INDIAN SURROGACY FOR GAY COUPLES: Q & A WITH A NY SURROGACY AGENCY
Indian Surrogacy – where egg donors go through IVF and and Indian surrogates get assistance throughout their pregnancy in India – is becoming an increasingly popular choice for gay couples in America, primarily because the costs associated with the process are typically lower than domestic surrogacy. (For gay couples in other countries, like the UK, it may be an option because of their own country’s strict surrogacy laws).
That said, Indian Surrogacy is still a relatively new practice, and there are many rules and regulations that have yet to fully play out. For example, there are proposed laws and regulations pending in India that will attempt to regulate the industry more thoroughly. Also, the process of getting citizenship for a baby born from Indian Surrogacy can be complicated and/or frustratingly delayed, depending on how individual governments and embassies from a couple’s home country handle the process of granting a child born from Indian Surrogacy citizenship. For others, like IC blogger Ryan, who explored the pros and cons of Indian Surrogacyback in November, the surrogacy process in India may seem a touch too exploitative by nature. Meaning – Indian Surrogacy is not for everyone. Yet there are also many couples who have happily use Indian Surrogacy to create their family.
To parse out some of these questions and get a summary of what to expect if a gay couple is interested in Indian Surrogacy, we asked Leslie Taylan, a surrogacy coordinator for the New York based agency Indian Egg Donors, to answer some questions.
IC: What are the advantages of doing Indian Surrogacy over domestic surrogacy?
LT: The advantages of doing Indian Surrogacy over domestic Surrogacy are affordability, professional team of caretakers, and experienced and monitored surrogate mothers.
During the surrogacy process our surrogate mothers go and stay at a surrogacy residence similar to a college dorm. During the nine months of pregnancy, the women live in the dormitory, where they are under constant positive support and supervision. They are given three meals per day and keep each other company. They are prohibited from having any alcohol, drugs or sex during this period to ensure that your baby is as healthy as possible.
The living costs in India are lower than in the USA. In India it costs a minimum of about $500 per month for proper food and three meals per day and about another $500 per month minimum for rent to take care of a surrogate. In addition, the reputable surrogacy homes where the surrogate stays during the nine months of pregnancy have a live in nurse and cook that has to be paid for. Hence it costs about $1,000 – $1,500 per month to house and feed a surrogate properly or about $12,000-$18,000 per pregnancy.
IC: What is the step-by-step process that a gay couple can expect to go through? Approximately how often will a gay couple have to travel to India, and how long will they have to stay there?
LT: A gay couple only has to go once to India for about two to three weeks to pick up the baby and get the paperwork in place. Everything else can be done while they are at home.
Details of Steps For Single Male/Female or Same Sex Couples:
- Call our office in Manhattan and set up a time to meet with us for a one hour no cost discussion. If you live out of the New York area, we can arrange for a phone consultation. During this time we will answer all your questions about the surrogacy process.
- If you are comfortable with the process, the next step would be to fill out the paperwork and return the forms to us. Once we receive the paperwork, we are ready to get started.
- The next steps require you to make two decisions – the first about an egg donor and the second about arranging for your sperm to reach India.
- Choice of Egg Donors: We have egg donors from a variety of backgrounds available. Indian egg donors are available in India. Pictures and profiles are available for your review. Once you pick the egg donor, we check availability and start the donor cycle for the donor. In the event the donor you select is not available, we will find you a substitute that is a close match. We always provide you with several donor profiles that meet your specifications to select from and ask that you select your top 3 choices.
- Sperm Transport to India: The easiest way to do it is to collect a sperm specimen by collecting it at home and ship it using a mailer by FedEx to our affiliated sperm bank in the United States. From there it is transported to our surrogacy center in India. The sperm center will process your sperm and you also have the option of “sex selection” available in the event you prefer either a male or female baby.
If you prefer to go to India to give a sperm specimen, that option is always available to you.
- Choice of Surrogate: Our surrogates are always Indian women who are proven mothers. This means many are in their mid 20′s and have had at least one child. The child has been examined to confirm it does not have any birth defects and only then will the surrogate be assigned to you. The appearance and background of the surrogate have no effect on your future baby’s appearance.
- What affects the baby’s health is that the surrogate be in good health and follow a physician approved diet, medical testing and healthy life style during pregnancy. This is arranged for at the surrogacy center where the mother stays during her nine month pregnancy until your baby is ready for delivery.
