Sam Everingham of Families Through Surrogacy guides you through your international options
Thousands of gay men around the world now raise children. Understandably they want to be the sole parents and genetically related to their children, and surrogacy meets this need. Uncompensated surrogacy in the UK is popular. with many gay men trawling through online forums in the hope of meeting a surrogate, but there are not many available. So many men looking for surrogates are forced to go abroad. However not all countries offering surrogacy have good legal protection for gay men. Surrogacy expert and gay dad Sam Etherington explains your global options.
"Two decades ago, when I came out, embracing my gay identity meant turning my back on any expectations of fatherhood. It was a grim reality I struggled with for years but recently that has all changed. Emerging trends in surrogacy amongst gay men are both exciting and complex.
We’ve all heard about the options in the USA [for an overview see Issue 4, Winter 2013 of We Are Family magazine, page 14], which, if you can afford it, can be ideal. Some US states that have allowed compensated surrogacy for decades have well-organized systems in place meeting everyone’s needs. But where are men going when they can’t afford the USA?
The UK has mechanisms for awarding legal parentage to gay men using domestic and overseas surrogacy. Lawyer Natalie Gamble advises, “understanding the legal processes required at home as well as in the country where your child is born is crucial to ensuring legal recognition of parentage.”
Eastern Europe is out
The Ukraine, Georgia and even Russia have been popular in recent years. For some time these countries had no legislation either way, so surrogacy was available to gay couples in the Ukraine and Georgia at least. However in recent years, Eastern Europe has introduced laws recognising compensated surrogacy, but only for married heterosexuals.
International surrogacy facilitator Janine Oakman warns, “Some dodgy Ukraine outfits are still advertising accepting gay clients without serious consideration for what can go wrong once the baby is born – they don’t care. And with Russia’s scary anti-gay laws, I wouldn’t advise any gay men risk their personal safety.’ Using cowboy operators in the Ukraine runs high risks of babies being refused exit papers and placed in orphanages or kept by the surrogate.”
India is out (but watch this space)
In recent years India has seen rising numbers of gay male clients from the UK, but a year ago the country effectively banned gay men accessing surrogacy by restricting foreign access to heterosexual couples married for at least two years. Some men have been left with frozen sperm or embryos sitting in Indian laboratories. Ever entrepreneurial, some Indian clinics are looking at shifting surrogates to Nepal for the final stages of pregnancy, delivery and exit visa applications to bypass the laws. More than one Indian clinic is in talks with the Health Ministry of Nepal and some clinics plan to set up IVF labs in Kathmandu.
The experience of Brazilian national Mateus*, 34, and his German partner Lukas*, 35, illustrates the complications of the changing laws around international surrogacy. The couple live and work in London. Germany doesn’t recognise surrogacy, but Brazil does so they planned for Mateus to be the genetic father.
“We’ve done a lot of research,” Mateus explains. “We’ve also talked to some people who have gone through similar processes, and lawyers.”
A year ago they went with a surrogacy agency in Mumbai, India, paying fees for an egg donor to be flown in from the Ukraine. Then the rules changed. Payments had to be refunded, flights cancelled. Fortunately, the egg donor agency – New Life – operates a global network of clinics, one in Bangkok. Like hundreds of other gay men, Mateus and Lukas switched to Thailand.
Last April they flew to Bangkok where Mateus provided sperm. In contrast to the US, UK or Canada, relationships with a surrogate in Thailand (or India) are far more distant due to the language and cultural barriers. The agency sources and pairs surrogate and intended parents. Nonetheless Mateus has been impressed with the professionalism. They met their surrogate on their first visit and have had Skype calls since, communicating through a translator. Their second embryo transfer took and they are expecting twin girls in March next year.
Their girls will have Thai and Brazilian citizenship once the paperwork is complete. Anyone in Mateus’s direct family has the right to reside in the UK because Lukas is an EU citizen and they are married (in San Francisco). “We are going to apply for a Family Permit Visa and bring them into the country based on that,” Mateus explains, “then go through a Parental Order process. We are both very excited!”
Canada is in for DIY
Like the UK and Australia, Canada only permits uncompensated surrogacy, but despite the laws, there are agencies operating in a grey legal zone matching clients with surrogates. Intended parents also source surrogates from their own networks or online. DIY arrangements cost intended foreign parents on average £35-41K plus the cost of donor eggs (£2-6K) – far less than the USA, hence why surrogacy thrives in Canada.
According to Toronto-based family lawyer Sara Cohen numerous Canadian women are keen to be altruistic surrogates. Sara fights to make intended parents aware of their choices and the legal implications. For example, all children born through Canadian surrogacy are eligible for Canadian citizenship.
“The time required to arrange legal transfer of parentage and exit paperwork for a UK couple depends on the province,” she explains. “It varies from a couple of days to a number of weeks.”
Sam Everingham, 46, lives in Australia with his partner Phil, 42, and their two-and-a-half-year old twin girls who they had via surrogacy in India.
Sam founded Families Through Surrogacy, a non-profit group run by parents working internationally providing resources, closed forums and annual conferences to educate intended parents on best practice and safe paths to parenthood. www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com
To read this article in full order issue 5 of We Are Family magazine. For regular, impartial advice on surrogacy and other routes to parenthood for the gay community subscribe now: issue 5
This article was printed in issue 5 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.
* names have been changed to protect identities