How will Obamacare affect surrogacy?

Yesterday, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. While this means that millions of Americans will now have access to insurance, what does this mean to individuals and couples looking to create a family through surrogacy? More specifically, what does it mean for the surrogates who are willing to carry children for those individuals and couples?

On the surface, it may mean that all women will now be covered and maybe that, in turn, will mean more insured surrogates without surrogacy exclusions.  It may also mean that, as a result of requiring coverage for everyone, that the relatively new section of Obamacare requiring all children born in the United States to be covered will now force insurance companies to remove their 15 to 60 day windows in most states before providing newborn coverage. The state where the surrogate resides may also be important in making such a determination. Some states like Massachusetts already have insurance companies that provide coverage for newborns as well as surrogates. This is a huge benefit for couples and singles seeking to create a family through surrogacy.

One possible drawback to the new Supreme Court sanctioned law is that it will have insurance companies more nervous which could prompt them to look for ways around their new obligations, meaning more exclusions.  So, while the new law may lead to more people being covered by insurance, complete insurance policies, and not booklets or brochures, will need to be reviewed by lawyers experienced in reviewing insurance policies before they can be used for maternity or newborn coverage.

 

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Ask NJ Governor Christie to Support Surrogacy Bill

New Jersey is on the verge of making significant changes to surrogacy. As we noted in an earlier blog post, state lawmakers approved a bill that would regulate gestational surrogacy. It would clarify the process in a state that, since the days of Baby M, has not been the most favorable for surrogacy. It would allow intended parents who choose surrogacy to be named as the legal parents of their children immediately upon birth. It would protect surrogates, intended parents, and all of those involved in gestational surrogacy by establishing requirements that safeguard the process.

The bill has passed both houses of the New Jersey Legislature and now sits on the Governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.

Circle Surrogacy and our colleagues in the assisted reproductive field are asking parents, intended parents, surrogates—all those who have been involved in the surrogacy process and seen how it helps build families for deserving couples and individuals—to contact New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and ask him to sign the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act.

You can reach Governor Christie by email here.

The surrogacy community is passing around the following suggested email template to express support for the bill to the New Jersey Governor:

Dear Governor Christie,

As a resident of _______________ and (a parent through gestational surrogacy)(a gestational carrier)(an assisted reproduction medical professional)(an assisted reproduction mental health professional)(assisted reproduction attorney), I urge you to sign into law The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act (S1599, A2646).

Gestational surrogacy IS ALREADY LEGAL in New Jersey, The opposition to the Act seems to think and argue that the Act legalizes gestational surrogacy – they are wrong. It only regulates it to protect the interests of all involved, particularly the children, and specifically does not permit compensation or profit, only expenses, the same as the adoption statute. By establishing gestational surrogacy guidelines, the New Jersey Legislature has seized the opportunity to provide safeguards for the parties in this increasingly popular and accepted route to creating families.

Your signing The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act into law would support families and children, and could be a national model for ethical family formation practices.

Sincerely,

__________________

Surrogacy: Where it is allowed for some, it should be allowed for all.

Surrogacy is thing of beauty. It builds families, forms friendships, and strengthens relationships. It connects people. It turns the impossible into the possible. It allows same-sex couples, single individuals, and those struggling with infertility to get pregnant with a little help from a friend. In short: surrogacy makes family into a reality for those for whom it was merely a dream.

And it has nothing to do with selling babies. Those who draw such comparisons speak out of ignorance. Rather than educate themselves on the benefits of surrogacy, they prefer to disrespect both the women who offer the gift of family and the intended parents who want to become just plain parents.

Last week, legislators in Queensland, Australia announced plans to peel back its law on surrogacy. The state’s Surrogacy Act of 2010 already limits residents to altruistic surrogacy, severely restricting it as an option for most people. It also prohibits Queenslanders from pursuing compensated surrogacy in places, like most U.S. states, where it is allowed.

