An Open Letter to Representative Franks on How to Find a Surrogate
First, please let me extend my condolences; no one chooses to use a surrogate to carry their child because it is easy or their first choice. People come to surrogacy for differing reasons but the most prevailing is infertility in some form or another. By the time a person is told they need a surrogate, they have already been through far too much heartache. I’m also not going to go into the pesky facts or conjecture as to how you went on the hunt for your surrogate, but I will post that there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to find a woman who is willing to act as your surrogate. While I understand that you’ve successfully used a surrogate in the past, it might be a good time to get a refresher on the process since you appear to have strayed very far from the norm here.
Defining Surrogacy – An Overview
There are two types of surrogacy: Traditional (now called Genetic) Surrogacy and Gestational Surrogacy. In Gestational Surrogacy, the woman who agrees to act as the Gestational Carrier is implanted with an embryo that has been created using the eggs and sperm of the Intended Parents (or egg and/or sperm from a donor) via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). In this case the woman is acting as the “oven” as the embryo develops and grows; she has zero genetic relationship to the baby growing inside her. In Traditional or Genetic Surrogacy, the woman agrees in advance that the Intended Parents may use her eggs and she is typically impregnated via Intra Uterine Insemination or some other procedure overseen by a medical professional. There is no “old-fashioned way” involved in this method either, even though the carrier is genetically related to the child she is carrying. The old fashioned way of “Adam and Eve” only works if your surrogate is named Eve and Adam is the medical professional holding the turkey baster full of little Frank Jrs.
The Law Really Matters – A Brief Legal Lesson
You’ve put me in a tough spot, Rep. Franks, but apparently I need to explain to someone whose job is (was!) to create laws that those laws really do matter. Now I’ll give you a small pass as there is no Federal law governing surrogacy; it comes down to each individual state. The laws from state to state vary widely in how surrogacy is treated and the law that matters most is that of the state the surrogate will give birth in. There is a spectrum to choose from: At the most restrictive, some states allow for criminal penalties for people who enter into a surrogacy agreement; some states allow surrogacy in certain circumstances; some allow it under most circumstances; some only allow gestational surrogacy; some allow both gestational and traditional surrogacy; and some are silent on the matter but are considered surrogacy friendly. It’s not easy terrain to navigate and knowing how the law will apply to your surrogacy agreement is vitally important.
Don’t Forget About the Money!
Even a quick google search into surrogacy will quickly show that surrogacy, both gestational and genetic, is an expensive process. Most surrogacy journeys can easily cost in the range of $120,000 to $180,000, depending on the specifics of the situation. The IVF facility and lawyers mentioned above need their money from that pot. You also need to account for costs such as compensation for the surrogate, her expenses, medical expenses and an agency to facilitate everything if you choose to use one. All that said, even the best compensated surrogate makes a far cry less than 5 million dollars. That’s Kim and Kanye surrogate money, and honey, you’re no Yeezy. Sums like that make it seem like a remake of the 1993 movie Indecent Proposal with Robert Redford asking Demi Moore to carry his child “the old-fashioned way” instead – and we all know that didn’t end well.
Science, Legal and Financial Lessons Done – How Does One FIND a Surrogate?
Finally we come to the heart of the matter: what should you, Rep. Franks, have done instead? First, we are going to assume that anyone out there who needs this type of assistance growing their family is in search of a gestational carrier. Due to it being legally more fraught, most agencies in the United States deal solely with gestational surrogacy, but it is possible to find one that handles genetic surrogacy. The safest route forward to find a gestational carrier is to use a reputable surrogacy matching agency. While it is possible to find a carrier via places such as facebook or some specialized web pages (or even, gasp, Craigslist), an agency finds and fully screens women who have had previous uncomplicated pregnancies, love being pregnant and are willing to do so again to help create or grow a family that otherwise would have been unable to do so on their own. Not to mention it is known before you are introduced that they are willing to act as a surrogate – a major unknown when you are just asking any woman you happen to be acquainted with! Screening a gestational carrier involves medical clearances, background checks, full psychological clearance and extensive interviews. An Agency helps coordinate the entire process from start to finish and makes sure no one does something truly untoward, like offer 5 million dollars when a more appropriate amount might have been $40,000.
Rep. Franks, surrogacy is a complicated process, and there are plenty of professionals out there to help guide your way. Many surrogacy matching agencies will give free consults as we all have one goal in mind: a happy and healthy surrogacy journey. Please, please reach out to a professional instead of asking any woman you meet if she would be willing to carry your baby for you. Finally, we offer this parting advice; if you ever find yourself re-enacting the plot from a Robert Redford movie, try to make it more like The Candidate and less like The Sting.
Jennifer White is the Co-Owner of Colorado Surrogacy, an agency that helps gestational surrogates and intended parents through the surrogacy process. Jennifer *gladly* gives free consults to anyone thinking of growing their families through surrogacy.