Monday, August 19, 2013

Kudo's and Props To PVED's Own Board Advisor Wendie Wilson-Miller!!!






Wendie Wilson-Miller and (on the left) and Erika Napoletano (on the right), authors of Insider's Guide to Egg Donation from Demos Medical Publishing, won the LBGT Gold Award!

Way to go Wendie and Erika!  We are so proud of you!

If you would like a copy of this amazing book go to the link below:


Insider's Guide to Egg Donation


Wendie Wilson-Miller is a ten-year veteran of the egg donation and assisted reproductive technology field, is the Founder and President of Gifted Journeys, an egg donor agency based in Studio City, California. Before founding Gifted Journeys, she served as the Cycle Director of The Egg Donor Program, the largest donor agency in the United States. During her eight-year tenure with The Egg Donor Program, Wendie forged relationships with many of the nation's leading reproductive endocrinologists and the other specialists who work together to join egg donors with recipient parents. Over the years, she developed a passion for all types of families who sought out egg donors. Single parents, traditional heterosexual couples, gay and interracial couples, transgendered recipients and even those couples who travel from overseas to the U.S. for the accessibility of the assisted reproductive culture - they all deserve to have an advocate. A five-time egg donor, she's no stranger to the hormonal, physical and emotional ups and downs of assisted reproduction. With her final donation cycle resulting in a dangerous episode of ovarian torsion, she knows first-hand the risks borne by both sides of the egg donation equation. Wendie currently serves on the board for Parents Via Egg Donation, the nation's fastest growing support group for recipient parents, and is a contributing author for their resource library. Wendie has also been featured on NPR, The New York Times, ABC News.

Co-Author and multi-cycle egg donor is Erika Napoletano. Introduced to the concept of egg donation in 2000 through a co-worker who had been a donor for her best friend, she began researching the process and became a rostered donor for a prominent Los Angeles-based egg donor and surrogacy agency. Her donations have given several families the enduring gift of eleven children among them and her life is continually blessed with one family's open inclusion of her in their now four-year-old daughter's life. A professional writer, Erika is a prominent consultant and outspoken presence in the digital marketing realm. In June of 2011, Entrepreneur Magazine will launch her column "All Up in Your Business" in their largest issue of the year. She was recently mentioned in the New York Times as an authority in the small business space. She's also a regular contributor to Copyblogger (one of the most widely read online marketing blogs). She was a 2009 finalist for the Denver Business Journal Outstanding Women in Business Award and has been a keynote speaker at Chicks Who Click 2010 social media conference as well as SOBCon Colorado 2010.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Pause And Thanks To Our PVED Sponsors







Parents via Egg Donation provides service to over 9000 intended parents and parents all over the globe

We can’t say it any simpler - the generosity of our sponsors makes our work possible. PVED is thankful and proud to count the clinics, agencies, law firms, and individuals below who financially support our organization.

Because of our sponsors help we are able to do things like send quilts, books and other literature to intended parents all over the globe. We are able to travel to major cities throughout the USA creating face to face PVED parent communities, provide complimentary mental health consultations for intended parents and parents via egg donation, hold educational workshops, conduct educational in-service sessions, maintain a very large all inclusive private forum as well as maintain the organization’s website, and much, much  more.

Pacific In Vitro Fertilization Institute – Dr. Carl Morton
Fertility Source Companies – Steve Masler
Gifted Journeys – Wendie Wilson-Miller
A Perfect Match – Darlene Pinkerton
The Law Offices of Amy Demma
The Center for Egg Options – Nancy Block
Oregon Reproductive Medicine – Dr. John Hesla and Dr. Brandon Bankowski
Embryo Donation International – Dr. Craig Sweet
San Diego Fertility Center – Dr. Michael Kettel and Dr. William Hummel
Conceivabilities - Nazca Fontes
The Law Offices of Catherine Tucker
Reproductive Partners – Dr. Greg Rosen and Dr. Bill Yee
The Surrogacy Law Center – Stephanie Caballero
Huntington Reproductive Center
Abby Grayson, LPC,
IVF New Jersey – Dr. Susan Treiser
Donor Network Alliance
Circle Surrogacy – John Weltman, Esq
Color Center for Reproductive Medicine – Dr. Bill Schoolcraft
IVF Traveler – Sue Taylor

To our sponsors we give great thanks and forever grateful.