But members of the state’s Liberal National Party are now seeking to limit surrogacy further by removing it as an option for same-sex couples and single individuals.

Restricting parenting options for specific members of society is a massive leap backwards for civil rights. Hillary Clinton had it right:

Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.

Same-sex couples and individuals should not be discriminated against. They should have the right to hear the words Daddy or Papa or Mama or Ma. They should be able to witness their son’s first steps and teach their daughter to ride a bike. And if a selfless, powerful woman decides to help them get there, it shouldn’t matter what their loving family looks like. Where surrogacy is allowed for some, it should be allowed for all.

Over the last few decades, advances in assisted reproductive technology have contributed to the growth of surrogacy. Laws and policy have been shaped in a variety of ways. In many places, they still lack form. In others, courts, legislatures, parliaments, agencies, or officials have weighed in.

Some have allowed surrogacy. Others have banned or, in Queensland’s case, limited it. Even several U.S. states prohibit or restrict entering into surrogacy agreements. Governments should catch up and recognize surrogacy for what it is truly meant to do – not commercialize life but instead revere it.

The Journey of a Lifetime

My heart was pounding.  My palms were sweating.  I had one thing and one thing only going through my mind.  Please stick, babies.

Stick.

Stick.

Stick.

Just a few moments prior, the doctor had carefully placed two embryos into my uterus.  Babies.  Yes, I know that technically at that point, they aren’t referred to as babies, but in my mind, in my heart, my uterus was now home to two babies who would hopefully snuggle in for the next nine months.  At that very moment, I considered myself pregnant.  I think the babies’ daddies felt the same way, as on our way out of the clinic one of them announced in the hallway, “Pregnant lady comin’ through!”

The next day I found myself back at home in Denver, greeting my husband and two little girls who were very happy to see me, but perhaps even more excited to investigate my belly region to see if they could tell that I was pregnant.  While I was gone, my wonderful family had put together a lovely care package for me to enjoy while I was taking it easy the first few days back home.  My care package included a few magazines, some chocolate, an aromatherapy candle, ahem…chocolate, a back massager, and uh, did I mention chocolate?  I was also armed with an arsenal of pregnancy tests.  Pregnancy tests which came in very handy just two days later when I caved and tested late at night.  I thought I was pregnant.  I certainly felt pregnant.  The tests confirmed it – pregnant!

What an incredible gift to be able to share with your IP’s the news that they are pregnant.  It is quite an honor to be part of such a joyful and momentous occasion!  Shortly after learning they were expecting, Daddies made travel plans to come visit our family and be present for the seven-week ultrasound.

It took all of a few seconds for the ultrasound technician to confirm that there were indeed two babies snuggled up in my uterus.  The moment we all saw those two sacs was incredible, emotional and memorable.  Two little babies with two beautiful heartbeats!  The sound of those heartbeats was music to all of our ears. Many tears of joy were shed that day.

As we settled into the pregnancy, things continued to go extremely smoothly.  As the babies grew, so did my relationship with the guys.  I really enjoyed being able to share all of the small moments with the guys including the cravings that I was having.  Fruit is generally too sour for my taste, so imagine my surprise when I learned that fruit was what these babies were requesting!  Pineapple, watermelon and red grapes seemed to be their fruit of choice.  I can also distinctly remember one evening when nothing at all sounded good…except kettle corn.  I don’t care for popcorn (at all), but after texting the guys to tell them about this odd craving, I learned exactly who this kettle corn craving was coming from.

We also shared the bigger moments of pregnancy.  The guys were back here in Denver visiting when we had our 20-week ultrasound.  It was there we learned that these beautiful babies we had all fallen in love with were a boy and a girl!  Jackpot!  It was thrilling for me to have the guys see my belly in person, to be able to get their hands on their babies and for the babies to be able to hear their daddies’ voices while they were still in utero.

