Subscribe and get breaking news, commentary, and opinions on law firms, lawyers, law schools, lawsuits, judges, and more.
(Image via Getty)
On December 1, 2021, a new organization called Reproductive Alliance hosted a major webinar called “Countdown to Launch.” Reproductive Alliance describes itself as developing “industry-wide standards that protect intended parents, surrogates, and the industry at large.” The groundbreaking webinar was hosted by board members made up of surrogacy advocates and professionals from various fields — including legal, mental health, and insurance — who discussed the pressing need for a plan.
What is the plan? To create an accreditation program for surrogacy matching programs (agencies). Sounds ambitious? Yes, well that’s why there’s a countdown to launch, and not a launch quite yet. Program implementation is slated for late 2022.
There’s Nothing More Important Than Creating Families
Dr. Alison Wilson, a Reproductive Alliance board member and psychologist, explained that she “literally didn’t know anything more important than trying to create a baby.” She described it as being a privilege to help people on the intimate journey of family building through surrogacy. Wilson and other Reproductive Alliance representatives stressed the need for an accreditation process to create transparency and accountability for surrogacy agencies in order to protect the intended parents, surrogates, and children brought into this world through surrogacy.
The speakers noted that surrogacy agencies are unregulated in the United States. Anyone, at any time, can create a website or social media account and become a surrogacy agency that minute. Reproductive Alliance’s goal is an effective accreditation program to raise the bar, creating agreed-upon industry standards and accountability to hold agencies to those standards, without legislators or government regulators — who may know little about surrogacy and are more likely to get it wrong (or at least way less right).
The United States Has Had Its Problems, Too
While frequently touted as the safest place to go through surrogacy in the world, the United States has had its own share of problems, too. Which, of course, I love to write about here. These have included agency owners attempting to flee the country with intended parents’ money, shady surrogacy health insurance products, and even American operatives involved in a baby-selling ring.
In countries outside of the United States, the arrangement tends to be distanced — with hopeful intended parents knowing little about the surrogate carrying their child. All updates and communications are facilitated through a middleman such as the clinic or agency. (Check out these podcast episodes describing surrogacy journeys in Mexico and Ukraine.) In the United States, however, the norm is for the intended parents and surrogate to build a relationship with each other. That close relationship is viewed as a positive thing, but it also opens the door for serious issues if intended parents and surrogates find they don’t see eye to eye. An agency’s job is critical.
Q&A — An Organization Still In Development
Despite the webinar’s name, “Countdown to Launch,” Reproductive Alliance doesn’t have a specific launch date for its accreditation program. The representatives sought volunteers to join their efforts to establish the required standards and support the program. And, of course, noted that financial donations to the cause were welcome. The accreditation program launch is slated for late 2022.
In response to questions as to whether the accreditation program would include egg donation matching agencies, the answer was no, not at this time. It would also not include standards or accreditations specific to ancillary professionals, such as attorneys and mental health professionals, who have their own oversight organizations.
In response to whether an agency would be required to be in business a certain number of years, the answer was also no. The intent is not to create a cartel, but rather to provide a path for all agencies for accreditation. However, there may be a provisional accreditation category for new agencies while their practices are being established. On the question of cost, there was not yet a concrete answer — but a promise that the goal was not for the nonprofit-to-be (application pending with the IRS) to make money, and an aim to make the accreditation process affordable for large and small agencies alike.
While I, your loyal columnist, have not been involved with the creation or development of Reproductive Alliance, I should note that someone I know and love — and who shows up on my AncestryDNA.com profile — is. My sister, Jennifer White, is the director of a surrogacy agency I co-founded with her (Bright Futures Families), and co-hosts a podcast with me. She is a board member of Reproductive Alliance and one of the passionate driving forces behind the organization.
But don’t let the disclosure change your mind about the need for accreditation. In a world where the stakes are high, the costs expensive, and the players seemingly innumerable, the key is to know who to trust. Let’s hope that the Reproductive Alliance will help us all figure our way through that intimidating path.
Ellen Trachman is the Managing Attorney of Trachman Law Center, LLC, a Denver-based law firm specializing in assisted reproductive technology law, and co-host of the podcast I Want To Put A Baby In You. You can reach her at [email protected].
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), Ellen Trachman, Family Law
Privacy Center | Do not sell my information