to get these kids here."Her younger son, Sergei, 8, adopted at 2, has two teenage sisters inRussia. She found out about them when she got his final adoption papersand tracked them down. "I felt when I met these girls, they are themissing piece," says Babcock, of Locust Valley, N.Y. "My boys don'tunderstand why they're not here."Obstacles abound The families face obstacles. Many say they can't get visas for relativesto visit the USA because the relatives often don't have enough assets toassure authorities they would return to Russia. "Congress didn't create any special category" for adopters' relatives,says Tony Edson, deputy assistant secretary for visa services at theState Department. An application to adopt an orphan from another countrymust be filed by the time the child is 16 unless a younger sibling hasalready been adopted, in which case the age limit is 18. Once in theUSA, foreigners may be adopted as adults, depending on each state's law.Another obstacle is a new Russian process for accrediting adoptionagencies that has left most American agencies waiting for approval to beable to send orphans to the USA, says Thomas Atwood, president of theNational Council for Adoption. He says the Russian government has beenrestricting international adoption, prompted partly by the few buthorrific cases of Russian kids adopted by Americans who later abusedthem. The number of U.S. adoptions from Russia rose dramatically between 1992and 2004 but has since fallen markedly. Legal obstacles have left the Pettyjohns desperate. They're requesting aspecial kind of visa, known as "humanitarian parole," that theDepartment of Homeland Security grants in rare cases for what it calls a"very compelling emergency," such as medical treatment. Their firstapplication was rejected, but they're filing a second one. "I do believe this is life or death," says Knipe, a director atCaremark, a pharmaceutical firm. She says Olga has been sick twice thisyear with respiratory infections and is so thin that size 0 pants arebaggy.When Knipe mails Olga clothes or English-language tapes, they're stolen,Knipe says. She is careful not to send much money because she doesn'twant Olga to be a target of thieves. She wants to educate Olga and giveher a family. Olga's mother died at 33, and Knipe doesn't know whathappened to the father. Two other brothers were adopted by a relativeand stayed together.Russian orphans are exposed to "shocking levels of cruelty and neglect"and carry a lifelong stigma that results in many ending up homeless,according to a Human Rights Watch report in 1998. The report says 95% ofchildren in orphanages have a living parent, but many families are toopoor or abusive to take care of their kids.Jane Aronson, a pediatrician who has visited orphanages in manycountries and runs the non-profit Worldwide Orphans Foundation, saysre-establishing sibling ties makes "a huge difference" for adopted kids,who often struggle with questions about their birth parents."The more adoptees are connected to their roots, the better they are,"says Aronson, who adopted a boy from Ethiopia and another from Vietnam."Every parent who adopts feels guilty about a child left behind." Shesays she's 55, but she would adopt her sons' siblings "in a heartbeat,"if she could.People adopted as kids from Korea, which sent more orphans to the USAthan any other country in the early 1990s, are now going back as adultsto find relatives.In the USA, there has been a growing sensitivity in the past 25 years tokeeping siblings together in foster care or adoption, says BarbaraHolton, project manager of Adopt US Kids, a federally financed programthat promotes domestic adoption."Brothers and sisters who've lost everything don't need to lose eachother as well," says Holton, who adopted two children from Korea and onefrom Vietnam in the 1970s, when there was less push to adopt U.S. kids. Holton says her family recently returned from Vietnam, where she lookedfor the orphanage her 32-year-old son came from. It was gone, along withall records. She says it was a sad moment when they realized he'd neverfind his relatives.'Fraught with potential pitfalls' Still, re-establishing such ties is not for "the faint of heart," Holtonsays. "It's fraught with potential pitfalls," she says, including thepossibility that the adoptive parents could get scammed.Ronald Federici, a neuropsychologist and author of Help for the HopelessChild, says he has seen too many naive American parents being extortedfor money by the relatives of their adopted children. "The majority ofthe cases I've dealt with have been disasters," he says. In some cases,he says, the adoptees are traumatized again when they find out theirsiblings are living on the street or their birth mother doesn't want tosee them.He says one client, a stockbroker, sent $5,000 a month to a Romanianorphanage to help the siblings of his adopted children but later foundout that the orphanage director was pocketing the money.Federici says reunions can be valuable for children like Ruslan who wereadopted when they were older and had clear attachments to a sibling. Buthe questions the value for kids adopted so young they don't remembertheir original families. "It's not always the healing, holistic factor some would think," saysFederici, who knows where all the siblings are of the seven children headopted from Eastern Europe. He says his kids, now 18 to 25, have "nodesire" to meet them, although one visits her birth mother in Belarus.Some adoptees push their parents for answers about their pasts. OnMother's Day 2000, then-first-grader Tatiana Kirkpatrick tearfully askedwhat her birth mother looks like. Mary Kirkpatrick, who had adopted thegirl from a Siberian orphanage when she was 18 months old, says she felthurt at first by the request but later understood. She hired a freelancereporter for his investigative skills and spent $2,400 to track down thewoman, whom Tatiana has since met.In 2003, Kirkpatrick launched Russian Family Search, a non-profit effortto help others locate relatives. She now has three full-timereporter/photograph ers and three part-timers in Russia who do the work.Kirkpatrick charges families only what the reporters charge her,typically $500 to $600 per search if several are done at the same time.She's working on 50 requests now and expects to receive 200 this year.They take four to six weeks.She has helped find dozens of people, including Olga. Since Kirkpatrickand Knipe both live in the Phoenix area, they frequently meet tocoordinate efforts, hoping to assist families adopting from othercountries, too.Knipe and her husband, who have no other children, originally planned toadopt a child from foster care in this country, which has about 114,000kids waiting for adoption. A friend suggested they give parenting abrief try first. They agreed to host a Russian child visiting their areain a three-week cultural-exchange program.Three days after Ruslan landed on their doorstep, Knipe says, herhusband came to her in tears, saying, "We have to adopt him." Ruslanreturned to Russia, and nine months later they followed. They went backlast year to visit Olga."I knew when we were all together for two weeks, we were a completefamily," Knipe says. They arrange to call Olga, who has no phone, at theorphanage every other week. Knipe has promised her that regardless ofwhether they can adopt her, "I'll always be your mother."They've called, written and met with members of Congress, requestinghelp to rescue Olga. And they wait, with a bedroom in their housepainted in light blue and white, Olga's favorite colors.Knipe says Olga and Ruslan need each other: "These two will seek eachother out for the rest of their lives."[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

