Ask the Surrogacy Experts

We have been looking at agencies to handle our surrogacy program. I’ve reached out to some in various states, but the costs seem very high. Our bigger issue is we want to be around during the pregnancy, but we both have very high hour jobs here. We live in Michigan and I really would prefer to find a surrogate close to home. – Aaron and Mark

Good morning Aaron and Mark.

I have a lot of Intended Parents who want be very involved in their pregnancy – from attending the prenatal checkups to weekend visits with their surrogate. The problem is that you live in Michigan, and commercial surrogacy agreements are prohibited by law in that state. So finding a surrogate close to home may not be realistic.

Individuals who pursue commercial arrangements in Michigan can face stiff criminal penalties.  You may be legally able to hire an “altruistic” surrogate (who is paid only reimbursement for medical expenses), but finding an altruistic surrogate is difficult because it’s a lot of work without much benefit.  In any case, you won’t be able to use an agency to assist you through the process, and you need to find your surrogate through social channels because commercial advertising is also banned.

The most critical requirement for any surrogacy program is that the baby is born in a “surrogacy friendly” state. Surrogacy-friendly states will uphold your surrogacy contract, and that allows you to be the legal parents on the birth certificate. This requirement is especially critical for LGBT families.

Some of your neighboring states are friendlier to surrogacy agreements. You could hire a surrogate in Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri.  Every state has its own laws — and it’s often a question of “degree of support” by the courts or legislature.  There are only a few states that are black-and-white for or against — most are somewhere in the middle.

An “ideal” surrogacy state will not only have legislation validating the surrogacy agreement, but also allow pre-birth orders (so that your baby is yours even before the delivery).

Other good states (not perfect, but still reasonable) may not have surrogacy laws, but they have court decisions supporting surrogacy contracts that will provide precedent for your own judge when you apply for your own parental rights.

If your state doesn’t support per-birth orders, then a ‘post-birth order” can be nearly as good. When the baby is born the surrogate will be the legal mother, but a post-birth order can be quickly approved if the state has a history of being otherwise friendly. (Canada for example does not support pre-birth orders, but post-birth orders are quite routine.)

All that said, Michigan is one state that is definitely anti-surrogacy. If your baby is born in Michigan, the local authorities will not name you as the official parents because your surrogacy agreement is illegal.

As for a good clinic…   I recommend my clinic in Missouri (a state with friendly surrogacy laws).  This clinic has excellent success rates and are giving my clients a negotiated price.

Finally, I know that many parents hope to find a surrogate who lives nearby so they can visit during the pregnancy or attend the prenatal exams.  I totally understand that desire.  But it’s not always a realistic expectation. 

I regularly hire surrogates for clients in different countries (even different continents), and both the surrogate and parents do fine.  My advise is to look first at where the pregnancy and delivery will be the safest and most secure.  Then you can make decisions from that short list of options.

I hope this makes sense.

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