Articles Posted in Assisted Reproductive Law

Spain
Last month, the Supreme Court of Spain issued a landmark ruling that recognizes the right to paid maternity leave for parents of children born through surrogacy. Although gestational surrogacy is illegal in Spain, the Court held that the need to take care of children outweighs any legal barriers set forth by Spain’s surrogacy ban. The decision also extends various rights to mothers of children born through surrogacy, such as a reduced workday for nursing mothers and the right to take one year of unpaid leave after the maternity leave. Spaniards who seek to build their family through surrogacy must go abroad, and two such scenarios, one involving a surrogacy arrangement in the United States and the other in India, set this case in motion.  In October, Spain’s congress also voted to equalize paternity and maternity leave, awarding fathers the same sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave that mothers receive.

The decision comes at a time when the issue of maternity benefits is in the spotlight in the United States.  A New Jersey woman is suing her former employer, Verizon Network Solutions, for denying her paid maternity leave when she had children through surrogacy in 2013. Various arguments exist for both sides of the issue. For example, some posit that since mothers of children born to a gestational surrogate did not give birth, they do not need time to recover physically. This argument is often used to justify the denial of extended paternity leave for fathers. On the other hand, proponents of maternity benefits for mothers of children born through surrogacy contend that a new mom needs time to bond with the baby, especially when she did not carry the child.

Although the Verizon lawsuit is one of the first of its kind (there was a federal lawsuit to claim benefits for paid leave by a woman who had children through surrogacy in 2011, but the case was ultimately dismissed), this issue is likely to become more prevalent as gestational surrogacy continues to grow as a family-building option. Stay tuned to our blog for more discussions on emerging reproductive law issues.

Phone App
The London Sperm Bank just launched the United Kingdom’s first sperm donor app, nicknamed by news outlets as the “Tinder for Sperm Donors.”  Individuals can use the app to search for sperm donors and order sperm on their phones. The free app , considered the first of its kind, displays donor profiles that describe physical characteristics, medical history, the sperm bank’s staff impressions, and other information (check out this Cosmopolitan article for some examples). Users can set preferences for characteristics such as eye color, hair color, education, and personality, and receive an alert when a donor matching their criteria is available. In contrast to dating apps like Tinder, donor profiles are anonymous and do not contain photos. Donors are vetted by the London Sperm Bank and pay a fee to be listed on the app.

The app has been approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (“HFEA”); the UK’s regulating entity that oversees IVF research, clinics, and procedures. However, the app has also generated some ethical debate. A representative of the Comment on Reproductive Ethics group stated that the app constitutes “trivialisation of parenthood,” equating it to “reproduction via mobile phone.” Meanwhile, the London Sperm Bank issued a statement assuring that “Ordering sperm from an online catalogue or an app does not trivialise treatment, and every step meets the requirements of the HFEA.” Additionally, the scientific director of the London Sperm bank stated “you make all the transactions online, like you do anything else these days. This allows a woman who wants to get a sperm donor to gain control in the privacy of her own home and to choose and decide in her own time.”

We are curious to see the impact of the app and whether other sperm banks follow suit. Has this app revolutionized gamete donation as we know it? Only time will tell. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates on the app as it gains traction among individuals seeking sperm donors.

8-10-09-193-thumb-667x1000-60849As gestational surrogacy continues to increase in the United States, so do opportunities to observe its trends and outcomes. Many states presently permit gestational surrogacy, although the laws vary by state and are rapidly evolving. Researchers from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility compiled information regarding the below trends arising from the continued practice of gestational surrogacy in the United States:

  • In the past 15 years, the number of gestational carrier cycles has grown by more than 470%.
  • Almost 70% of fertility clinics throughout the country now offer gestational surrogacy.