- About a week before the delivery, we would like you to come to India. Please bring your original birth certificate and US passport with you. Expect to stay about 2 weeks in India following the birth of your baby in order to obtain all necessary legal documents for your baby.
- Our facilitator at the center will arrange for hotel accommodations for you in India and arrange for you to be picked up at the airport as well as arrange for a car and driver for your convenience during your stay. In the event you wish to travel in India, the facilitator will help you with any and all of your travel plans.
- Now the exciting part! When the time comes for the baby to be delivered, we would like you to be present in the delivery room. As soon as the baby is born it is given to you to hold as the proud parent for a few minutes before it is gently transferred to the baby clean up area and the neonatal nursery where it will stay for a few days until you are ready to return to the United States with the baby.
As soon as your baby is born it will have your name on the birth certificate.
- The next step is a DNA blood test to match your blood with that of the baby. This confirms that you are the legal parent of the child.
- Bringing Your Baby Back to the USA: The facilitator will then go with you to the closest American Embassy where you will take this blood test, your passport and birth certificate with you. Upon presentation of these papers, and other necessary forms, the US Embassy will issue you a US Passport for your baby and you are now ready to bring it home to the United States.
Upon arrival in the United States, the first thing you need to do is to take the baby to a pediatrician near your home for a checkup and to get your baby started on the right newborn diet.
IC: Are your surrogates traditional surrogates (both egg donor and carrier) or gestational surrogates (egg donor is different from carrier)?
LT: Our surrogates are gestational surrogates.
IC: Are the legal risks greater than domestic surrogacy? What are the legal risks of Indian Surrogacy and how do you mitigate them?
LT: There is no legislation governing surrogacy agreements in India, however, a surrogacy Bill is before Indian parliament and it is anticipated that new laws will be enacted by 2013. Our surrogacy program in India is designed to meet American IVF standards and all surrogates are screened medically in India to comply with FDA specifications for embryo transfers. We are one of the only centers in India that has met the licensing requirements. As such, we have stringent health care specifications to ensure the healthy, disease-free transfer of embryos to surrogates.
In the case of single parents, only the genetic mother or father can be on the baby’s birth certificate. For couples, both parent’s names appear on the birth certificate provided one parent has a genetic link with the child.
The Delhi Municipal Council issues birth certificates. It is wise to have your baby’s birth certificate stamped with an apostille seal. The apostille seal is an internationally recognized seal and gives the birth certificate legal validity in countries outside of India.
International clients cannot use both an egg donor and a sperm donor, or donor embryos with surrogacy, as a genetic link between the baby and at least one parent is required by the embassies of most countries to grant citizenship and a passport to the baby. A genetic link is established through DNA testing of one parent and the baby. This is a mandatory requirement for citizens of most countries.
This also confirms that it is the genetic baby of the parent who contributed the sperm and/or eggs.
Prior to starting our surrogacy program, it is essential that all intended parents consult the embassy of their country to ensure they are able to get citizenship of their country for their baby. If you are in doubt as to whether your country will grant citizenship for your baby, please consult your local embassy. For US Citizens we have had no problems with bringing babies home to the USA.
Each country’s embassy has different requirements for granting citizenship to babies born through commercial surrogacy in India. All embassies require at least:
- A signed copy of the surrogacy contract
- Baby’s birth certificate
- Parents’ birth certificates
- Pregnancy medical records
- A signed statement by the surrogate mother and her husband (if applicable) waiving parental rights
- A summary of treatment provided by our surrogacy clinic
Due to India having a large population, it can take a long time to get basic documentation such as a birth certificate or exit visa. Our clients will have a facilitator to assist with applications for a birth certificate, citizenship, passport, and exit visa in order to expedite the process so they can get home quickly. Citizens of Australia are required by the Australian High Commission in Delhi to provide a report written by a lawyer, not employed by our surrogacy center, about their surrogacy agreement. As such, Australian citizens are required to employ an independent lawyer.
The amount of time you will need to spend in New Delhi to organize all necessary paperwork after the baby is born varies from country to country. If organized and proactive, U.S. Citizens generally leave within 10-12 days; Australian citizens leave 12 days to three weeks, and other countries leave approximately in two to three weeks. Clients from the UK must be prepared for a 12 week stay in India after the birth of their baby as the embassy takes this amount of time to process passports.
IC: Can both gay parents be on the baby’s birth certificate? Does the surrogate mother have any rights to the child once it is born? What about the egg donor?
