Alabama Supreme Court determines that embryos are children

Posted On February 22nd, 2024

What is a frozen embryo, exactly? With in vitro fertilization (IVF), the embryologist combines the sperm and eggs to create fertilized eggs or embryos. It takes 3-5 days to create an embryo that is ready to freeze for later use (it can also be genetically tested at this point, to see if it is chromosomally normal). This “blastocyst” contains 70-100 cells: some will develop into fetal tissue and some into the placenta.

There are hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos in the US as a result of IVF. During an IVF “cycle,” hormones are administered to stimulate the maturation of more than one egg (which is typical in a normal menstrual cycle). This is to increase the chances of having a healthy embryo, as not all eggs will fertilize. The more eggs there are, the better chances of having a healthy embryo to transfer, and the better the chances of a successful pregnancy. Many times, there are leftover embryos (not always of the highest quality) that remain frozen in perpetuity.

In Alabama, these embryos, these masses of 100 cells each, with no hearts, brains, bones, or blood, are considered persons. This enforcement of this proclamation is unclear. Taken to its literal extreme, it can be terrifying to hopeful parents.

In order to create a pregnancy, an embryo must be thawed and then transferred to the intended mother’s (or surrogate’s) uterus, which as been prepared with hormones. What if the embryo does not survive the thaw: would this be considered a wrongful death?


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Why Anonynous Sperm Donation is Over, and Why That Matters by Emily Bazelon

Posted On December 5th, 2023

I have directed an egg donation and surrogacy program for many years. A law requiring disclosure of identifying information many years post-donation will have real (and perhaps unintended) negative practical consequences. To be sure, the number of willing sperm and egg donors will plummet and this will mean far fewer choices for parents and more pressure on New York clinics to accept candidates who may be on the margins of medical qualification (but who are open to releasing identity). We have seen in England the ramifications of forced identity release – lengthy waiting periods for donor gametes and egg donors who are still able to participate well into their 30s (which means more medical risk). Few intended parents appreciate the flip side of identity release. A donor who is required to share his or her name and contact information and who will then need to always know that because of a sperm or egg donation, a child or children could well appear years later to “reunite” might want some shared information in return. Donors are not birth parents providing children for adoption; they view their role as more of a DNA provider (not that they are giving a child away). How many intended parents are going to be OK with sharing their names and addresses with their sperm or egg donor?

Sanford Benardo


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They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children (New York Times, November 26)

Posted On November 29th, 2022

The New York Times article on November 26, 2022 (“They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children.”) Sunday edition included an article about the legal challenges for surrogacy in Cambodia, which have resulted in women being forced to raise children they expected would be raised by their biological parent(s), while the intended parents are in turn being prosecuted for using a surrogate.


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Made in Boise: documentary review by Ellen Glazer

Posted On October 12th, 2019

When I heard that there is a new documentary about surrogacy titled Made in Boise, I wasn’t sure what to think or expect. As a long time supporter of surrogacy, I have come to brace myself for such critical comments as “surrogacy exploits women” or “it’s a way rich people can make babies.” Hence it was with caution and a “wait and see” approach that I ventured off this week to a screening of Made in Boise at a Boston Globe documentary film festival.

So here is the good news: Made in Boise presents a largely positive picture of surrogacy. The beautifully filmed and edited documentary follows four gestational carriers, all level headed, responsible, caring and compassionate women. Like the “GC’s” I have known, they are good communicators who genuinely like and care for their “IP’s.” Similarly, the IP’s—a gay couple, a single man and two heterosexual couples—all have compelling reasons for seeking surrogates and all interact with their GC’s with kindness and respect. And without giving too much of the story away, the collaborative efforts of GC’s and IP’s bring healthy and long awaited babies into the world.
Although I enjoyed the film and left the theatre pleased that surrogacy was presented in such a positive way, my reaction to Made in Boise was not all positive. Having worked in the field for many years, I know that surrogacy is complicated. In my experience, women who become GC’s think about it for many years and go through an arduous screening process before being matched with IP’s.


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Same-sex couple sues State Department for denying daughter’s citizenship

Posted On July 28th, 2019

The anti-gay discrimination which Jonathan Gregg and James Derek Mize are ensnared in is an awful predicament which no new parent should have to endure. By refusing to confer US citizenship on their daughter who has a court-ordered birth certificate listing both fathers as parents (their daughter Simone was born in the UK to a surrogate mother who has no genetic link to the child – an anonymous egg donor and sperm from Gregg created the embryo), the State Department is trying to impose its view of morality via a tortured interpretation of federal immigration statutes. For other same-sex couples contemplating having a baby with the assistance of a surrogate mother (and unwilling to wait out the end of this Administration and its crackdown on human rights), it would be a good idea to focus on finding a carrier within an acceptable US state. The baby would be a US citizen at birth and the Trump Administration would stay out of your family’s business.