IVFThe American Society of Reproductive Medicine (“ASRM”) recently issued an Ethics Committee opinion regarding the appropriate terminology for the donation of embryos. The opinion is consistent with the modern sentiment that “embryo donation” is the proper term, rather than “embryo adoption”. The Ethics Committee asserts that using the term “embryo adoption” is inaccurate and misleading, as it “reinforces a conceptualization of the embryo as a fully entitled legal being and may lead to a series of legal proceedings associated with the adoption of born children.”Although the legal status of embryos varies by state, the ASRM affords embryos a “special significance compared with gametes because of their potential to become persons,” but does not consider embryos persons. The committee contrasts embryos with children in an adoption, which relates to the establishment of parentage in “existing children.”

The Committee reasons that conferring embryos the same status as an “existing child” is harmful and can impose unnecessary burdens on embryo recipients. For example, adoption elements such as home studies and judicial proceedings are “appropriately absent” from embryo donation, which is first and foremost a medical process. Additionally, for the last fifteen years, the Committee has taken the position that embryo donation more closely resembles human reproduction than it does adoption. The Committee perceives embryo donation as a “fundamentally medical procedure intended to result in a pregnancy,” thus warranting its distinction from adoption.

Although embryo donation is a medical procedure, it involves legal elements as well. For example, an embryo donation agreement is highly recommended and encouraged. Therefore, it’s imperative that Intended Parents consult with an experienced reproductive law attorney before embarking on this journey.

Constitutional
A California woman, Melissa Cook, who agreed to act as a surrogate for a single man, is seeking custody of one of the children after giving birth to triplets. The intended father allegedly requested a reduction, as he only wanted twins. Cook is challenging the constitutionality of a clause in the contract that allegedly allowed the intended father to request a reduction.

Californian law currently permits commercial surrogacy, but Cook is aiming to change that, hoping that the court will deem both the contract and the law unconstitutional. Cook’s lawyer claims that children born through a surrogacy arrangement have a “fundamental right to get to know and love their mother,” and that the current law in California violates that right.

After a state court ruled against her, Cook appealed and is now waiting for a decision. The court will determine whether a surrogate mother has any parental rights and whether commercial surrogacy is constitutional. The court will also consider whether a surrogate may be sued for damages by an intended parent.

Donor eggs.jpeg
Denmark’s parliament has decided to nearly triple the pay that women who donate eggs may receive. There has been a shortage in available donor eggs, which has led some women to go abroad in search of egg donors, where the cost is far greater. This decision is expected to increase the number of donor eggs, which will make it easier for Danish citizens to have children.

The parliament’s decision seems to follow a trend of easing restrictions on egg donation. As in Kamakahi v. ASRM et al., where limits on compensation to egg donors were struck down, Denmark’s parliament chose to change an overly restrictive limit on compensation. In Kamakahi, the overturned guidelines stated that payments exceeding $10,000 were “not appropriate.”

Earlier this year, the parties in Kamakahi reached a settlement after four years of litigation. The terms of the settlement include the removal of the language stating that “[t]otal payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate. “The ASRM has also agreed not to make any future dollar amount recommendations for donor compensation. Although the settlement did not result in a monetary award for the class members, they are permitted to file an individual lawsuit to recover damages.

when-the-bough-breaks.jpgLast week, one of our staff members went to the movies and saw a trailer for a film called “When the Bough Breaks.” The movie features a married young professional couple unable to conceive naturally, so they decide to pursue surrogacy. They match with a seemingly perfect surrogate and she becomes pregnant with their child. As her pregnancy progresses, she develops an obsession with the intended father, and attempts to seduce him. When he dismisses her advances, she becomes psychotic and threatens to hurt the baby. According to the official synopsis, “the couple becomes caught up in [the surrogate’s] deadly game and must fight to regain control of their future before it’s too late.” Sony Pictures Entertainment is marketing the film as a thriller, using the tagline “Find out how #ItAllWentWrong.” Our staff member was not only appalled by the entire plotline, but also by disturbing scenes such as one where the surrogate dangles a knife over her belly after the intended father rebuffs her advances.

