For the past 20 years, since the Johnson v. Calvert case in California, most surrogacy stories in the U.S. press have been positive. So many people of so many walks of life have had their dreams fulfilled by caring women who changed their lives, and American media recognized this. But in recent weeks, the press has been filled with horror stories, stories of other countries where surrogacy is unregulated, where people without the funds for a surrogacy arrangement in the U.S. have been flocking, hoping that nothing would go awry. Not surprisingly, there have been very serious problems.
Having been personally involved in U.S. surrogacy for 23 years, I have been searching for years for another country that has clear legal guidelines in place, where a lawyer or social worker with a solid reputation could offer U.S. and international parents a way of having children that not only abides by the law, but also gives them certainty of returning home with no legal problems and makes sure their wishes are fulfilled. There is a remarkable dearth of such locations. Something must change.
For years I have called for and assisted with the drafting of regulations in the United States that would ensure the safety of children born through surrogacy, well-intentioned women carrying these children, and fit individuals and couples to parent these children. We must now call for such regulations internationally. The individual state legislatures in the United States, national governments throughout the world and the Hague Convention itself must demand laws that require intended parents who wish to go through surrogacy to demonstrate first that they are fit parents to bring home children. Once authorized to proceed, their home countries should permit applications to nations where surrogacy is legal, where the rights of the intended parents to the child are recognized, where their funds are protected in legally supervised accounts, and where surrogates are screened and matched with intended parents—not only for their similar views on termination and selective reduction, but also for their financial stability and their thoughtful motivations for moving forward with a surrogacy journey.
Had such regulations been in place, most likely none of these horror stories would have occurred. It is only by burying our heads in the sand, and failing to recognize the longing of infertile and gay couples and single individuals to have a family that we encourage this type of malfeasance. It’s time to take action.
The heartbreaking surrogacy stories we have heard about recently illustrate the media’s tendency to use the bad situations to bring home the problems with any topic. Some argue that this is sensationalism. Others would say it is only through the media’s hyper-focus, digging for minute details, and broad circulation, that things change. Journalists have long been the agents of dramatic change worldwide. Let us hope that these horrible stories, so different from the ones we have been hearing about primarily in the United States for the last 20 plus years, will be the driver for long overdue change.
But the change cannot be to ban surrogacy. Extreme approaches have never worked. Banning a much desired and needed service only forces people underground or abroad, to unregulated and unprotected places. Only by thoughtfully implementing measures that focus on protecting everyone involved in a surrogacy arrangement—surrogates, intended parents, and most importantly, children—can we foster the much needed change for which these articles so desperately call.
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