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A Very Long Pregnancy

Posted On November 1st, 2017

I always knew that pregnancies after infertility felt extra long. Over the years I have counseled countless people to be prepared for a very slow start to their pregnancies. I took to reminding them that the old dictim, “you can’t be a little bit pregnant” doesn’t really apply to ART pregnancies. You do feel “a little bit pregnant” when there is an embryo and a bit more when it is transferred and more still with a first pregnancy test…. “Be prepared, “ I said, “for the hours and days to crawl by at the start. It will feel like forever going from five and one-half weeks to six weeks.” Little did I know…

My daughter’s experience with surrogacy taught me just how long an ART pregnancy can be. What I hadn’t really taken into account before was what I have come to call the “pre-mesters.” Before your gestational carrier starts her first trimester, there has been so much lead time. You have waited to see how many follicles there are, how many eggs are retrieved, how many fertilize and how the embryos grow. You have waited to find your GC and for her to pass all her screening. Together you have slogged through lawyer’s meetings and psychologist appointments. All this before day one of the first trimester.

The good news is that time does not crawl by throughout the pregnancy. Round about Week 18 or 19 or 20 things begin to pick up—or at least that was our family’s experience.


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From Both Sides Now

Posted On August 22nd, 2017

Over the years I have had many opportunities to talk with people considering or going through surrogacy. I’ve long been fascinated by the ways that heretofore strangers come together, trust each other and creatively share a pregnancy, often long distance. As a family building counselor, I have readily dispensed advise to surrogacy participants, especially to the intended parents. I did so with keen awareness that I had never been in their shoes, that what I was telling them was based on observation of what had to be a uniquely challenging—and remarkably rewarding experience. Everything changed one year ago when we learned that my daughter needed a surrogate (gestational carrier). It is my pleasure to write a series of blogs, “From Both Sides Now”—what I have learned from first observing and now living surrogacy.

Worth The Wait

I remember telling people “You have to like your GC a lot. You have to feel certain that ‘she’s the one’ when you meet her. You will be entrusting your precious unborn child to her. You have to really really like her.”

This person—that you will like so much and trust without question—may not come along as soon as you would like. I’ve observed– and now I’ve learned first hand– that so much of this process is about waiting. You need to wait for a doctor’s appointment and later, to see how many follicles you have. Then you need to wait to see if the eggs fertilize and if they do,


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Limitations on the compensation of gamete donors: a public opinion survey Presented at the 72nd the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Scientific Congress and Expo, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15–19, 2016.

Posted On July 3rd, 2017

Fertility and Sterility (June 2017) published the results of a self-sponsored public opinion survey to measure the general public’s conception of what is appropriate egg donor compensation, in the wake of the class action lawsuit (which was settled not in their favor). Before the lawsuit was settled, the ASRM had a fixed cap on donor compensation that stayed the same since the year 2000.

Although the was some briefing of the facts to the participants, they were outside of the fertility industry. The ASRM may find some cold comfort that the survey leaned in their favor, although it was likely designed to do so.

I guess the follow up survey will measure the public’s conception of the appropriate compensation for reproductive endocrinologists, and if their salaries should stay at the year 2000 rate.


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New York Daily News: Surrogate Moms are Celebrity Incubators according to Linda Stasi

Posted On July 3rd, 2017

The Kim Kardashian surrogacy reveal has brought out plenty of critics – ready to use this case to offer uninformed opinions regarding surrogacy in general. Linda Stasi did just this in the New York Daily News on June 23, 2017.

Stasi does a good job of adding provocative commentary to a sensational (and wholly uncommon) story. However, she has written a piece which clearly shows a complete lack of research and lack of understanding related to the complex world of gestational surrogacy. Oh yeah, it is catchy to offer that surrogacy is the choice of entitled celebrities and desperate, impoverished “uterus-renters.” But missing is any acknowledgment that the vast majority of surrogacy cases in this country (indeed ones which also involve Kardashian-like fees) consist of much more compelling fact patterns and much more reasonable motives. The young couples we see in our program who have survived breast and other cancers (and have frozen embryos from their own gametes) are simply eager to have a child. Just as eager as before cancer, but now it is unsafe or impossible (in the hysterectomy cases) to carry. They are looking for a responsible and caring woman to serve as their surrogate. Albeit hard to find, these kinds of women (hardly uneducated or desperate or in financial trouble) do indeed exist. They are often nurses or social workers or teachers – they come from walks of life where helping others (frequently in distress) is part of their nature. And they are strangers –


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