The Today Show ran the story this morning about the baby-selling scheme in which Theresa Erickson, Carla Chambers, and Hilary Neiman have entered guilty pleas.
I am an attorney who has practiced Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) law for more than twenty years, and I am actively involved in legislative and advocacy issues in ART both nationally and internationally. Here is my initial professional perspective in my effort to help others to properly characterize and focus this story.
Although Ms. Chambers did get the women involved as birth mothers pregnant through embryo transfer (a form of ART), this does not make the women involved “gestational surrogates” or make this story about “surrogacy.” The women involved were birth mothers, just as in adoption, and the story is about selling babies in violation of adoption laws, not about surrogacy.
Surrogacy is an arrangement in which prospective intended parents enter into an agreement with a third-party who agrees to carry a pregnancy to term for the benefit of the intended parents. The agreement exists BEFORE the pregnancy.
In this case, there was no agreement of any kind before the pregnancies were created. This was simply IVF with an embryo transfer to an intended birth mother. It is no different than if the women had become pregnant through intercourse and then tried to sell their babies. It has nothing to do with surrogacy. It has to do with the clear violation of existing adoption laws.
If various quarters of the media or individuals attempt to point to this matter as motivation for regulation of surrogacy or fertility medicine to avoid such cases in the future, the answer is that surrogacy/fertility regulation would have nothing to do with the case at hand. There were (and are) numerous laws and regulations already in existence that clearly prohibit and make illegal the conduct in which these conspirators engaged. It is illegal in California (the governing jurisdiction) to claim an arrangement is a surrogacy unless there is an agreement in place before the pregnancy. Where a pregnancy is not the result of a surrogacy agreement, it is illegal to pay and receive money for (sell) a baby. There are federal laws prohibiting false and fraudulent claims to be made across state lines in an effort to profit from baby selling. There could have been no more (or more relevant) law in place to prevent what happened in this case.
There are also numerous FDA regulations and ASRM guidelines that would prevent the medical procedures that took place from occurring in the U.S. FDA regulations would have required additional medical testing of the gamete donors/embryo recipients who provided the sperm/eggs to the physicians who performed the embryo transfers. They also would have required much more complete screening of the birth mother, including a psychological evaluation and, hopefully, a legal clearance letter regarding a prior written agreement among the parties. The medical procedures could not have occurred in the U.S. as they did in the Ukraine. This is exactly why the conspirators flew these women thousands of miles to another country with a more “relaxed” medical environment for the embryo transfers. This case is not about “better regulation.”
This case is about criminal mentality. The people involved simply wanted to ignore (i.e. – break) the law, and they willfully did so. This group, each of them, wanted to profit from illegal activity, did not think they would get caught, and ignored numerous already-existing laws. They could just as easily have been embezzlers or bank robbers. Their mentality is not distinguishable, and their culpability is no less. You can pass a law prohibiting certain behavior, but you cannot prevent people from ignoring the law. You simply cannot legislate against individual bad acts, and that is what we have here.
Please don’t characterize, refer to, or discuss this as a case involving surrogacy. It isn’t.
Steven H. Snyder, Esq.
Hi Mr. Snyder,
I have been a client of your company for over 2 years now. I would just like to take this opportunity to tell you about the amazing job done by all your staff, but especially your daughter, Keely, and Kim Post. We had to use your services twice as the first donor did not work out , but with the assistance by our physician, we were successful with the second donor and now have a beautiful baby boy. It all started with Keely who answered my endless questions and Kim who explained the process and who sent us the many profiles. Kim was amazing and so understanding through the whole process especially during our first loss and she guided me all the way. Even when complications happened, she was there with amazing advise and expert guidance. Thank you for making our dreams come true. L, Intended Mother
Attached is the unpublished decision issued by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in a contested traditional surrogacy case. It holds that a traditional surrogate is the mother under the provisions of the UPA as presently in effect in Minnesota, but upholds the trial court’s ruling that the same-sex male couple who were the intended parents properly received sole legal and physical custody of the child based on the record.
