Surrogacy has long been used by celebrities and the affluent as a means to start a family. Because of the expenses of an IVF procedure, compensation to US surrogate mothers, and the runaway costs of antenatal medical care, most couples are unable to afford the surrogacy option. But, gay men with more disposable income are finding it possible to expand their families after marriage are opting for this method. Other couples are considering overseas surrogacy as a affordable and low-risk option.
“For many people having a biological child whether you’re gay or straight as been something they’ve always wanted,” said Stuart Bell, co-owner of a Los Angeles-based surrogacy agency. “No one ever asks heterosexual couples why they’ve had biological children.”
But surrogacy can be complicated, especially in the United States where laws vary from state to state, and is illegal in most of the country. Couples generally travel to California or Nevada where surrogacy is legislated and legal, or to states like Massachusetts or Maryland where court cases have created a supporting legal framework for the practice.
It was Baby M, born in the spring of 1986, that brought surrogacy to the forefront. In New Jersey, a wealthy couple had enlisted a surrogate, whom they found through a newspaper ad, to carry their child. The surrogate was inseminated with the intended father’s sperm making her a traditional surrogate. It was written in a contract that the surrogate would carry the child to term and after delivery, relinquish her parental rights.
However the surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead, decided to keep the child and court battles ensued. After scrutiny, the initial surrogacy contract was declared invalid and it took the family court to determine who would have legal guardianship of the infant.
The case resulted in several states, including New Jersey and New York, to ban or limit surrogacy.
“Everything varies by state, and that is the conundrum,” said Judy Sperling-Newton, director of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. “Every single state is different… In some states, like California, there is a lot of law.”