If your company is interested in supporting the work of PVED or if you are interested in becoming an advertiser, please contact Marna Gatlin Founder and CEO at (503)987-1433 or marna@pved.org

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Calling all Intended Mothers - Production Company Needs Your Help Regarding Egg Donation

Hi folks this just in:

Hi intended parents!

My name is Shira and I work at 11th Street Productions in New York. We specialize in documentary-style television series and are working on a new show about surrogacy and egg donation.

This is a brand new show that is currently in development, therefore there is no name for the show quite yet.

We are looking for women who are in the midst of a cycle, pregnant or not, that would be willing to share their stories with us. Talking with us is not a commitment.

We are still researching the topic and just want to hear real stories. We are interested in talking to both intended mothers and known donors.

 We want to hear their experiences and educate people on this very sensitive topic. 

Please contact me with any questions at all! My number is (212) 624-5608 and my email is shirapiellcasting@gmail.com Thanks again for all your help!
-Shira

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Celebrity Infertility Secrets?

This blog post comes to us from the kind folks over at  Global IVF

Does She or Doesn’t She? (Only her fertility specialist know for sure)
secret

When we look at celebrities like Elton John, Ricky Martin, or Neill Patrick Harris who have had children over the years it’s a no- brainer that they used an egg donor to create their families. But when we hear about female celebrities around the globe who have had children in their 40’s, we wonder – “Did she or didn’t she?” Society perceives that if you look young, your eggs are young.  However, the reality is when you are in your mid-forties and early fifties, your eggs aren’t going to work even though your body may very well carry a pregnancy to term and you may look great doing so. So why all the secrecy surrounding celebrities who may or may not have used egg donation or IVF treatment in general.  Is it ego?  Is it shame?  Is it because infertility treatment equates to being older which equates to being less marketable as far as Hollywood, Bollywood or the rest of the entertainment world is concerned?

Is IVF and egg donation the global entertainment world’s dirty little secret?  Now, we’re not saying that any of the following women used IVF or egg donor to have their children… in fact, most have not admitted reproductive help of any kind (although some did admit to at least IVF help – particularly the ones who used gestational carriers).  But take a look at the following list and draw your own conclusions:
  •  Geena Davis, an American actress, had her twins at 48.
  •  Jane Seymour, an English actress, had her twins at age 44.
  • Nicole Kidman, an Australian actress, was 43 when she had her daughter with the help of a gestational surrogate.
  • Cherie Blair, wife of England’s former Prime Minister gave birth at age 45.
  • Susan Sarandon, an American actress, had a baby at age 46.
  • Somali-born model Iman, married to rocker David Bowie, gave birth at 44.
  • Helen Fielding, an English novelist/screenwriter best known for her character Bridget Jones, gave birth at 48.
  • Arlene Phillips, an English choreographer, gave birth at age 47.
  • Holly Hunter, an American actress, had her twins at 47.
  • Cheryl Tiegs, a global icon in the world of modeling, had twins at age 52.
  • Marcia Gay Harden, an American actress, was age 45 when she gave birth to her twins.
  • Helena Bonham Carter, an English actress, had her baby at age 42.
  • Joan Lunden, an American television personality, went on to have two sets of twins at age 52 and 54 with the help of a gestational surrogate.
  • Elizabeth Edwards, the former wife of American presidential hopeful John Edwards, gave birth to her daughter at age 48 and her son at age 50.
  • Kelly Preston, an American actress and wife of John Travolta,  gave birth to a son at age 47
  • Halle Berry, an American actress, is currently pregnant and 46.
  • Mira Sorvino, an American actress, gave birth to her last child when she was 44.
  • Mariah Carey, musical superstar, gave birth to twins at age 42.
  • Beverly D’Angelo, an American actress, was 49 when her twins were born.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker, an American actress, had twins with the help of a gestational surrogate at age 44.
  • Nancy Grace, an American television personality, was 47 when she brought her twins into the world.
  • Farah Khan, a well known-prestigious Indian film director, gave birth to triplets at age 43.
Farah is one who admitted using IVF, she was quoted as saying: “When the choice is to either go childless or IVF, there is no room for doubts. I was 43 when I had my kids and my biological clock had stopped ticking long time ago.” However, she left the egg donation part out.  So did she?  Or didn’t she? Do you see a trend here? IVF equals shame for many women and that in itself is incredibly unfortunate. Pregnancy for most women is a rite of passage.  It’s something that we typically don’t think about until the time comes when we want to be pregnant and then it’s a really big deal.  It becomes an even bigger deal when you discover that you might be one of the many individuals in the world who might not ever conceive or give birth in your own lifetime – or if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who does it’s going to be after seeking a lot of help and spending a lot of money.
Relates story: Expiration Date Concerning Childbearing

