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Chapter 1 - Surrogacy – An Introduction

This online guide to the issue of Surrogacy for Gay Men is designed to provide information based on the experience of many gay men and couples who have created their families via Surrogacy.  It is not an exhaustive guide and any information contained here should not be taken as legal advice.  You should always seek appropriate legal advice from a qualified practitioner.  Surrogacy is an area where changes occur regularly and as such information in this guide may be out of date.  You are encouraged to join the Gay Dads email groups and post questions to see if other have experiences that they can share.  In all cases you should seek professional advice from qualified people in the relevant jurisdictions.

Surrogacy refers to an arrangement whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant for the purpose of gestating and giving birth to a child for others to raise. She may provide the egg for the child or may gestate a donor egg, depending on the type of arrangement agreed to. The word surrogate just means appointed to act in the place of.

A surrogate is a woman who carries a child for a couple or single person with the intention of giving that child to that person/people once the child is born (also called surrogate pregnancy). The surrogate may be the baby's biological egg donor (traditional surrogacy) or she may be implanted with someone else's fertilized egg (gestational surrogacy).

Legal Issues

Such an arrangement generally requires legal intervention, as the laws regarding assisted reproduction differ from state to state and country to country. It is important that each party in such arrangements has a clear understanding of the risks involved with such arrangements. Further information on the legal issues appears later in this text.

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Compensation

Contracted surrogacy agreements can be divided into two categories: commercial and non-commercial, or “altruistic.” Commercial contracted surrogacy arrangements are those in which the party seeking a child agree to pay a fee to the surrogate beyond the cost of her medical needs. In contrast non-commercial or “altruistic” contracted surrogacy arrangements are those where the surrogate agrees to receive no payment or reward, although it is rare that a total non-commercial agreement is ever made as it is expected that the commissioning party will pay the pregnant woman’s medical bills. Altrustic agreements are often between parties who are family or friends prior to the arrangement. It is important to note that you are not “buying” a baby. The payments made to the surrogate are by way of compensation.

In the United States, the payment for a surrogate mother currently appears to be in the range between US$25,000 and $30,000, however the whole procedure can cost upto AUD$150,000 to $200,000. The fees for the rest of the process- including fertility clinics; lawyers; medical fees; and agencies and/or egg donors (if they're used) generally cost more than the fee going to the surrogate. Gestational surrogacy costs more than traditional surrogacy, since more complicated medical procedures are required.  

Surrogacy in Canada is typically less costly than the US and costs may be in the range of $100,000 to $150,000.  Surrogacy in India is much cheaper.  It appears costs range from $35,000 to $45,000.

Contrary to popular belief, surrogates are not all poor women being exploited for their fertility. Many are middle-class women who want to help make families. They come from all walks of life. Some are done having children of their own, while some want more children in the future.

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Who Chooses Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction. In some cases it is the only available option for a couple who wish to have a child that is genetically related to at least one of them. People who choose surrogacy may be:

* single men or gay male couples
* heterosexual couples who are unable to have children due to a difficulty suffered by either partner.
* single women or lesbian couples who can't  or don't want to go through pregnancy or artificial insemination
* A female, married or otherwise, who is infertile for some reason.

These problems may include absent or poorly functioning ovaries, an absent or malformed uterus, a maternal disease which precludes pregnancy but not motherhood, recurrent pregnancy loss, or repeated IVF implantation failures.

It has been suggested that one of the major motivations for turning to this method of reproduction is the difficulties associated with adoption in contemporary society. These include the fact that changes in social attitudes and legislation have led to fewer women placing their children up for adoption, and couples may wish to avoid being asked to adopt a child of a different race or having to go through the difficulties of international adoption. Adoption in Australia, with the exceptions of certain states, is currently not an option available to gay male couples.

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The Biological Connection

There are two major types of surrogacy:

* Partial or genetic contracted surrogacy (also known as traditional surrogacy), in which the gestational surrogate is impregnated with the sperm of the commissioning father (usually through artificial insemination). In these cases, the gestational surrogate is genetically linked to the child but she relinquishes any legal rights of parentage over the child to the commissioning parents.

* Complete or gestational contracted surrogacy (also known as gestational surrogacy). Using in vitro fertilisation (IVF), the Intended Parents produce an embryo that can then be transplanted into the surrogate for her to gestate and give birth to after nine months. In gestational contracted surrogacy the pregnant woman makes no genetic contribution to the child.

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Emotional Issues

The emotions involved in surrogacy are very strong on both sides. Surrogates need to make sure they have appropriate support before choosing surrogacy. Support organizations exist for couples choosing this option.

Research carried out by the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre at City University, London, UK in 2002 showed surrogate rarely had difficulty relinquishing rights to a surrogate child.

Most surrogacies end without problems, with the parents getting their child(ren). Most stories (especially movie dramas) about the subject focus on the problems of the practice, and on the conflicts that may arise from it, but this is rare in reality.

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