The case involved a same-sex, committed couple who responded to a surrogacy ad of a woman who offered to be a traditional surrogate online. The surrogate downloaded a contract online, offered it to the intended parents to sign, and the parties signed it without any revision or legal representation. No psychological screening was done on any of the parties (see court discussion of the surrogate’s questiionable psychological make-up). The parties then conducted an at-home insemination without any medical consultation or screening, and the surrogate became pregnant. (These are some facts I know because of some invovlement I had in the case in the early stages before it went to litigation that are not necessarily clear from the record.)
This is ongoing proof that there is a right way and a wrong way to undertake surrogacy arrangements. (e.g. – Michigan case in which IPs found a surrogate online, skipped contract and psych screening, then had an IVF child using donor sperm and egg, and ultimately lost the twin (?) children when the surrogate changed her mind. (Exactly why DID the IVF clinic proceed with this case with all the missing components, anyway?)) When you do it the right way, it is very reliable and successful; when you do it the wrong way (and nothing could have been much more wrong than what was done in this case), it very often leads to frustration and litigation. We just can’t stop people from ignoring the guidelines because of economic considerations . . . can we?
(The case cited in footnote 5 was my gestational surrogacy case that was decided in favor of my single, gay parent (terminating all of the gestaional surrogate’s parental rights and removing her name from the birth certificate) pursuant to a choice of law provision that was enforced to apply Illinois law to the case.)
Happy reading!als v eag case
IARC is seeking a talented, enthusiastic administrative assistant to join our team!
IARC is a unique fertility agency that matches surrogates and egg donors with parents that aren’t able to have a family naturally. In a world where infertility affects one out of every six couples, our family-building options are important and becoming increasingly popular among intended parents. Join a team where you are personally committed to the success of the organization, and most importantly, you realize your efforts in helping a couple build their dreams of a family.
Overview: We are currently looking for dedicated, passionate individuals to fill two positions: Egg Donor Coordinator and Program Coordinator.
Our Egg Donor Coordinator conducts telephone interviews with prospective egg donor candidates and is involved with outlining all aspects of the program to these egg donors. The Egg Donor Coordinator educates them about their roles and responsibilities in great detail so they understand the full implications of their involvement.
Our Program Coordinator works with the egg donors, surrogates, and clients to coordinate all aspects of the fertility treatments. This includes medications, medical and psychological appointments, and travel arrangements. The Program Coordinator’s focus is on the continued coordination of all the various parts of the program and communication of the details to all parties involved.
Experience with marketing/social media and/or bilingual in French, Spanish, German, or Italian is also highly desired.
Requirements: Must have great verbal and written skills. As these positions are ever-changing, the ideal candidates should be able to learn quickly and adapt to numerous responsibilities and environments. Must have a positive attitude and strong desire to provide excellent customer service. Must be able to multi-task without compromising attention to detail. Must be proficient in MS Office.
Pay: +/- $30,000 based on skills and experience.
To inquire: Please e-mail your resume to email@example.com
The American Fertility Association wrote a great article about the difficult decision to use an egg donor when IVF seems to be unsuccessful. Many parents struggle with the intimate decision to use a donor egg, but sometimes it becomes the only option. It only seems appropriate to re-post the article here.
Infertility is an unexpected obstacle for many people, and the journey can be unpredictable. Patients may find themselves at a crossroads after multiple failed attempts with fertility treatments, and begin to look for other options. The American Fertility Association (The AFA), a national non-profit organization which provides educational resources and support to men and women, especially those trying to conceive, and Fertility SOURCE Companies, one of the largest and most comprehensive egg donor and surrogacy programs in the country, are partnering together to provide a one-stop-shop for patients looking for information on donor egg cycles.
With the help of a grant from Fertility Source Companies, The AFA created a comprehensive fact sheet, embedded with an informational video on transitioning from In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to a donor egg IVF cycle. This decision can be overwhelming, and this fact sheet aims to help lessen the burden on patients by providing information on the medical procedure, legal aspects that come with choosing an egg donor, and psychological support.
“The educational information included in this video and fact sheet is invaluable to our intended parents transitioning from a traditional IVF cycle to an egg donor,” says Susan Bloom, the Director of Recruitment for The Donor SOURCE. “The best ammunition we can give our intended parents is knowledge and education about the process they are about to undertake, along with the resources to have all their medical and legal questions answered.” Bloom continues, “at The Donor SOURCE, we pride ourselves in the guidance we give our intended parents every step of the way, from matching them with a donor to their IVF transfer.”