When our bodies aren’t cooperating and doing something that we believed our whole lives we could or would do, it’s simply devastating.
The whole topic of infertility, IVF, egg donation – it’s just so socially taboo. It’s no wonder that regardless of who you are – public figure, celebrity, or the woman next door, it’s not the most favorite topic to talk about at a cocktail or dinner party. We don’t view infertility like we do breast cancer.  Infertility is still in that shameful place that breast cancer was many years ago until public women like Betty Ford brought it out into the forefront and made those of us afflicted with breast cancer into survivors and heroes – as well we should be. Until we change the mindset about infertility and embrace it like we do breast cancer, it’s always going to be that thing that no one wants to talk about. Now, celebrities may be different than the rest of us.  They may have more money.  They might be prettier, more privileged but guess what – they aren’t more fertile.  That’s a myth that has been perpetuated over the years because no one is talking about it. This means that regardless of how famous you might be, the most common cause of infertility in a woman who is in her middle forties is her age. And for a myriad of reasons, many women – not just celebrities wait too long to begin their family building – and after a certain point there’s not a thing you can do to make more eggs because our eggs have an expiration date. The reality is regardless of where you are in the world, AMH and FSH levels don’t lie.  By the time a woman is in her mid-forties, her fertility rate and percentage of success to conceive naturally is just about zero. Okay, okay we hear you – not every pregnant women who’s in her forties has undergone any sort of fertility.  However, be mindful they are the exception to the rule – like one in a million – for the rest of us in the world our reality is very different. Dr. Ric Porter, Director of IVF Australia was quoted as saying: “A pregnant actress in her forties gets a page in a magazine, but if those same magazines printed all the stories of all the women who couldn’t get pregnant, the magazines would be the size of the yellow pages. These celebrity ‘miracle pregnancies’ give women ridiculous expectations. I’m yet to see a patient who had viable eggs in her mid-forties. Even with IVF, we’ve never had a pregnancy after age 45.” It is what reproductive endocrinologists all over the world face every day on the front lines – explaining to women who are in their mid-forties the realities about their fertility, and giving them the sad news that for them to become a mother is to give up her genetics and seek the help of an egg donor.