Monday, April 9, 2007

Update on Guatemala

March 16, 2007- Alexandria, Virginia – Legislation intended to reform the current international adoption system will be introduced in Guatemala early next week. The legislation puts into place much needed oversight and is in line with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, an international convention signed or ratified by over 60 countries.“This legislation gives children the legal protections they need and also the continued opportunity to find love and safety through adoption” said Thomas DiFilipo, President of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (Joint Council). International adoption in Guatemala has been criticized by numerous groups for unethical practices and a lack of governmental oversight. Such criticism has called into question whether intercountry adoption will continue in Guatemala. “Legislative reform is the key to continuing intercountry adoption in Guatemala” said DiFilipo. DiFilipo’s statement seems to echo that of many members of the Guatemalan Congress who met in early December and throughout the winter to address a range of issues related to international adoption and are now prepared to present their recommendations to Congress. The Hague Convention on International Adoption will be ratified by the United States later this year. Since more Guatemalan orphans find loving families in the United States than in any other country, passage of this legislation in Guatemala appears vital to the protection of children’s right. The United States Department of State has clearly stated that adoptions with Guatemala will not be permissible under law unless such legislation is passed. According to DiFilipo “It is clear the Guatemalan Congress intends on passing the respective legislation this Spring. The best interest of each child is at the center of their efforts.” Joint Council on International Children’s Services117 South Saint Asaph StreetAlexandria, VA

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Fertility clinic websites and advertising

Internet sites operated by the majority of fertility clinics do not adhere to their own association's advertising guidelines, says a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. The study also revealed that services offered at private clinics and academic clinics were similar, but private clinics were more likely to publish success rates, use comparative marketing, and offer financial incentives.
Because many consumers rely on the Internet to gather health information; "the concern is that vulnerable patients may be misled by information that does not give the whole picture," said Dr. Tarun Jain, senior author of the study from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Advertising guidelines that clinics should be adhering to require clinics to provide specific information about how in vitro fertilization outcome statistics are reported, mandate that clinics follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines, and warn against the comparison of success rates between clinics. But the researchers found that approximately half of the websites published success rates, and of those, the percentage adhering to the advertising guidelines was low in all categories evaluated.
"Despite an attempt to clarify assisted reproduction information on the Internet, there is a great deal of disparity among how clinics publish success rates on their Web sites," said Jain. "Patients need to carefully evaluate the information presented on Web sites, and they need to know what questions to ask when they meet face-to-face with a physician."
The researchers also evaluated clinic websites for advertising specific services, including donor egg program, embryo and egg cyropreservation, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, sex selection, shared-risk financing and 100 percent money-back guarantees. Private clinic Web sites were significantly more likely than academic clinics to offer financial incentives, including shared risk financing, and to use the catchphrase "100 percent Money Back Guarantee."
Jain recommends that infertility patients not rely solely on success rates published on fertility clinic websites. "Patients should meet with a prospective physician and have their questions answered in person," he said. "Success rates will vary depending on the patient's diagnosis, age and other factors, but unfortunately, many patients choose a practice based on information obtained on the Internet."
Source: University of Illinois at Chicago