If you are part of the LGBT community and would like to learn more about your options regarding Third Party Reproduction and creating your family, we are here to help.
We offer the following resources:
• A secure and private forum for moms, dads, and parents-to-be to converse about every aspect of egg donation
• FAQs to help walk you through each step of the egg donation process
Comprehensive information about:
• The egg donation process
• Selecting infertility clinics, egg donor agencies, and egg donors
• Embryo donation
• Legal, medical, financial, insurance related, and gestational surrogacy issues
• Religious concerns
• Disclosure to children conceived via egg donation
As well as a comprehensive Legal Section that will answer of your many common questions about the legalities of egg donation and third party reproduction.
PVED has reached out to John Weltman -- well known attorney, LGBT expert and advocate as well as president and founder of Circle Surrogacy to partner with PVED in creating a list of resources and information for the LBGT community concerning all things revolving around egg donation and surrogacy.
We've also included a comprehensive book and reading list, explanations of acronyms and abbreviations and many other helpful links that will enhance your knowledge and help you to feel more informed.
Taking the First StepThe first challenge for LGBT couples and individuals is making the decision to have a family. In addition to the questions that any parent faces when deciding to start a family, being a parent who identifies as LGBT can come with the extra weight of the potential social stigma that many fear exists, or that may actually exist in their community, both for the parents and their children.
One gay parent’s advice is to tell a story:
“The best book I ever bought for my kids was one I bought by mistake. I thought I was buying a book called What Daddies Do Best. When my son opened it, it said What Mommies Do Best. I figured I had just picked up a book from the wrong pile. But it turned out the book told the story of what mommies do best when you read it in one direction, and when you flipped it over, it told the story of what daddies do best. Not surprisingly, though the pictures were different, the words were the same and the message was the same. There is nothing Mommies can do (other than deliver or breast feed, which most moms going through surrogacy can’t do anyway) that Daddies can’t do and vice versa.”
“There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. These data have demonstrated no risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families”
It is crucial that LGBT parents become comfortable accepting their own sexuality so their children don’t feel uncomfortable with who they are or how they came into the world. Surrogacy and parenting agencies often screen intended parents before accepting them into their programs to make sure they are ready to step into the world of parenting with openness and honesty.
Kids will accept their parents being two dads or two moms (or one dad or one mom) from the outset. It’s their world. So they accept their parents’ sexuality when their parents accept it.
This means that gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t have kids if they feel that the kids will need to hide how they came into the world or that they have two parents of the same sex. It is a parent’s job to make kids feel good about themselves.
One of the most important things that gay parents and their children can learn is what April Martin, author of the Lesbian and Gay Parenting Handbook, calls the “stupid lesson.” All kids (and especially those who have gay parents) will learn that there are some stupid people in the world—people who believe LGBT parenting is wrong, who don’t think marriage equality is right, who assume that if your parents are gay, you must be too.
Giving in to people’s prejudices by seeking to hide a kids’ parents or how they came into the world will only make kids feel bad about themselves, and think that they have something to hide.
Gay parents have to be stronger than the society around them, if not just for themselves, then for the sake of their kids.
One of the best pieces of advice is to build a support network of parents, siblings, friends, and coworkers before you move forward. With the love and support of their family and friends, children of gay parents can overcome any challenge.
Another challenge, especially for gay men in their late forties and fifties, is overcoming the assumption that by accepting their homosexuality, they weren’t going to have children. This is a false assumption that may also exist among younger gay men and women in countries where gay parenting is still uncommon. They fear that the portion of society that opposes gay parenting will be too difficult for them to stand up to, and they therefore fear it will also be too difficult for their kids to face.
But LGBT people need to realize that society’s perceptions can change. One gay couple that was among the first in the United Kingdom to have kids through surrogacy experienced negative scrutiny from their heterosexual neighbors when they first moved into their neighborhood many years ago. The only positive thing the older lady next door could say was at least they would ‘spruce up’ the neighborhood. When she learned about their plans to have kids, she was appalled.
That was then. Now they have two kids and a next door neighbor who still has problems with gay people having children but says that these guys are different. That was the first step they took toward changing the world. It’s happens one person—one neighbor, one friend, one family member—at a time. But only by getting rid of your own fear can you begin to eliminate the world’s prejudice.
There is a lot of anxiety among gay parents who wish to start a family in a state or country that is not accepting of homosexuality or gay parenting.
Parenting agencies should help intended parents to think long term. This means thinking about what will happen if the parents divorce or one or both of them dies; how will the agency protect both parents’ original intention to parent? What happens to the kids and who is their guardian? A child of LGBT parents will only have a biological connection to one of his or her parents, so taking the necessary legal steps to ensure both parents are protected is critical before they begin a parenthood journey.
The first issue to address is to make sure the non-biological parent’s legal relationship with the child can be secured as much as is permitted by the home state or country of the intended parent(s).
