A surrogacy horror story from 2001 was recently publicized by Caitlin Keating in March 2016 entitled, “Parents Shockingly Back Out on Surrogate Mom Pregnant with Twins: ‘It’s Your Problem Now’”. The story describes the disastrous relationship between the surrogate, Susan Ring, and the intended parents whose names are not revealed. We at Alternative Reproductive Resources (ARR) find the article troubling and in no way reflect our agency policies and procedures.  Additionally, we strictly adhere to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines (ASRM).  In other words, there were many red flags right from the start.

First, Susan Ring being dictated that she would have to reduce from triplets to twins should never have happened.  In stark contrast, when ARR begins our matching process, surrogates and intended parents are required to fill out detailed questionnaires concerning matching preferences. ARR takes this matching process very seriously to ensure that all parties are on the same page as far as any matter of contention. This includes the surrogates preferences with whom they would like to be matched, the number of embryos to be transferred, and feelings regarding termination or selective reduction.  All of these crucial issues are discussed in detail with our surrogates and intended parents before presented with a match.

Further, at our agency, every gestational surrogate, GS, and intended parents, IP, meet face to face with a psychologist who will facilitate a match meeting. In regards to the questionnaires mentioned above, the GS and IP discuss their answers and reasoning behind their answers.  Our psychologists specialize in third party reproduction, and therefore are very knowledgeable and sensitive when talking about such difficult topics. Among other topics, the questionnaire, psychological issues, financial standings, and supports systems are discussed to determine if the surrogate or intended parents can more forward in the process. In the article, the surrogate was unaware the intended father was bipolar, which would be unlikely to happen if a proper psychological assessment occurred and all information fully disclosed. Also, the financial situation of the couple would be analyzed by the psychologist to see if they can afford surrogacy before beginning the process, which did not occur in Susan Ring’s case according to the article.

In addition to the intended parents’ financial situation being predetermined, our agency requires the surrogate’s compensation including any additional funds be placed in an escrow account. The escrow agency, which is licensed & insured, is run by a CPA and an attorney. This way ARR ensures the compensation is in place prior to our surrogates starting a cycle.  A direct agreement is completed between the intended parents and the surrogate which includes a payment schedule to finalize the compensation. Between weeks 27-30, our agency reviews the funds in the escrow accounts to confirm whether more money needs to be allotted prior to the delivery. With ARR’s checks & balances, we have not been involved in a situation where the funds have depleted prior to paying all of the compensation and expenses.

Finally, one of the most important parts of the surrogacy process is that our surrogates have a strong support system.  The surrogate’s support network is assessed through our screening process and is extremely important for our surrogates. In the article, the intended parents abandon the two twins nearing the end of Susan’s pregnancy.  At ARR, we have separate advocates for both our surrogates and our intended parents.  Our clients and we find this much more effective than a ‘case manager’ responsible for all parties. If a highly rare situation like this occurred, ARR has the experience to know how best to proceed.

Overall, the lack of guidelines, rules, and a process for determining viable intended parents and surrogates resulted in a surrogacy horror story.  ARR’s years of experience  coupled with strict ethical and professional policies ensure a smooth process for our surrogates and intended parents and allows us to be ready for any new challenges that may arise.