Days and weeks passed and our pregnancy continued to move right along just as it should.  As you can imagine, my belly began to produce many stares and comments from strangers.  Picture this:  At the grocery store one fine day, I notice that the lovely woman who is also searching for the perfectly ripe cantaloupe, is scoping out my belly out of the corner of her eye.  I smile cheerfully.

*Eyes wide  “You must be ready to deliver any day now!”

“Nope, we’ve still got many weeks before these babies will be ready to officially meet their Daddies.

*Insert puzzled look from lovely woman.  “Huh?

Sharing our surrogacy story with others became something I lived for.  I had many interesting conversations, and developed quite a few strategies for delivering the news that I was proudly growing babies for another family.

Before we knew it, we had reached our 35th week of pregnancy.  Our doctors had told us that once we reached the 35th week, they would no longer attempt to stop labor, should it occur.  And occur it did, just two days after we reached week 35 and three days before the guys planned to be in Denver.  My water had officially broken.  The guys were officially still in New York.  I was officially in panic mode.  Thanks to my lazy body, which does not seem to labor without a little help from an IV, the guys were able to book a flight and make it here to Denver in time for us to labor and deliver those babies together.  We did it together.  The guys were there to support me through the entire process, but more importantly, they were there to greet their little ones as they each took their very first breath.  The birth of a child is a miraculous thing.  To deliver children for these two men who had long ago taken up a large space in my heart was an absolute honor.  It was truly a life changing moment.  To see this family, that I helped to create…well, it just doesn’t get any better than that for me.

Many months ago, I lay on the transfer table willing two babies to stick-stick-stick.  If only I had known back then that not only would they both stick in my uterus, they would also burrow deep into my heart…then, now and forevermore.


Jeni Denhof is an ordinary girl who knew she could do a not so ordinary thing – carry babies for another family.  Through the course of her journey, Jeni developed an extraordinary passion.  For surrogacy…and writing.  Her blog www.lovemakesafamily2011.blogspot.com has become a way to share her story, her passion and her life with all who care to follow along.  Jeni lives in Colorado with her husband and two beautiful daughters.  

New Jersey Bill Allows Gestational Carrier Agreements

New Jersey lawmakers have taken steps to reverse a history of less-than-favorable surrogacy policy in that state. Yesterday, the assembly passed a bill that would make gestational carrier agreements legal. Since the senate gave its approval on May 31, the bill now goes before Governor Chris Christie.

If signed into law, the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act will allow intended parents to be named as the legal parents of children born through surrogacy “immediately upon the birth of the child.”

The move toward authorizing gestational carrier agreements in New Jersey parallels the history of gestational surrogacy and its regulation. As assisted reproductive technology has advanced, parenthood opportunities have expanded for couples who are experiencing infertility and members of the LGBT community. While the legal landscape has often not kept pace with medical developments, legislation like the current New Jersey bill recognizes the reality of the growing world of gestational surrogacy.

The most notable surrogacy ruling in New Jersey, if not the nation, was its famous Baby M decision in 1988, declaring that surrogacy contracts were invalid and against public policy. In that case, a woman who conceived and delivered a child as a traditional surrogate sought to keep the child. While custody was ultimately granted to the child’s biological father, the ruling set an unfavorable precedent for surrogacy in that state.

Since the time of Baby M, traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate who carries the child to term is also the child’s biological mother, is no longer a common arrangement. Most agencies, including Circle Surrogacy, only allow gestational surrogacy—in which the surrogate has no biological relation to the child she carries. Advances in medical technology and in vitro fertilization techniques allow intended parents to create embryos using their own eggs or eggs from an egg donor.

The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act establishes the guidelines by which gestational surrogacy would be permitted in that state including: the requirements of legal representation, medical and psychological screening; and the procedure by which a parentage order would be requested prior to the birth of the child so that the intended parents would be considered the legal parents of the child from birth and would be named on the original birth certificate.