Sometimes this is very straightforward. In states and countries where surrogacy and gay parenting is permitted, it can be possible either to do a pre-birth order in the state where the surrogate delivers and put both parents’ names on the birth certificate pre-birth and secure their rights. Other states or countries require a post-birth adoption or parental order either in the home state or country or in the state where the surrogate delivers. This will also permanently establish the second parent’s rights to the child.
Where it is possible, it is advisable to obtain a second-parent adoption for the non-biological parent. Even when it is possible to obtain a pre-birth order or a post-birth order, parents should know that not all states recognize parentage conferred in this way. Adoptions, by contrast, are nationwide. The Tenth Circuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that adoptions performed in other states must be given “full faith and credit” elsewhere. The law is still developing on this issue. A Fifth Circuit case ruled in the opposite way. But what is clear is that second-parent adoptions offer a further degree of protection than pre- and post-birth orders.
In some cases however, second-parent adoptions are close to impossible. At the time of this writing, France appeared to be on the verge of granting marriage and parenting rights for gay couples. But in the past, there has been no legal recognition for children born through surrogacy or children of French gay parents. The best advice from French lawyers for a male same-sex couple was for gay intended parents to return home with the gestational carrier listed as the mother with the biological father on the birth certificate. While a custody order would be entered giving all rights to the biological father, there was no establishment of rights for the second parent.
How can same-sex couples work around this barriers? One alternative is simply to trust one’s partner. This works fine unless the couple separates, in which case the biological parent has all rights to the child and can keep the non-biological parent from having any contact with the child.
A second alternative is to create a co-parenting agreement. In a state or country where gay parenting is not permitted, it is not likely that a court would uphold such an agreement. But at least it will set a framework for the couple to follow and hopefully thereby avoid troubles in the future.
Wills and Estate Planning
Another issue is to try to make sure that guardianship of the children is provided for in the event of the death of one or both parents. While the wishes of the parents are usually upheld in the United States, it may have little impact abroad, where the well-being of the children becomes the most important issue. Most U.S. courts should accept this for purposes of establishing legal rights of the living parent or identified guardian to the child. However, international courts may not be so willing to accept the wishes of the intended parents. Still it cannot hurt to set forth the intention of the parties to try to protect the sacred relationship between intended parent and child.
In a state or country where same-sex marriage is not allowed, it becomes even more important for a gay couple to outline their intentions in wills with the help of a local estate planning attorney, preferably one who has experience with LGBT families.
Finding Surrogates and Donors Who Are Gay-Friendly
While this may have been a concern in the past, it has become easier to find surrogates and donors who are open to helping a same-sex couple or a gay or lesbian individual to start a family. It is natural for a same-sex couple to wonder whether a surrogate and/or her husband or partner may not be accepting. It is critical that the couple meet the surrogate and her family so they can recognize the sincerity of the surrogate’s wish to help them start a family.
There are surrogates who only wish to work with heterosexual couples so it’s important for surrogacy agencies to discuss these issues with surrogates and to propose matches that align with both parties’ desires to prevent any kind of uncomfortable situation. Truthfully, there are many surrogates who would rather work with a gay couple or individual than with a heterosexual couple. Perhaps they have a gay relative and have always wished someone would help that person. Or they may feel they can change the world even more powerfully by helping a same-sex couple than by helping an infertile heterosexual couple.
Gay couples come to surrogacy and egg donation from a different place than heterosexual couples who are struggling with infertility. It is natural for a heterosexual couple that has been through years of infertility to want to control as many aspects of the surrogacy journey as possible and to struggle with trusting another person who is helping them. Sometimes, this can make the relationship with the surrogate challenging. While helping an infertile heterosexual couple and helping a gay couple who cannot have children are equally rewarding, some surrogate may choose to work with a gay couple because they prefer the dynamic of the relationship.
Parenting for HIV+ Individuals
For those prospective parents who have been diagnosed with HIV, becoming a parent may seem even more difficult. Luckily, advances in assisted reproductive technology have allowed HIV+ intended parents to be able to build their families. The Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program allows for safe IVF procedures through a combination of PCR HIV Semen Testing and Sperm Washing to screen and prepare semen specimens.
The SPAR program can be accomplished by working with the Bedford Foundation Research Clinical Laboratory. Under the direction of Dr. Ann Kiessling, over 120 HIV+ individuals and couples have had healthy babies.
SPAR recognizes that the virus is carried less in semen than in blood and most HIV positive men with no viral load can produce 2 out of three semen samples, which after analysis with the SPAR assay, can be determined to be HIV free. Then the semen is washed from the sample and ICSI (intra cytoplasmic sperm injection) performed to inject the sperm into the egg to further protect against any possibility of HIV transmission. Finally, the three to five days that the embryos develop before being implanted into the carrier have completely protected all recipients and children from getting HIV.
The process will be fully explained to the carrier in every instance by Dr. Kiessling. If the intended parents agree, it may also be explained to the egg donor.