The AFA is committed to supporting men and women in creating their families by continually providing updated educational material and outreach events on infertility prevention, reproductive health and family building. The AFA’s website features an extensive online library, weekly newsletter, webinars and toll-free help line which are part of the many tools available to consumers free of charge.
“Because of the generous support of Fertility SOURCE Companies, The AFA is able to continue to provide first-rate education for infertility patients,” says Ken Mosesian, Executive Director for The AFA. “The family building journey has many inherent challenges, and our goal is to provide educational support to intended parents so they can make informed decisions with confidence.”
Making the decision to move from IVF to a donor egg cycle is a personal one. The AFA and Fertility SOURCE Companies are excited to work together on this project, in hopes of arming patients with as much information as possible, so the decision will be an informed one.
To see the entire fact sheet please click here.
For more information about donor cycles or learning the first steps in choosing a donor, contact IARC at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 763-494-8800.
You have a chance to view the presentation in its entirety here. IARC’s director, Steve Snyder, delivered an informative webinar about estate planning and why it’s an integral to surrogates on Tuesday, August 17. He thoroughly covered two topics:
1. What exactly is estate planning?
2. Why is it important for surrogates especially?
Every person should have an estate plan that details his or her wishes for the future, so this webinar would be advantageous for anyone. If anything, you’ll impress your colleagues with your knowledge of a fiduciary.
Here is the link to stream and watch the video or listen to the webinar: https://fertilityhelp.webex.com/fertilityhelp/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=TC&rID=12717157&act=pb&rKey=80da9910dbbdd5c2
You can also download it here: https://fertilityhelp.webex.com/fertilityhelp/ldr.php?AT=dw&SP=TC&rID=12717157&act=pf&rKey=42f2dc9b166d22a0
Surrogacy Attorney Steve Snyder will offer the informational webinars once a month for surrogates, intended parents, egg donors and persons seeking legal advice about third-party reproduction. Find the schedule at http://fertilityhelp.webex.com or check back here periodically.
Tuesday, August 17 is going to be ground-breaking for IARC because Attorney Steve Snyder is going to host our very first Surrogate webinar! You’re invited to listen in to our webinar that focuses on estate planning and how it relates to surrogacy.
Everyone should have some sort of estate plan in effect for his or her personal benefit and the welfare of their family, but there are so many possible outcomes to a surrogacy case that planning for the future becomes exponentially more important if you’re an active surrogate, past surrogate or even thinking about becoming a surrogate. Who would make the medical decisions for an incapacitated surrogate (Heaven forbid!) if something unfortunate happens during the pregnancy? What right do the intended parents have if the surrogate no longer has control over her situation?
Learn all those answers in our webinar on Tuesday, August 17 at 8:30pm CST. Webinars are easy to use (you’ll need a link to the website and a phone number in order to dial in and hear Steve speak) and you never have to worry about leaving your home.
You’ll need to register for the webinar prior to attending. To do so, please go to http://fertilityhelp.webex.com and find the Estate Planning for Surrogates webinar. You’ll need to enter your name, email address and phone number. You’ll receive an email that will confirm your registration and will direct you in how to participate.
If you have any questions, please let Lindsay know by emailing her at email@example.com or calling 763-201-1422. Recruit your friends and share this information with anyone as knowledge is power!
Be Informed! In hopes of making the lengthy screening process more user-friendly and convenient, IARC will now begin the egg donation screening with a short webinar. The first webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, August 20 at 10 a.m. Central Standard Time. Subsequent webinars will follow.
Each webinar will be directed at prospective donors and young women that are interested in learning about the program. Interested women can expect to learn about the following:
· How to become an egg donor (the screening process, requirements, etc.)
· The timeline
· Reimbursement for expenses
As each webinar is strictly a learning experience, a commitment to become a donor is not required. Women will be directed to the IARC website to continue the application process if they are interested. Each presentation is easy to attend (all you need is an Internet connection and a phone line) and FREE for participants.
To register for the webinars, go to www.fertilityhelp.webex.com or click on the button on the right-hand side of www.surrogates-eggdonors.com. There are numerous webinars, so women can sign up for the day that fits in their schedule.
For more information, please email Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org or call IARC at 763-494-8800.