While such plots make for juicy storylines that may attract moviegoers, these depictions of surrogacy are inaccurate and misleading. Surrogacy is normally an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the intended parents and the gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogates are scrupulously screened by agencies. Many fertility clinics require that the intended parents and the surrogate complete a mental health evaluation prior to starting the surrogate’s medications. The parties must usually stipulate in their surrogacy agreement that they have undergone mental health evaluations and that they have discussed the potential psychological risks with a mental health professional. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong, it hardly resembles the plot in “When the Bough Breaks.” More realistic issues that may arise can include disagreements during the contract negotiation phase, pregnancy complications requiring bed rest, or insurance-related uncertainties. Agencies, clinics, physicians, attorneys, social workers, and other professionals work tirelessly to ensure that gestational surrogacy arrangements are based on the underlying principle of good faith. While the emergence of problems in a surrogacy is not inconceivable, the level depicted in “When the Bough Breaks” is extreme and sensationalized.

To those who enjoy thrillers and plan to “find out how #ItAllWentWrong” when the film hits theaters in September, we encourage you to keep in mind that this movie does not accurately represent surrogacy. For an excellent and thought-provoking read on another recent misrepresentation of surrogacy, this time on television, check out this blog post by attorney Rich Vaughn from the International Fertility Law Group.

embryo.jpgLast summer, we blogged about Kamakahi v. ASRM et al., the egg donor price-fixing class action lawsuit. Two former egg donors initiated the federal claim in 2011. The lawsuit alleged that price guidelines followed by fertility clinics violated antitrust laws by limiting the amount of compensation women can receive for their eggs. The guidelines stated that in regard to compensation for egg donors, justification is required for sums of $5,000 or more, and total payments exceeding $10,000 are “not appropriate.” The plaintiffs further contended that by agreeing to the guidelines created by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (“ASRM”) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (“SART”), the fertility industry conspired to restrain trade and fix prices.

Earlier this year, the parties reached a settlement after four years of litigation.The terms of the settlement include the removal of the language stating that “[t]otal payments to donors in excess of $5,000 require justification and sums above $10,000 are not appropriate.”The ASRM has also agreed not to make any future dollar amount recommendations for donor compensation. Although the settlement did not result in a monetary award for the class members, they are permitted to file an individual lawsuit to recover damages. The ASRM will also provide $5,000 to each of the four named plaintiffs (Lindsay Kamakahi, Chelsea Kimmel, Justine Levy, and Kristin Wells).

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy, and other areas of reproductive law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

Infertility.jpgOne in eight couples experiences infertility in the United States. While infertility awareness is growing, people facing infertility may encounter insensitive and hurtful comments (though not always intentional). A brief refresher on infertility etiquette is a helpful way to minimize these uncomfortable experiences. Read on for some Dos and Don’ts when talking to friends and loved ones experiencing infertility.


Do

Listen. Show them that you care by listening to them if they choose to open up about their infertility struggle. Lend an ear and remain attentive as they share their experience with you.

Gavel and Earth2.jpgOnce the gestational surrogacy agreement is executed, the legal work is not always complete. Depending on the state, Intended Parents may need to establish their legal parentage in the courts. Intended Parents pursuing this route file pleadings with the court and then obtain a court order declaring their parentage (assuming the court grants their petition). The terms “pre-birth order” or “post-birth order” may come to mind here, and Intended Parents should consult with an attorney to determine what the state’s laws permit as well as what type of court order they should seek. This begs the question of where the Intended Parents should file for parentage.

Intended Parents should file for parentage in the state where the child is born. They must complete all of their court pleadings and any other necessary legal documents in accordance with the laws of that state. This is especially important to note for Intended Parents who live in a different state than the Gestational Surrogate. It’s imperative that Intended Parents consult with an experienced reproductive law attorney who is familiar with that state’s surrogacy laws to assist them with filing for parentage. Remember that surrogacy laws vary among the states, and each state may have different procedures to establish legal parentage.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.