A Fertile Biz Aids Sarah Parker-Style Pregnancies Part of National Rent-A-Womb Boom
By Jeremy Olshan, NY Post,
April 30, 2009
Sarah Jessica Parker may be a fashion trend-setter, but she's hardly the first woman who, after years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, decided she had no choice but to hire a surrogate mother.
An option of last resort, surrogacy is a booming industry for those unable to gestate their own child.
The 44-year-old "Sex and the City" star and husband Matthew Broderick join the ranks of celebrities such as Dennis Quaid, Angela Basset and Ricky Martin, who have all hired surrogates.
Yesterday -- a day after Parker confirmed she's expecting twins via another carrier -- a woman was spotted delivering boxes of baby clothes and blankets to the celebrity's Greenwich Village home.
The process takes roughly 15 months, and can cost upwards of $100,000 in some cases, said New Jersey attorney Melissa Brisman, who specializes in the field and steers hundreds of couples to parenthood each year.
It takes two months to find a surrogate, two months to conduct thorough medical, psychological, and criminal background checks, two months at a fertility clinic, and nine months to have the baby.
Prospective surrogates sign up with Brisman and other agencies throughout the country or sometimes advertise themselves online.
No official statistics are kept for surrogate births, but Brisman estimates that there are roughly 6,000 a year in the United States -- a figure that has risen dramatically in the past decade.
Legal documents are drawn up that require the surrogates to share medical records and give up all rights to custody. Agreements may also cover what doctors are seen, and some even mandate induced labor to ensure the intended parents are present.
"We do over 200 of these a year -- the process is easy, but you definitely need a guide," Brisman said.
Finding a "gestational carrier" who is willing to get paid roughly $20,000 to carry someone else's child, while abiding by strict guidelines about their behavior and travel, has to be done carefully, she said.
"You want someone over 21 and under 43, who has given birth before, and lives in a state where the surrogate laws are friendly."
It's against the law in New York and New Jersey to pay surrogates to carry children, and many other states do not have rock-solid laws to ensure the "intended parents" cannot lose custody of the child.
California, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio -- where Parker's surrogate lives -- are considered among the most surrogate-friendly, "although Texas only allows heterosexual married couples to be intended parents," said Michelle Keeyes, an attorney with the National Fertility Law Center in Los Angeles.
States also differ as to what extent health insurance covers the surrogate's pregnancy.
"Lloyd's of London does offer a surrogacy policy, but it costs $25,000," Keeyes said.
Intended parents are responsible for all medical expenses, including maternity clothing, and day care necessitated by doctor-ordered bed rest.
Prospective surrogates are given drug tests, and are subjected to home inspections, but parents also are often interested in the big question: "Why are you willing to do this for me?"
"You want someone who is doing it for the right reasons -- someone who might want the extra money for their family but also has altruistic motives," Brisman said.
Once the baby is born, a court order is obtained putting the intended parents' names on the birth certificate, although in some states this can be done pre-emptively.