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An American shift for foreign couples seeking surrogates

Surrogacy is a topic making headlines ranging from legalities, ethics, to parenthood dreams come true.

The New York Times recently published an in-depth article entitled, “Foreign Couples Heading to America for Surrogate Pregnancies.

Reporter, Tamar Lewin wrote, “While babies through surrogacy have become increasingly common in the United States, with celebrities like Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon openly discussing how they started a family, the situation is quite different in Portugal — as it is in most of the world where the hiring of a woman to carry a child is forbidden.”

Recently, a gay couple living in Lisbon celebrated the photo of their baby’s first ultrasound.  Across the globe, a woman in Pennsylvania was their surrogate.

Lewin reported, “Everyone was shocked, and asked everything about how we do this,” said Paulo, who spoke on the condition that neither his last name nor that of his husband, João, be used since what they were doing is a crime in Portugal.”  She went on to say, “And as Paulo and João have discovered, even bringing home a baby born abroad through surrogacy can be complicated.”

Paulo and João are one of many foreign couples facing these surrogacy hurdles.

Including the United States, other countries such as Mexico, India, Thailand and the Ukraine permit paid surrogacy.

“The traffic highlights a divide between the United States and much of the world over fundamental questions about what constitutes a family, who is considered a legal parent, who is eligible for citizenship and whether paid childbirth is a service or exploitation,” Lewin wrote.

According to the article, currently, more than 2,000 babies are being born through gestational surrogacy.  This number includes domestic and international couples.

While some states forbid surrogacy, states like California allow it, and the women are compensated.  And why shouldn’t they be for what they are going through?

Thankfully, in this New York Times article, they touched upon the point of view of surrogates.

“Many women who have had a fulfilling surrogate experience go on to carry a second, or third, child for the same couple, finding pleasure in being pregnant and conferring the gift of a child and a continuing connection with another family, while earning money in the process,” the reporter wrote.  “Kelly, a licensed practical nurse in Pennsylvania with two children who asked not to have her last name used to protect her privacy, delivered a baby, Nico, for two German men, Thomas Reuss and Dennis Reuther, in 2012.”

Kelly decided to help the couple once again and is pregnant with two twin boys.

Kelly told the reporter, “The money is nice, but we could manage without it, and it’s not why I’m doing this.”

While surrogacy started in the United States nearly 30 years ago, legal experts claim the emergence of surrogacy may spark new court cases, and inevitably, new laws.

Because surrogacy is allowing couples all over the world an opportunity to have a child, the next issue is addressing how to bring these babies home.

Lewin wrote, “For those from abroad, getting an American-born baby home can involve tangled immigration problems. Some countries require a new birth certificate, a parental order or an adoption. Some will not accept an American birth certificate with two fathers listed as the parents.” She continued, “Occasionally, a baby can be denied entry into the parents’ home country.”

Intended parents who are thrilled to bring home their new baby sometimes come face-to-face with the laws in their country which may deflate their immediate joy.

Having worked in this legal field for more than a decade, I can offer some sage advice with these scenarios.  It’s very important that couples or a single intended parent work with an experienced attorney who understands the international market as there are things you need to tell your client.

For example, bringing home a baby through surrogacy from the states is different for France, Spain and China.  Every country is different and how they handle it, so having an adept attorney on your side makes all the difference in the world.

Likewise, the recent ruling in France regarding surrogacy also shows changes ahead. Published by the AFP, in a June 27 article entitled, France accepts EU rights ruling on surrogacy children, things are becoming more progressive.

The author wrote that France, “would not dispute a ruling by Europe’s top rights court forcing it to legally recognise children born to surrogates, a practice that is illegal in the country.  Authorities in France had refused to register three children born to surrogates in the United States as the couples’ legal offspring, a crucial move as it would secure them nationality and full inheritance rights.”  The article went on to say, “But the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Thursday that this denial by French authorities ran contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights.”

As controversy swirls regarding surrogacy, one thing is undeniable: When all goes smoothly with surrogacy, an insurmountable amount of joy occurs when a newborn baby is in the arms of loving parents.