Unlike in most foreign countries, health insurance in the United States is almost entirely privatized. Insurance policies are governed by contracts written by the insurance companies, who have the right to exclude anything from coverage, so long as they spell it out clearly. On many occasions, insurance companies write exclusions into agreements that expressly exclude surrogacy from maternity coverage. In other instances, surrogacy is not excluded and so maternity coverage would exist for a woman acting as a surrogate.
Where maternity coverage does not exist through a surrogate’s own insurance policy, intended parents can purchase policies that cover surrogate maternity medical expenses. In some instances and in some states, individual insurance policies can be obtained through health insurance companies that offer maternity coverage and don’t exclude surrogacy. In all other instances, surrogate maternity coverage can be obtained through insurance plans backed by Lloyds of London.
With regard to coverage for children born through surrogacy, domestic gay people who are pursuing surrogacy have an advantage over international gay people: all intended parents residing in the United States have the capacity to obtain US-based health insurance that lets them add their children born via a surrogacy to their insurance policy for coverage from the moment of birth. Most international clients have health care coverage from their own countries, which usually will not cover the newborn costs of children while they are in the United States.
International intended parents have several options available to them when it comes to newborn costs. If they are having just one child, they may choose a Lloyds of London insurance plan for newborn coverage for a singleton. However these plans can be very expensive and intended parents should seek advice and consider the standard costs of singleton care before purchasing it.
Another option is to seek insurance coverage through the surrogate’s insurance plan. In certain states, laws exist requiring all children born in that state to be covered by insurance. Finding a surrogate from that state with an appropriate insurance may provide coverage for one or more children.
Another option exists if one of the parents is an ex-patriot living abroad, in which case a policy can be purchased for the children.
Finally, if one of the parents works for an international company that allows him to purchase global insurance, it may be possible to cover newborn costs through this policy.
There are some surrogacy agencies that are willing to review a surrogate’s policy and opine on whether it may cover the children as well as the surrogates. As the cost of childcare for twins in the United States can prove to be the most expensive part of the process, it is critical for international intended parents to address this issue before moving forward.
Books for Parents and Children on LGBT Parenting and Surrogacy:
and King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland
• Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman
• The Kangaroo Pouch: A Story About Gestational Surrogacy For Young Children by Sarah Phillips Pellet and Laurie A. Faust
• Why I'm So Special: A Book About Surrogacy by Carla Lewis-Long
• One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine and Melody Sarecky
• Oh The Things Mommies Do!: What Could Be Better Than Having Two? by Crystal Tompkins
• What Mommies Do Best/Daddies Do Best by Laura Numeroff and Lynn Munsinger
• The Complete Lesbian and Gay Parenting Guide by Arlene Istar Lev
• Gay Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood by David Strah and Susanna Margolis
• Gay Parenting: Complete Guide for Same-Sex Families by Shana Priwer and Cynthia Phillips
The resources below provide information on gay parenting from support organizations, blogs and websites. There are plenty of organizations that support couples and single parents once you have a family but the references below are designed to help intended parents with the beginning of the process.
LGBT Community and Health Centers
LGBT Centers are a great resource for gay couples and individuals who are interested in family building options. Many offer seminars and conferences periodically and bring in representatives from fertility clinics, sperm banks, surrogacy agencies, and egg donation agencies who share their expertise.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center – New York – New York’s LGBT Community Center, in the heart of Greenwich Village, is one of the more established centers and has an active Center Families program. They provide educational and wellness services for the gay community, including information on alternative reproductive services such as surrogacy, egg and sperm donation options. www.gaycenter.org
The AFA (American Fertility Association) http://www.theafa.org/
The American Fertility Association (The AFA) is a leader in providing men and women, health care professionals, public officials and the media, both nationally and internationally, with information about infertility treatments, reproductive and sexual health and family building options including adoption and third-party solutions. The AFA, a national not-for-profit organization, is headquartered in New York City.
ASRM - American Society for Reproductive Medicine. ASRM’s information is geared more at medical professionals in the assisted reproductive medicine field, but can give background about some of the developments in medical technology.
ADFH – Association des Families Homoparentales, France. www.afdh.net. France’s LGBT family association.
Human Rights Campaign. The nation’s largest and most prominent LGBT non-profit offers basic LGBT parenting and surrogacy information.
Family Equality Council—the Boston-based nonprofit sponsors research, campaigns and lobbies on behalf of LGBT families, and organizes events for LGBT families to meet each other.
Many agencies as well can provide parents with the identity of gay parents who have been through their program, or gay friendly attorneys, who can provide advice to gay couples about how to proceed.
Author: John Weltman, president and founder of Circle Surrogacy. One of the nation’s oldest full service surrogate parenting agencies, Circle has helped provide surrogacy for gay couples and individuals since 1995. With his husband Cliff, John has two sons born through surrogacy.