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ARR (Alternative Reproductive Resources) is thrilled to announce that 2017 marks our 25th Anniversary!!   Since 1992, Robin von Halle and Mary Ellen McLaughlin have been pioneers in the field of Third Party Reproduction.  We were the first Egg Donor agency in the Midwest and one of the first in the country.  We were also among the first to start a comprehensive Gestational Surrogacy program in the U.S.  We are so proud to have helped to bring over 2,000 (and counting) babies into this world through our egg donation program and over 350 (and counting) babies through our Gestational Surrogacy Program.  Our stellar reputation has earned the trust of our clients, doctors, psychologists and lawyers who work within our unique field.  Our hearts and souls are with our clients every step of the way through their Egg Donor and Gestational Surrogacy journey.  We are also proud that ARR’s lawyer, Nidhi Desai, was instrumental in creating the legislation for the Illinois State Gestational Surrogacy Statute and recently helped to modernize the Illinois Parentage Act to recognize children born of assisted reproductive technology.  As we celebrate our 25th year, we are honored and proud to have helped build families all around the globe and look forward to helping many more families to come. To learn more about ARR,  we invite you to visit our website at: http://www.arr1.com

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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.

By Robin von Halle

Lets face it; many states still come up short when it comes to surrogacy laws. For example, it’s still illegal to be a surrogate in such states as New York, Michigan and Utah. Other states have no laws, like Pennsylvania.

One state has taken a step forward on this front: Illinois.

Often ranked behind California (which uses case law) as a destination for surrogacy, Illinois is becoming the magnet state for surrogacy due to the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act. Passed in 2005, its purpose is to protect the surrogate and make the entire process easier for intended parent(s). Here a few aspects of the act you should know about:

  • No residency requirements are imposed by the act for intended parent(s).
  • Surrogates aren’t required to live in Illinois; they only must give birth in Illinois for the act to be enforced.
  • Intended parent(s) do not have to be married.
  • At least one of the gametes (egg/sperm) must be contributed by an intended parent.
  • The gestational surrogate must be at least 21 and have given birth to at least one child.
  • · Both intended parents and surrogates must complete medical and mental health evaluation.
  • The names of the intended parent(s) are entered on the child’s birth certificate.

Programs like The Surrogacy Advantage aim to help intended parent(s) and surrogates meet the legal guidelines for surrogacy births in Illinois.

So if you are looking for a surrogate or thinking of becoming one, you’re best advised to research the laws in your state or surrounding states before jumping into a contract. You never know what you may be getting yourself into. At least in Illinois you have the law on their side.

By Robin von Halle

More and more Americans are choosing overseas gestational surrogates, particularly poor, uneducated Indians. It raises troubling issues that intended parents and the fertility industry need to consider.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal recently reported that India’s surrogacy industry has grown by $500 million since the process was legalized in 2002. Supporters claim the process is far cheaper than stateside surrogacies, but after factoring in plane tickets, the exhausting legal hurdles, and travel within India, the cost difference is negligible.

More importantly, as the number of clinics in India multiplies, few seem to have seriously wrestled with the moral consequences of these “baby factories.”

Proponents of Indian surrogacy cite the wages most surrogates earn in their nine months: between $2,000 and $10,000. This is an enormous sum for these women, equivalent to one or even two year’s salary, but how do we feel about paying them far, far less than we would pay a fellow American who experiences the same pains and challenges? What does it say about us when we choose a service where the women are often confined in a clinic for the duration of their pregnancy, where we never see her face or know her name? What does it say about us when the only way we know the human being who we’ve chosen to carry our child is by the thumbprint on her contract—proof of her illiteracy and perhaps her desperation?

All these questions underscore the huge differences between gestational surrogacy as it’s undertaken through the services of a reputable agency in the U.S. and in a country where fail-safes are not necessarily factored into the process.

Our surrogates typically undergo rigorous psychological screening to ensure they can handle the idea of carrying someone else’s child and giving it up to the biological parents at the end of nine months. They must have borne at least one child. They must have a strong family network in place, like husbands or partners, who support their decision to be surrogates. Typically, there is ongoing interaction throughout the pregnancy between the surrogate and parents. And finally, what comes out of the psychological testing, time after time, is this huge differentiator: The money is not the primary motivator. The ability to help others create families is.

Many of us know the feeling, the ache, of wanting a child, and the conviction that we would do anything to hold one of our own. But how far are we willing to go? In a country where colonialism is a not so distant memory, we have to ask. Are the women behind the boom in Indian surrogacies being given a hand up? Or are they being exploited?

By: Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D.

Part 1 of 2

Deciding whether or not to share your children’s donor origins with them is a challenge to all parents who have taken alternative paths to family building.

Here are some questions to help guide your decision:

  • Do you believe children have the right to know their genetic history?
  • Does your right to privacy supersede their right to know?
  • Are you comfortable with the medical risks in leaving them to assume that your medical health and genetic history are their medical legacies?
  • Are you prepared to deal with the emotional fallout if you need to make an emergency disclosure because a medical problem arises?
  • Are you prepared to handle the emotional fallout of an accidental disclosure (e.g., the child overhears a private conversation between you and someone who knows about their origins or snoops around and finds out)?
  • Since knowing one’s genetic origins contributes to identity, are you comfortable letting your child formulate a sense of self based on false or missing information?
  • When your children ask questions about themselves, are you prepared to fib or lie in order to protect the secret?
  • If you share your children’s origins with them, will you provide them with information about your donor when asked?
  • How will you handle their questions if there isn’t appropriate information available?
  • Do you worry that they will become frustrated if their questions can’t be answered?
  • Do you worry that your children will feel less bonded to you or reject you if they know their genetic origins?
  • Do you worry that they will use the information against you when they are angry with you?
  • Do you worry that they will feel different and alienated from their peers if they know?
  • Do you think you will feel embarrassed if they share their origins publicly (e.g., on the playground or at school)?

It’s important to understand your philosophical perspectives and acknowledge your emotional vulnerabilities in making a decision about whether or not to disclose your children’s origins to them. Answering these questions can help you understand yourself better as you grapple with this important decision.

Part 2 will address the when, how and where in sharing your children’s origins with them.

Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D . is a clinical psychologist in private practice who works with ARR clientele and numerous prospective surrogates, egg donors and parents to assess their emotional readiness for alternative paths to family building.

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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