Should celebrities make public service announcements about infertility much like celebrities make public service announcements about every other cause they are personally affected by?
Granted no woman is obliged nor should she ever be forced to share with the world how she conceived, regardless of whether she’s famous or not.  Infertility is incredibly hard, private and personal.  However, all of this miracle pregnancy mumbo jumbo that we see in all of the magazines, the internet, and television by celebrities has got to stop.  We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by drinking the fertility Kool-Aid and believing everything we read.  This is about protecting your own fertility by being informed and aware of the facts.  It’s also about protecting your self-esteem. Back in 2000 Larry King asked Cheryl Tiegs if she used an egg donor to conceive her twins and her reply was: “No, it’s my eggs and my husband’s sperm so they’re our babies. I’ve been taking care of myself for so long, I know my reproductive organs are much younger than I am.” This left me saying aloud “Really Cheryl, you’re 52, really?!” What’s even more interesting about the whole Cheryl Tiegs thing is when she and her husband divorced, Cheryl lost custody of her newborn twins to her husband. I know it made me stop and say “Hmm.” I wonder what the rest of the world thought. The message that’s pumped into the media is that for women like you and me who are looking into the fishbowl of “celebrityville” it can be incredibly misleading – it equates to false hope and being complacent about your reproductive health.
So why aren’t more famous women speaking out and being honest about their fertility or infertility issues?
Lauri Berger de Brito of the Agency for Surrogacy Solutions in Los Angeles says, “The presumption is that if you look young, your eggs are young.”  For men it’s like the old adage:  “Men are like fine wine they get better with age”.  Men can continue to manufacture sperm until they die – take a look at Tony Randall he was in his mid-80’s when he became a father.  However, in Hollywood, Bollywood, or wherever you are in the world, getting older does not go hand in hand with fertility – women are not perceived as getting better with age especially when it comes to their eggs.
But wouldn’t it be lovely if just one celebrity would come forward, be vulnerable and say: “I am a mother via egg donation and I am proud.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Parent Via Egg Donation Book Project Under Way!



You asked and we listened!

Parents Via Egg Donation will be offering a book for all intended parents who are looking to create or build their family through egg donation as well as parents who are already parents through egg donation.

We will offer the book in several different formats:

Hard Cover
Soft Cover
Kindle/Nook
E-Book

Because our book is a by the intended parent and or parent through egg donation for the intended parent or parent through egg donation we have a specific focus.

Our focus is to tell your stories -- telling your story is one of the best ways to empower, support and educate the world about egg donation and what it means individually to each person.

You can be anonymous.  You can be known.  We can make up a name for you. 

But we need your help.

If our organization as touched you, helped you, supported you, inspired you, educated you, or empowered you in any way and you would like to find a wonderful way to give back write to pvedbook@pved.org and in the subject simply write: PVED Book Project  and we will write back to you with all of the pertinent information.

Just think your words make help another intended parent make that the often scary leap to embarking upon one of the most life changing experiences we as parents may ever have.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Embryo Donation shouldn’t be called Adoption

by Sue Taylor **


Let me start out by saying that embryo donation is an amazing gift and a wonderful option for family building. And traditional legal adoption of a living child is equally amazing; it is a true gift to be selected to parent a child through adoption. However, the language that is used by some in the industry who have decided to call embryo donation by the term “embryo adoption” needs some deliberate attention and careful thought by industry professionals and society.

My opinion is that the term “embryo adoption” is primarily being used by organizations simply as a marketing gimmick primarily for financial gain. By making it “just like adoption” it is a way to appeal to broad groups of people wanting a child (who might not be considering assisted reproductive technologies for their own myriad reasons) and it allows the organizations (often religious) to promote this form of fertility treatment as having the added benefit of also being a good deed with a “save the frozen embryos from a freezer” appeal. Sometimes, they even add the “orphan” label, which I find terribly insulting.

For the sake of this conversation, I am not even going to broach the “life begins at fertilization – or implantation – or viability – or birth” issue that is often at the crux of the embryo adoption movement. Instead I am going to focus simply on the language being used.

In marketing embryo donation as a form of adoption, I think it minimizes or trivializes the feelings and experience of birth parents and “real” adoptees from a traditional, legal adoption (the ones who were living, breathing persons when they were legally adopted and their birth parents relinquished their rights).  Let me explain.  

What birth parents go through in making the difficult decision to place a child for adoption is not to be taken lightly. Unlike a person choosing to donate embryos (typically under no time pressure or duress of an impending birth), birth parents are making a very difficult decision under great pressure and stress about parenting or adoption - often agonizing at great lengths while the child is growing in their body or they have just given birth. I doubt that a birth mother would feel like she is "just like" the woman who chose to donate her embryos. I am not diminishing the angst that goes into making a choice to donate embryos - but it is generally done with deliberate intention and great joy in the opportunity to help someone else once your own family building pursuits are complete.  And that is a far different emotional situation than making an adoption plan for a child born or about to be born. In my experience, families choosing to donate embryos typically don’t experience the same type of angst and ongoing grief about their choice as many birth parents often do.  They are making a willing choice to donate.  They rejoice that they were able to share their own joy of parenting by donating embryos to help fulfill the dreams of another family. In contrast, despite the fact that birth parents may have confidence that the decision they made was the best thing for the child, it is typically a huge personal loss. And the circumstances that bring them to that loss-or even their confidence in their decision-doesn't diminish the fact that it typically has an emotionally charged lifelong impact.