LT: No, both gay parents cannot be on the baby’s birth certificate. For gay parents, this means that only the partner who provides the sperm sample can be on the baby’s birth certificate. He will be the genetic link to the child, which will be proven via a DNA blood test. In the case of single parents, only the genetic mother or father can be on the baby’s birth certificate.
Neither the surrogate mother nor the egg donor can claim any rights to the child once it is born. The Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines and the proposed ruling of the Indian government waive a surrogate’s and egg donor’s rights to the baby. Many IVF clinics in India follow these guidelines.
IC: Are there any risks for gay couples traveling back into the U.S. with their child once it is born in India? For example, how difficult is it to obtain a correct passport?
LT: Our surrogacy program decreases any potential risks that may be involved for our gay couples traveling back to the USA with their baby.
Babies born through surrogacy agreements in India are born stateless. This means they are not given Indian citizenship by virtue of the fact they were born in India. Prior to starting our surrogacy program, it is essential that all intended parents consult the embassy of their country to ensure they are able to get citizenship of their country for their baby. If you are in doubt as to whether your country will grant citizenship for your baby, please consult your local embassy.
IC: How do you ensure the baby born is a U.S. citizen if he/she is born in India?
LT: If a baby is born in India, a couple can apply for his/her citizenship as long as one of the parents is a legal citizen of the USA. The parent will need to provide proof of their genetic link to the child and his/her USA citizenship and birth certificate, along with a DNA blood test.
IC: What is your process for ensuring the correct sperm is used and that gay couples know for sure that their baby is, well, their baby? (I have heard some tales of couples finding out after the fact that the baby they took home is not biologically theirs).
LT: Our affiliated andrological service center makes it easy for gay couples to provide the sperm sample needed to fertilize the eggs. The male will be sent a home collection kit where he will follow instructions for collection and then mail the kit directly to our sperm processing center. Upon receipt, a semen analysis will be done and the option for baby sex selection is available. Our center will then directly ship the frozen sperm sample to India complete with all necessary identification papers, blood test results on sperm sample, and consent forms.
Standard andrological protocol is followed when shipping any specimen of human tissue. Proper identification is clearly written on the sample and each specimen is given a specific location within the cryo-tank and a unique color is given to each sample. This ensures that the correct sperm is used for each couple.
IC: How do you ensure the surrogates you work with are treated well, want to be a surrogate and aren’t just doing it “for the money” etc.?
IC: Many of our surrogate mothers are married and are done creating their own families and the financial compensation that they receive greatly assists her in supporting her family. Many are also surrogates because they want to help other women experience and love the joys of being a mother. Regular supervision from our physicians and our on- site 24 hour nurse team, along with our nutritionist ensures that the surrogates are healthy and properly fed. Family visits are allowed on the weekend, too. Group outings of 8-10 surrogate mothers are planned that include movies, picnics in the park, etc.
IC: How cooperative is the Indian government to this practice? Do gay couples ever run into trouble going in/coming out of the country? Do gay couples need to interact with the Indian government at all during this process?
LT: The Indian government does not mind gay couples. However, only one partner who is genetically linked to the child will be on the baby’s birth certificate.
IC: How much does the Indian Surrogacy process cost for a gay couple, typically?
LT: Our program fee is $35,000. This includes preparation, medical and living costs for the surrogate. The couple will also need to take into account additional costs for the delivery and hospital stay of the baby, as well as the legal fees required to obtain the baby’s passport, birth certificate, DNA test, immigration lawyer fees and exit visa. Overall, you are looking to spend approximately $50,000 for an Indian Surrogacy.
IC: How long does it take to find a match?
LT: It typically takes 4-6 weeks to find a match.
IC: Do gay couples typically find an Indian egg donor as well as an Indian surrogate? Or, if they already have an egg donor (say a family member from one partner) can they work with you to find just a surrogate?
LT: Many of our same sex couples use both an Indian egg donor and a surrogate. However, we have many other same sex couples who have worked with us to find a surrogate.
IC: Surrogacy is illegal in New York. Do gay couples run into problems once they have brought their child?
LT: No, gay couples do not run into problems once they have brought their child back home. The child is granted US citizenship from the Delhi and United States embassy in New Delhi.
IC: Any other advice or recommendations gay couples should know about when considering this process?
LT: Make sure to do your research and to find a company that you can trust.
The offices of Indian Egg Donors are located at 800 Second Avenue, Suite 900, in New York. For more information visit their website at www.indianeggdonors.com.