By Dr. Brad Kolb
America and more specifically California has become the world’s hotbed of egg donation and surrogacy in USA. There are many reasons that this has evolved. First, these procedures are legal in the US and the courts in the state of California have historically taken a stance of recognizing the “rights of the intended parent”. This is not necessarily true in many other states. In the past, if a surrogate has challenged the legal guardianship of the child, California has granted the intended parents full and complete rights of parentage. Another step that is taken to protect the rights of intended parents are the legal contracts that specifically state the intent of the surrogacy or egg donation and are signed by both parties involved. While some countries do allow for surrogacy, they often place restrictive laws on the process that make it impractical for most parties involved. For example, in many countries, you are not allowed to compensate your surrogate/donor and thus effectively limits the availability to those needing these services. Others require that children be given contact information of their donor, but no such laws exist in California. We are fortunate that our politicians have created a system that allows for individuals to pursue their goals of having children without putting restrictive roadblocks in place that limit the availability of such services. These rights apply equally to US citizens as well as to visitors to the US.
The process does not restrict the rights of single individuals or same-sex couples from pursuing their dreams either. There are no restrictions on your access to performing genetic screens or gender selection on your embryos prior to being transferred. Essentially, the state allows medically sound decisions to be made between you and your doctor.
While by the very nature of surrogacy, you will know your surrogate, there are no laws that grant your surrogate visitation rights to your children. While many Intended Parents may choose to maintain a relationship with their surrogate, this is up to you to decide what is the best option for you and your children. Most cases of egg donation are anonymous, but if you desire, you also may be able to meet your donor. In all cases of egg donation and surrogacy, you are given extensive information regarding your donor…including pictures, personal and family medical history, family genetic history and many personal features (i.e. education and social interests of the donor). You will be able to choose the donor or surrogate that you want to work with.
Every effort is made to assure the safety of your pregnancy. All egg donors and surrogates are screened medically and psychologically. Egg donors have additional testing for potential quality of their eggs. Extensive infectious disease screens and drug screens are performed on both egg donors and surrogates. Legal contacts are put into place that specifically detail the arrangement you have with your donor or surrogate. As surrogacy is more involved, home investigations can be performed to assure the environment that your surrogate lives in is as safe as possible. Your agency should also be by your surrogate’s side each step of the way to assure that the needs of your pregnancy are being met . They will act as your eyes and ears, assuring the safety of your unborn child while you are back home.
While medical technology continues to progress across the globe, we have found that the restrictive policies in many countries preclude their doctors from utilizing these advances and thus limiting their ability to maximize treatment success. We are currently seeing an explosion in medical advances that allow us to evaluate each embryo’s genetic normality and to access the potential of each embryo to result in a healthy pregnancy. Furthermore, many countries restrict the number of eggs that can be fertilized or embryos that can be transferred. This can be short-sighted as such restrictions may limit the chance for success and may result in much greater expense if the initial embryo transfer is unsuccessful. By allowing physicians to responsibly determine the best course to follow for their patients, pregnancy rates in the United States are amongst the highest in the world. Patients and their doctors need to be able to determine the best course of treatment to pursue without the interference of regulatory agencies.Dr. Brad Kolb