And, what about the adoptees? As an adoptee myself, I think the term embryo adoption is dismissive of adoptees feelings and experiences.  Regardless of the circumstances of your adoption, there is a loss that is far different than simply a loss of genetics. Being separated at birth from the woman who created me, carried me in her body for 9 months, gave birth to me, and agonized over placing me for adoption does not in any way make me feel similar kinship to a child who was born through embryo donation. A child of embryo donation is carried by and born into to the family who will parent them (and with the benefit of epigenetics, the expression of genes influenced by the mother carrying the child).  Add that the child of embryo donation was very much wanted and longed for throughout the pregnancy and from long before the embryo was even received or transferred, and THAT is a very, very different scenario with little in common to adoption.

You just can’t compare that to the experience in utero of a baby growing in a woman who is oftentimes in a crisis pregnancy that may not have been planned or wanted (or may have tragic circumstances involved).  The woman who is agonizing over an adoption plan is in a highly charged emotional decision, under pressure and stress - forced to make a parenting choice where often none of the options are necessarily ideal.  Experts are mixed in their opinions of how much the fetus/baby is impacted by adoption – by the expectant mother’s stress and state of mind, and then being removed immediately after birth from the only human the baby has known. But, there is no question that there is a loss.  Surely we can agree it isn’t the ideal scenario of gestation and birth regardless of how amazing the adoptive family may be. I can tell you that I feel that my experience as an adoptee has very little in common with that of a child born of donated embryos. I think it is insulting to suggest otherwise, truth be told.

In my mind – the only similarity between embryo donation and adoption is that children are being parented by adults who don't share their DNA. Period – that is it! So, calling embryo donation a form of “adoption” is as if you are trivializing adoption down to it being only an issue of not sharing DNA with the parents raising you.  I can assure you that adoption is far more complex than that.

If we’re making comparisons, most everything else about embryo donation has far more in common with using donated gametes for reproduction via assisted reproduction. That might include double donor IVF or even egg or sperm donors - where one or both sets of DNA were donated. Again, in all of these scenarios, the child was very much wanted from before they were transferred into the uterus and the parent(s) were likely moving heaven and earth to be a parent, donated embryos are simply a means of how they got there. But that intention and desire to be parents from before pregnancy is far different from a crisis, unplanned pregnancy and I am not convinced that the baby doesn’t feel this difference.

Embryo donation is a medical procedure; it is not the adoption of a living person.  It is a chance for pregnancy where realistically, the odds of it not working are greater than the odds of it resulting in a live birth.  There is something wrong with equating or giving equal value (through our words) to a living, breathing child being placed for adoption and the donation of embryo that is more likely not to survive and grow.  Our US legal process is clear that a child can only be adopted (or have parental rights relinquished) after they are born. A donation of embryos is  a legal relinquishment of rights to embryonic tissue, not an adoption.  

I want to say specifically that I don’t take so much issue with families who elect to talk to their children about embryo donation using the language of adoption - how they want to present their family to the world is their business. I do hope that they are considering the language with great care and consideration though for the children’s sake.  I also have no judgment for anyone who chooses to go through an embryo adoption agency and the quasi-adoption process required by them as a way to get their embryos or as a way to donate their embryos.  I think however your embryos or children come to you is your business as long as it is done ethically. And however you decide to share the gift of embryos is also your business if you are donating.  My frustration is with industry professionals and these non-medical organizations who are exploiting the term adoption to create a new industry primarily for financial gain.

