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International Surrogacy? Penny Wise, Pound Foolish?

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Intended Parents who seek surrogacy programs in foreign countries outside the United States to save costs face particular risks as presented in this article.  Ukraine was a popular foreign destination for surrogacy. When the war started in Ukraine, the country of Georgia was hosting an ever-growing surrogacy program for foreigners. Now, there are bills being introduced in the countries of Georgia, Ukraine, and Columbia that would not allow foreigners to engage in compensated surrogacy arrangements. Getting caught in these situations can have disastrous consequences for Intended Parents.

Programs abroad can be half the cost of a surrogacy arrangement in the United States.  Intended Parents seeking to avoid $120,000+ for surrogacy arrangements in the U.S. may consider these foreign programs.  However, an evaluation of the risks can lead to the conclusion that the savings are not worth the risks.

Here are some of the many considerations that should be given to choosing a surrogacy program outside the United States.

1. Legal and Regulatory complexities.

Different countries have different laws and regulations regarding surrogacy.  Navigate the legal landscape, especially when dealing with international laws, is challenging. Intended parents may face difficulties in establishing legal parentage and may encounter issues with immigration and citizenship for the child. While each state in the United States has differing legal landscapes for surrogacy, navigating these differences in the United States is much less fraught with uncertainties.  There is a plethora of readily available and credible resources and organizations for discerning the legal landscape of a particular state.

2. Lack of legal protection.

Some countries may not have well-established or enforceable surrogacy laws. This can leave intended parents vulnerable to legal disputes, exploitation, or unexpected challenges. In the absence of proper legal protection, intended parents may face difficulties in asserting their rights or resolving disputes that arise during or after the surrogacy process. A foreign program may be robust with respect to the number of completed surrogacy arrangements; however, the numbers may belie significant risk factors that can arise for individual cases or for the program as a whole.

3. Ethical concerns.

In certain countries, the ethical standards and practices surrounding surrogacy may not align with the intended parents’ expectations or the standards commonly followed in the United States. It is crucial to thoroughly research and understand the ethical framework of the country involved to ensure that the surrogate and the child’s rights are protected. It is not unusual that surrogates may be required to leave their homes and their families to live in group homes with other surrogates for extended periods of time.

4. Medical and healthcare standards.

The medical and healthcare standards in some countries may not meet the desired level of care or safety measures expected by intended parents. It is essential to assess the quality of medical facilities, the qualifications of healthcare professionals, and the availability of prenatal care to ensure the well-being of the surrogate and the child.

5. Language and cultural barriers.

Engaging in an international surrogacy arrangement often involves working with individuals and agencies from different cultural backgrounds and potentially dealing with language barriers and different standards of service. Effective communication and understanding are crucial throughout the process to avoid misunderstandings and ensure everyone’s rights and expectations are respected.

6. Travel and logistical challenges.

Pursuing international surrogacy arrangements typically requires multiple trips to the surrogate’s country, which can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally challenging for intended parents. Coordinating travel, accommodations and legal processes in a foreign country adds complexity to the overall experience.

7. Personal relationship and ongoing communication with one’s surrogate.

Developing a relationship with one’s surrogate throughout the surrogacy process and later can often be difficult if not impossible.  Depending on the program, language barriers and societal issues an important relationship for you and  your child in the future may be lost. Also, having an ongoing relationship with one’s surrogate is not only a special and significant part of the process but can be important for the child born through surrogacy who may desire to meet the special woman who helped his or parents bring them into the world.

8. Repatriation and citizenship issues.

Depending on the country’s laws and the citizenship status of the intended parents, there may be complications in bringing the child back to the United States and obtaining the child’s citizenship. This can lead to bureaucratic hurdles, delays, or even denials, which can be distressing for the intended parents.

Advocates for Surrogacy has particular experience and background in international surrogacy arrangements.  For anyone considering a foreign program, reach out to Candace O’Brien, the founder and President of Advocates for Surrogacy.   She can provide some further insight and guidance into the international surrogacy process.