On Alex Kuczynski’s “Her Body, My Baby”

Posted On November 30th, 2008

So, we finally get to read the Sunday Magazine article, and they do not credit Sanford Benardo or Northeast Assisted Fertility Group (NAFG) for our input. Oh, well. Nonetheless, I found Kuczynski’s story of infertility and surrogacy heartfelt and brazenly honest. It was also pretty accurate.

I first read the story as a text-only computer print-out; only this morning did I see the accompanying photos, which blatantly expose her provocative subtext: “I am rich, white, urban, and privileged; dare to judge me for paying lower status women to do what I cannot.” Anyone familiar with Kuczynski’s writing would expect this. Readers commenting on the New York Times site, for the most part, declared her a self-indulgent snob; a handful were sympathetic. This was a personal story, not a serious study of surrogacy. It would be unfortunate if the general public judged surrogacy solely through Kuczynski’s lens.  Journalistic surrogacy stories are typically sensationalistic; this one is no different in that regard.

A couple of quibbles: I think Kucsynski did “low ball” the figure for the total cost of the surrogacy: although her carrier did not require extra insurance, if you add up the agency fee, carrier fee, legal fees, and medical fees, the figure is closer to $100K than $70K. We find many agencies are not upfront with all the possible costs involved to prevent scaring off prospective clients. (The NAFG site includes a section on program fees which shows a complete itemized breakdown.) Also, we would not advise “skirting” any legal issues and having the embryo transfer take place in New York, where compensated surrogacy arrangements are illegal. It worked out fine in this case, but most New York doctors we know would not participate in a surrogacy in New York state. Embryo transfers would take place in neighboring New Jersey or Connecticut.

Whether you sympathize with Kuczynski or not, the pain of infertility is undeniable. It affects millions of people, no matter their race, income, education level, or class. As I have said before, a successful surrogacy is a rare joy to behold for everyone involved: not only the intended parents, but the carrier and her family, and even the professionals that helped make it happen.

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