My opinion is that many are using the term “adoption” as a way for those agencies to make money off of families desperately wanting to be parents.  They charge agency fees, home study fees, fingerprinting fees, background checks, training/education fees, etc.  And often that money is paid all before they even qualify you to match you with embryos (that themselves statistically give them about a 25 - 40% chance of a live birth).  Realistically, adding an “adoption” component to embryo donation can easily double or triple the cost of embryo donation to the recipients.

And for those organizations trying to promote it as doing a good deed and “saving the embryos” or "save the orphan embryos" movement the reality is that in the US today, there isn’t an  excess or surplus of available frozen embryos already donated and waiting for families.  In most clinic based embryo donation programs or private matching services, there can be months long waiting lists for embryos - people truly wait years for the chance of receiving donated embryos. Perhaps in trying to create an “embryo adoption” industry that allows them to add middle man and third party costs that are, in my opinion, unnecessary, the organizations advertising this have created even more demand for embryos that are in short supply. 


I think the ASRM was spot on when it gave the opinion that embryo donation is a medical procedure, it is NOT adoption. Here is what their report said:

“Requiring infertile patients who need donor gametes or patients who need donor embryos to suffer the imposition of unnecessary administrative and legal trappings of adoption and the costs that accompany them is not ethically justifiable. The donation of embryos for reproductive purposes is fundamentally a medical procedure intended to result in pregnancy and should be treated as such.”
  

For these reasons, I prefer that we use language for this new form of family building (involving donation of embryos) that doesn't imply that this is "just like an adoption".

Maybe embryo donation isn't the right language.  Interestingly enough, the primary synonym to ‘donation’ is ‘gift’.  And some families who have been created through embryo donation choose to use the term “gifted embryos”.  I think that beautifully conveys the feeling of gratitude and appreciation that recipients feel toward the donating families.  Perhaps that is a term for the community to consider when pondering this issue.   I am hopeful that the industry professionals and our society can thoughtfully come together to develop positive language that is respectful of others and celebrates the uniqueness of the beautiful thing that is embryo donation.
 
**Sue Taylor is an experienced IVF consultant with a passion for helping others on their journey to parenthood. With over 27 years experience in the healthcare industry, she now assists patients with selecting a clinic, or going abroad for more affordable IVF and donor egg IVF treatments. Ms. Taylor can provide assistance for prospective patients deciding if IVF treatment abroad is a good choice for them, assist with clinic selection, and has provided full facilitation services (including cycle & travel coordination). She has assisted hundreds of donor IVF patients seeking treatment abroad. Her blog, www.ivftraveler.com/blog, offers practical details for patients traveling for IVF services or an IVF vacation. Sue Taylor can be reached at sue@ivftraveler.com.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Defending My Donor Egg & Donor Sperm Family – Part 3

