Safeguarding the Surrogacy Agreement Starts with Proper Matching
This week another news report surfaced about a surrogacy arrangement gone terribly wrong. You can read all the details of the CNN report (Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby), as well as an excellent analysis from our colleague Andrew Vorzimer at his Spin Doctor blog. Suffice it to say, this is a sad, complicated story that has tragic consequences.
We are sure many people, including potential intended parents and surrogate mothers, are scratching their heads, wondering how this mess occurred and if this scenario is indicative of what could happen if they were to pursue surrogacy. Though we only know the facts as reported by CNN, we have to ask ourselves why this surrogacy arrangement ever occurred in the first place. At CSP, we know our job is to protect both parties in the surrogacy arrangement and to make sure their wishes are fulfilled. We have put systems and safeguards in place to ensure a worst-case scenario like this never takes place. Many red flags arose from the beginning of the disputed surrogacy relationship, so we must question the professionalism and liability of the agency and the attorneys involved.
The CSP System of Checks and Balances
The real issue is whether the agency discussed opinions about termination with both intended parents and the surrogate mother BEFORE matching them and were their opinions put in writing. CSP provides numerous opportunities for both surrogate mothers and intended parents to verbally and in writing express and crystallize their feelings about terminating a pregnancy and under which circumstances.
First, CSP asks all surrogate mothers their thoughts and beliefs BEFORE presenting any intended parents to them and the same question is asked of the intended parents. Once we have these answers IN WRITING, we begin the matching. Intended parents who are “no termination” are matched with surrogate mothers who are “no termination.” Parties who agree about “termination but not for Downs Syndrome” are matched as well. Those that elect to terminate are matched together.
We discuss this subject and verify beliefs a second time during the match meeting with a professional (mental health counselor) present who asks all parties to express their opinions to each other. The third check occurs when the legal contracts are created for each party by their independent attorneys. In the contracts, their opinions are memorialized in writing. Everyone is notified that a woman has a right over her own body.
There were several other huge missteps in the handling of this case, including the screening of the surrogate mother for economic stability and also not informing her that an egg donor was used. We also have to wonder if there was a counselor or mental health professional involved, as well an independent attorney experienced in representing surrogate mothers. Plus offering money to terminate a pregnancy or to persuade a surrogate mother to do something she does not want to do is not a solution. It will most likely lead her to becoming more adamant about her own feelings. Money complicates surrogacy. A professional needs to be involved that understands the complexity of the situation and the issue should have been handled with sensitivity, not with attorneys and money.
Over the next couple of weeks and beyond, a debate will ensue about the rights and beliefs of surrogate mothers and intended parents about terminating a pregnancy. Unfortunately that is the wrong discussion. Instead, we need more discussion about how surrogate mothers and intended parents can find the right professionals who will properly guide them in this process. We firmly believe that all parties have a right to their beliefs about terminating a pregnancy and no one should be persuaded or coerced into changing them. But this vetting needs to take place BEFORE a match happens and then repeated until no further doubt remains that surrogate mothers and intended parents are in agreement. Reputable agencies working with experienced attorneys and mental health professionals know how to facilitate the proper screening and matching of intended parents and surrogate mothers so this type of headline grabbing outcome is prevented, and, in its place, a family is created with their help of their wonderful and generous surrogate mother.
So what should surrogates and intended parents do? Be assured surrogacy works if done right. But there can be no shortcuts because shortcuts lead to mistakes that eventually will have to be dealt with, sometimes disastrously. Not every surrogate mother is the right match for every intended parent. Matches are a process, not blind luck. Our advice is to surround yourself with skilled professionals in the field of surrogacy who will pave the way for an uneventful journey. Doing surrogacy yourself ,or with inexperienced individuals who call themselves “professionals” or an “agency,” means every hill is a mountain because they lack the necessary knowledge.