We’re pleased that New Jersey lawmakers have take a step toward recognizing gestational carrier agreements, and look forward to be able to work with gestational surrogates in the near future.

Teamwork Makes the Surrogacy Dream Work: The Men and Women Who Support Us

A successful surrogacy is a team effort. It means the cooperation of surrogates, egg donors, intended parents, doctors, nurses, social workers, attorneys, and coordinators. Focusing on openness, honesty, and communication can help make a good journey great.

But we don’t often recognize the role of support people in ensuring everything goes smoothly. Spouses, partners, family members, and friends who stand beside surrogates and egg donors are an important part of the team. They care for children, serve as companions for medical appointments and transfers, help around the house, and even assist with medications.

This Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day by thanking the men who have helped make us who we are. We congratulate all of our new fathers and look forwarding to celebrating with our intended fathers.

We also recognize the many fathers who are doing their part to help others become Moms and Dads through surrogacy. This month, Redbook magazine highlights the role of an exceptional husband and father who helped his wife pursue her dream of helping others through Circle Surrogacy. Jeremy and Dawn Wallace provide an example of how well surrogacy can work when everyone is helping out.

So what makes an exceptional support person? We asked Katelyn Cashman, Circle’s Manager of Surrogate Screening and Support, for her input and found that these men and women shared a number of qualities:

Awareness about surrogacy. Great surrogate candidates have spent considerable time researching the process of surrogacy. And a great support person has an understanding of what the process means as well.

Open conversations. On a related note, support people need to be communicating with the surrogates about what surrogacy will look like for their family.

Desire to participate. When both a surrogate and her husband, partner, or spouse click with intended parents, a vibrant relationship can grow. “We’re not just matching surrogates. Really, we’re matching families.” Support people often travel with surrogates to medical appointments and transfers.

Willingness to help out. Support people can help with the emotional journey of surrogacy, but also with childcare and helping around the house.

Circle thanks all of our stellar support people for their help making surrogacy work. We wish a Happy Father’s Day to all of our new fathers, intended fathers, and to the men who are doing their part to make the miracle of surrogacy happen for others.

A Time for Celebrating All Families with Pride

Around the corner from our office in Boston, a rainbow flag was raised on Friday, marking the start of Boston Pride and the first day of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month across the nation. Pride celebrations have been held here in Boston and across the globe for over forty years. In 2012, there is a lot to celebrate.

The year has already seen advances for the LGBT community, for same-sex couples, for families of gay and lesbian parents, and for those considering parenthood through surrogacy or adoption. Last week, a federal appeals court a mile away from City Hall Plaza, where the rainbow flag now flies, struck a blow against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—the federal law that limits the government’s view of marriage to unions between one man and one woman.

“Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest,” states the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The appeals court stayed its decision, leaving the law intact for the time being and paving the way for a likely resolution by the Supreme Court.

The court’s decision, however, reflects the reality that DOMA hurts families headed by same-sex couples, including those who choose gestational surrogacy as their path to parenthood.  The law denies thousands of federal marriage benefits to those married in states like Massachusetts, New York and a handful of other states where same-sex marriages are permitted. But the recent court decision affirmed an earlier ruling which strikes down a portion of the law. Meanwhile, among the American public, support for marriage equality is at an all-time high following President Obama’s endorsement on May 9.

President Obama’s announcement, the recent appeals court decision striking, and the growing support for marriage equality are important developments for many of Circle’s parents and intended parents in committed and loving relationships with members of the same sex. While none of these events address gestational surrogacy directly, they represent steps toward equality for families of all backgrounds and make-ups, whether they are headed by moms or dads or mom and dad.

Pride is a time for celebrating diversity, for educating others, and, since its inception in the Stonewall uprising of 1969, for taking pride in how far the LGBT community has come while reflecting on how far is left to go. Circle Surrogacy celebrates national LGBT Pride Month and looks forward to the day when couples and individuals of all backgrounds can build families with the confidence that they are viewed as equal under the eyes of the law.