Opinions expressed on the PVED  weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Parents Via Egg Donation. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Parents Via Egg Donation with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.
This is the last of an ongoing three part series whereby I defend my family planning choices, and thus my children, against misguided perceptions, disparaging comments, and a threat to other families whose reproductive rights are being called into question.  For those of you who have been following, you know that my first installment defended my family against comments made by the general public in response to the building of a new infertility clinic in one Illinois suburb.  And my second challenged the study findings of Elizabeth Marquardt, the editor of FamilyScholars.org and vice president for family studies and the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.  Well, Mrs. Marquardt is back at it.  She also has a few accomplices in her crusade, Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture in California, and David Prentice, a professor with the Christian faith-based organization, Family Research Group.  As you may have guessed by the last gentleman’s credentials, this piece will strive to defend third party reproduction against their arguments, some of which include religious perspective.  (No sense in ending on a light note, eh?!)
            *Before continuing, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not attacking nor attempting to discredit any religious doctrine, perspectives, or rituals.  I am not a student of the Bible and am unqualified to speak in specifics or to quote scripture.  I am merely responding to accusations and allegations that third party reproduction violates Christian sensibilities.
            To review where we last left off with Mrs. Marquardt, she pioneered a questionnaire style study comparing the psychological experiences and overall satisfaction scores between donor offspring, adoptees, and bio-raised adults.  In her 140 page document,  (http://www.familyscholars.org/assets/Donor_FINAL.pdf) she dances around the final data and statistical analysis, substituting conjecture and devoting a disproportionately large portion focusing on the few negative responses received.  If you recall, in the end she could only report a 3% upbringing and family dynamic dissatisfaction rate among the donor offspring respondents.  Yes, that translates to a 97% approval rate among the donor offspring respondents, which she glosses over and fails to illuminate in her conclusions and discussions.  I guess the 140 pages of rhetoric were indeed necessary to bury an impressive outcome like that.
            This time Mrs. Marquardt is taking on the issue of surrogacy.  Mrs. Marquardt asserts, “As mothers ourselves, we reject the exploitation and commodification of women's bodies happening right now in the U.S. and around the world.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-marquardt/surrogate-motherhood-_b_2024435.html)  Yet, when referring to the particular court case cited here, we see that she employs her usual deception by omission tactic by highlighting one very bizarre case and presenting it as the norm within third party reproductive practices.  The biological mother discussed in the cited article was, by her own admission, neither exploited nor treated as a paid commodity for her participation in the scenario.  This woman alleges that she entered into a pregnancy agreement with a “good friend” with the understanding that they would co-parent the child; though she admits she did not even know this “good friend” well enough to know he is homosexual with a life partner.  That’s not the only suspicious part of this story.  Why would she agree to conceive with donor eggs despite a lack of an infertility diagnosis if she truly believed she would be co-parenting her own child and retaining 50% of parental rights?  And who paid for the extremely expensive acquisition of donor eggs and subsequent in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure?  She also entered this purported agreement without a legal contract.  And although, as Mrs. Marquardt points out, “in Texas, as in all states, the birth mother is the legal mother, even if donor eggs were used, so long as there is not a valid surrogacy contract” this woman lost primary custody of the twins.  What’s more, the father was granted a restraining order against the plaintiff, and she is allowed “just two hours daily supervised visitation. The door must remain open, she cannot bring a friend to help her hold the twins, and she is not allowed to breast feed -- she is not even allowed to take their picture.”  To clarify, the law is on the side of the plaintiff.  However, she has severe legal injunctions placed upon her and her parental rights.  What is Mrs. Marquardt not telling us here?  Is this the best example she could muster to make her case: a woman who naively, or so she claims, enters into a pregnancy agreement without legal representation and who has been deemed unfit by the courts to even be alone with the children?  No, it’s the only one she could find, thus she had to use it and again, gloss over the obvious.  There’s no third party controversy here, just insanity.  And I assure you, this is not the norm. 
            As mentioned above, Mrs. Marquardt is not the only opponent of reproductive technology.  In February, researchers from Christian groups, as well as other family advocacy and women’s groups, gave presentations to the Senate health committee claiming that commercial surrogacy exploits and endangers women.   (http://cjonline.com/news/2013-02-20/topeka-sperm-donor-mentioned-senate-hearing)  Here, we see the same concepts being alleged; particularly that third party reproduction treats women and babies as commodities.  David Prentice states that third party reproduction has led to “areas of ethical concern and to cavalier views of nascent human life and of women, including stockpiling of 'excess' human embryos, and instrumental use of women for buying of their eggs or use of their wombs as surrogates."  I believe I adequately addressed the reimbursement issue for time, effort, and discomfort involved in assisted reproduction in the first installment of this blog series.  Mr. Prentice addressed the Senate health committee on behalf of his Christian-based group, while the committee also heard from Dana John Onifer who questions whether in vitro fertilization (IVF) is “good, right and Christ-honoring treatment”.  Thus, I’d like to briefly address my perspective regarding religious scrutiny of third party reproduction. 
