Accessing surrogacy in the USA: a guide for gay men
Richard Westoby and his partner had twin girls via a surrogate in the USA. He now helps other gay men accessing surrogacy.
You’ve decided finding a surrogate in the UK will take too long and the lack of laws make it a risk you’re not willing to take, so you have to go abroad. There are various coutries where surrogacy is legal: India… Spain… the USA. Different countries have different rules so you need to do your research. For example India recently banned same-sex surrogacy. The USA is a popular route as it has the legal structures in place and there are plenty of agencies and clinics who have worked with gay men and couples. However surrogacy is expensive and when you don’t understand the system you can feel vulnerable to exploitation. Richard explains:
“We found the whole international surrogacy process to be incredibly opaque and most parties involved seemed to have a vested interest in keeping it that way. I decided to tell my story to help other prospective parents make informed decisions and hopefully reduce the emotional and financial costs in the process.
“The MOST important thing that any prospective parent can do is research on everything and everyone. The internet provides so much information that enables you to make informed decisions and hopefully the ability to ask any of the people who are offering to “help” you the right questions.
“If you ever feel pressured into doing something that does not feel right then walk away, have a think and then decide. Never do anything that you do not want to do –this is your family and you should do what is right for you.”
Here’s a step-by-step guide.
1. Find an IVF clinic
You want the best IVF doctor available, however location is a factor. Consider time zones, available flights and costs. Does the clinic offer egg donor services? What IVF packages do they offer? Eg frozen vs fresh eggs, numerous cycles, guaranteed amount of eggs per donation. What are their pregnancy rates?
2. Find a surrogacy agency
There are numerous agencies in the USA – once again do your research.
Advice: “Get a doctor to do the medical bit (screenings, egg donor choice etc) and an agency to do the legal part (contracts, expenses, travel arrangements etc): so they are doing what they are experts at.
3. Choose your surrogate & egg donor
UK couples need an unmarried surrogate. If the surrogate is married her husband is automatically recognised in the UK as the father irrespective of biology. This creates complications when applying for the parental order. Do you want an East or West Coast surrogate? Take into consideration travel costs, timezone changes and most importantly if the state that the surrogate is in allows pre- or post-birth orders.
A pre-birth order is an official court order telling the registrar to put the two dads (in our case) onto the birth certificate i.e. the birthmother waives her right to this before the baby is born. A post-birth order is the same thing but done after the birth.
There are many types of insurance required before the baby is born. All of which should be explained by an insurance broker that your agency will put you in touch with. This applies to both twins and singletons.
1. The egg donor during egg retrieval
2. The surrogate during the embryo transfer
3. Life cover for the surrogate during the pregnancy
4. Surrogate health-care cover during the pregnancy
5. Health-care coverage for the newborn once he/she has arrived.
(4 & 5 are the most expensive parts for international parents)
Your surrogate should have a doctor that delivered her own babies. If you can, meet the doctor, and find out if the hospital is where you would like your baby to be born. Find out if the hospital has worked with surrogate births before, if not, that they are happy to do so.
6. DNA testing
This is needed when there are two dads and one mum (the surrogate), in order to complete the paperwork for the US birth certificates and the UK court paperwork. Your IVF clinic will give sworn testimony as to who’s sperm was used, but DNA testing is conclusive proof so find a DNA company to undertake the tests.
7. US court process
Do you want a pre- or post- birth order? See part 3 above.
Children born in the USA are entitled to US passports so start the US passport application once the child is born. If there is only one father who is a UK citizen then you can apply for the UK passport while you are still in the USA. Alternatively start the process for UK entry via the UK entry visa process – talk to an immigration lawyer as there are various options available.
Once successfully back in the UK…
9. Parental Responsibility Order process
MUST be started within 6 months of the child’s birth – non-negotiable! You can employ a solicitor to apply for you, fees range from £5-20,000 upwards. We did it ourselves which cost us £200 plus a lot of time putting together documents that we thought the judge would want to see. It took us eight months.
10. Apply for UK passports / birth certificates
Depending on your circumstances, once the Parental Responsibility Order is granted you can apply for UK passports. The Parental Responsibility Order will also be sent to the UK registrar who will register both dads on to new birth certificates that are issued in the UK.
Most surrogacy agencies in the USA will give an estimated guide cost of $110,000 to $125,000. At each juncture along the way there is the potential for this figure to increase. We Are Family magazine has heard from people who have spent in the region of £200,000.
Tip: Independent website www.menhavingbabies.org ranks IVF clinics and surrogacy agencies by people who have been through the process and anyone else considering surrogacy!
Article by Richard Westoby. Richard is available for impartial advice on any part of the surrogacy process. Email him at email@example.com
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This article was printed in issue 4 of We Are Family magazine, Winter 2013. Details may have changed - please do not rely on this information solely when making decisions - make your own checks and get legal advice.