“Initially, we were planning on working with a surrogacy clinic in India,” said Patel. “My family is originally from Mumbai and it made sense to do it there. But then reality set in.”
While he grew up near Washington, D.C. and is an American citizen, Patel, 40, was born in Pakistan, where his family moved after the 1947 partition of India. Securing a visa to visit India is at best laborious and at worst impossible for anyone of Pakistani heritage, and Patel’s requests for a visa went unanswered by the Indian consulate in Los Angeles. When the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs announced in 2012 that it would only issue exit visas to children of heterosexual couples married for at least two years – barring singles and, in effect, gay couples like Andrews and Patel, their attention turned to clinics in Thailand.
Hefty bureaucracies and shifting diplomatic sands are just a few of the challenges facing anyone hoping to have a child through surrogacy, according to Sam Everingham of the Sydney-based non-profit Families Through Surrogacy, whose twin daughters were born at a New Delhi clinic in 2011. His experiences led him to found the organization last year. “When my partner Phil and I began to research surrogacy, we found very little information out there about how to go about it. It’s not an easy journey; surrogacy in the States can be prohibitively expensive, and parents hoping to have their children abroad face everything from culture shock to widely varying medical standards. We hope – through our experiences – that we can make the process more reliable and less mysterious for future parents.”
With the help of an international community of surrogacy parents, Families Through Surrogacy has produced a number of successful conferences in Australia, and expands this spring to California and the U.K. Would-be parents can hear about the latest in IVF and surrogacy technology and connect with clinics, medical and legal experts, and parents who have done it themselves.
Thousands of children are born through surrogacy abroad to Western intended parents every year. While building surrogacy families in the United States is safe and reliable, price tags frequently well in excess of $80,000 drive parents to endure confusing laws, barriers of language and culture and unsure outcomes as they seek surrogacy overseas. While India, with its $400-million surrogacy industry, leads the world, clinics are growing in number in Thailand, Mexico, Ukraine, Georgia and other countries.
For Bay Area resident Dena Fischer, unable to carry a pregnancy due to cancer as a child, building surrogacy families was nothing short of miraculous. Her twin boys, carried by a surrogate in California, are now ten years old. “Initial information about surrogacy agencies was pretty easy to find via referrals from our fertility doctor and the web,” she said. “However, I would have liked easy and direct access to other couples who had been through it. It would have been helpful to hear first-hand personal, emotional and financial experiences directly from those who had been through the process in addition to what the agents could tell us to anticipate.”
A Quick Road Map to Surrogacy
|Mexico||USA (some states)||Canada||India||Thailand||Georgia, Ukraine, Russia|
|What is allowed||Uncompensated only||Compensated||Uncompensated only||Compensated||Compensated||Compensated|
|Covered by legislation||some states||some provinces||Yes||No||Yes|
|Surrogacy Agencies||Yes||Only non-profit||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Who can access||all||all||married heterosexuals||all||married heterosexuals|
|Typical end costs (excl egg donor)||$80-120,000||$60-70,000||$40,000-60,000||$65,000||$50,000|