            First, I am curious as to why it is assumed that gamete donors and/or gestational surrogates are in exploited relationships with intended parents.  As discussed in my first blog under this title, the inclusion criteria is extremely difficult to meet and the duration of the process alone offers more than ample opportunity to annul the agreement.  I can understand how an outside observer may view this transaction as simply that, a business transaction.  But to both the intended parents and the donor, be it of gametes or womb, this is not the case at all.  Donating gametes or gestational services is the utmost in human compassion; it is a supremely selfless act of giving of oneself to another less fortunate; it is more than just a life saving event, it is a life giving one.  And often times the donor or surrogate is a dear friend or even a family member who requests no reimbursement what-so-ever.  This level of altruism is not consistent with Christian principles?  Jesus would object to reaching out to one another in such a manner?  The basic dynamics of any donation situation dictates that one party is the giver and the other the taker; that doesn’t mean the recipient is taking advantage.  And if religious groups still insist on assuming a negative perspective, isn’t it possible that donors and surrogates are exploiting the intended parents, that our bone deep heartache makes us the vulnerable ones?  And yet we put our faith, love, and vulnerability out there.  And instead of exploiting us, good people, dare I say sainted people, come to our aid.  That sounds like Christ-like behavior to me.
Secondly, it is undeniable that IVF and third party reproduction does raise certain ethical quandaries.  I have hundreds of sleepless nights and whispered prayers under my belt as testimony to that.  However, advancing technologies are improving success rates and even eliminating the need to conceive more than will be placed in the uterus.  But even in the commonplace case of excess embryos, intended parents have options regarding the outcome of those embryos.  When managed properly under the guidance of a skilled embryologist, those embryos retain their right to life at a success rate that is often on par with the pregnancy rate of naturally conceived embryos.  And if a family does not desire to pursue further pregnancies, they often donate them, completely free of any financial gain, to other infertile couples.  Again, I assert that is good, Christ-honoring behavior. 
Lastly, an all too frequent argument that I have heard from Christian advocates is that third party reproduction is selfish.  The argument goes something like this: I am so sorry for your losses [miscarriages], but maybe this is God’s plan for you.  Don’t you think it is selfish to create more children you were obviously not meant to have when there are so many underprivileged children in the world needing to be adopted?  (No, I am not exaggerating.  Ask any infertile woman or couple; they’ve heard it, more than once.)  And in all honesty, I can see the validity of that point.  But, if that is true, everyone who conceives their own children, regardless of method or genetic connection, is selfish.  By this rationale, any intended pregnancy while there are parentless children in the world displeases God.  By this rationale, the most selfish people in America are the Duggars.  They obviously have the willingness, love, resources, and patience of five Jobs to take on two baseball teams of children.  And not a one of them is adopted.  Yet interestingly enough, this family is on a Christian pedestal; they are a beacon of Christian family values.  Why do Christian groups love them so much, but I am selfish for wanting to nurture a child into existence from beginning to end, even when that means I need to accept the helping hand of a stranger?
Of course there will always be examples of mismanagement.  Nearly any situation lends itself to scrutiny and manipulative tactics; third party reproduction is by no means an exception.  And sadly, we live in a society that likes to sensationalize the worst of examples, especially emotionally charged ones, to be presented as norms.  I don’t like irresponsible infertility patients (Octo-mom ring a bell?) or unscrupulous infertility clinics (Octo-mom’s infertility team) any more than anyone else.  In fact, such deplorable examples make it even harder for me to defend my choices and my family.  But here’s the thing, as much as I judge those examples, as much as I advocate for better, in the end there is only one final judge from a Christian perspective.  And I stand firm on my personal choices.  I am willing to meet that final judge knowing in my heart that my husband and I did take an ethical path, we did respect life in the utmost, we did accept a loving human-to-human donation, and we bestowed that same degree of love upon our children.  Our children are being raised with the Christian principles of altruism, love, gratitude, and tolerance.  Yep, I feel pretty confident in saying they were created in God’s likeness with the assistance of God’s children.  Personally, I don’t think that displeases Him.

-Kelley Wendel, RN, BSN, & most importantly, MOM   


Kelley Wendel is the author of Birds of a Different Feather, a children’s book designed to instill aprideful sense of self and celebrate family inclusion regardless of genetic history.  Birds of a Different Feather is endorsed and recommended by Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED), Donor Offspring: Books for Children, Creating A Family, and Adoption.com.   To learn more about the author and the book, visit:  www.kelleywendel.tateauthor.com  Follow me on Twitter and Facebook; links available through the website.  



 
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