A gestational carrier is a woman into whose womb is transferred an embryo created with gametes (sperm or egg) other than her own that are selected by aspiring and intended legal parents who cannot gestate a child themselves. It may be both gametes of a heterosexual couple, one gamete from one of the intended parents combined with a donor gamete, or,.very rarely, two donor gametes selected by the intended parents. The egg of a gestational carrier is not used, so she is not genetically related to the child she gestates. The purpose of this arrangement is for the gestational carrier to help the intended parents have a child that they otherwise could not have without her assistance. Many aspiring parents around the country have turned to surrogates to help them have their children due to fertility issues and other concerns.
Choosing a gestational carrier
You can locate a potential gestational carrier in several different ways. First, you can have someone who knows you need a gestational carrier volunteer from members of your family or circle of friends or acquaintances. Second, you can search the Internet for sites on which prospective surrogates seek self-matches with parents who need their services. Finally, you can work through a surrogacy agency that recruits, screens, and matches you with fully qualified gestational carriers.
Each of these has pros and cons. The pros of finding a carrier among friends or family is that you already know and presumably have a trusting relationship with them. In addition, they may perform gestational services for you for a reduced or no fee, and you won’t have to pay a surrogacy agency a fee to find a match for you. The disadvantage are that they have not been screened and may not qualify, and you will have to navigate the entire complex surrogacy process without expert administrative support.
If you find a gestational carrier on the Internet, you won’t have a pre-existing trusting relationship with them. Furthermore, they will still ask for a fee (sometimes higher than normally charged because they know you are not paying an agency fee, as well), They also have not been screened and may not qualify. Often surrogates who seek independent matches are surrogates who initially applied to work with an agency but were disqualified by the agency for some reason. One advantage is that you again won’t have to pay an agency a separate fee to match you, but you also won’t have any administrative support throughout the process. This is probably the riskiest and least desirable option.
Using an agency to match you with a gestational carrier has the disadvantage of the additional expense of the agency fee, but it also has the advantage of the administrative support and guidance of the agency throughout the process. The gestational carriers will also likely have been fully screened and qualified before they are presented to you as a potential match. The quality and services of agencies vary, and there are no laws or regulations in most states that govern their activites, so due diligence must be used in vetting and selecting an qualified agency.
It isn’t possible for just any woman you choose to be your gestational carrier. Whether a friend, relative, independent match or agency candidate, each prospective carrier must be properly screened and qualified before you begin the process, and a comprehensive contract governing the arrangement must be agreed to and signed by both parties with independent legal representation. The screening at a minimum should include a criminal background check, a physician’s review of all her pregnancy records, a psychological evaluation, and a review of her health insurance to determine whether it will cover a surrogate pregnancy (not all do).
Before becoming a gestational carrier, your carrier should talk to an attorney. You should also do this, so that you understand the legal risks and options that are open to you. You will need to make decisions such as:
- What fees will be paid and when and what expenses will be reimbursed and how
- What happens if you or others involved in the process pass away before the surrogacy has been completed
- How parentage will be established
- medical decisions will be made (and by whom) during the pregnancy
These are only a few of the essential issues covered in a surrogacy agreement, and a comprehensive and detailed agreement is the foundation for a safe and successful process. Minnesota has no laws regarding surrogacy that either allow it or prohibit it, but it has been successfully accomplished in hundreds of cases for more than thirty years. There is an established and reliable process, but it requires the advice and services of an experienced surrogacy attorney. Therefore, it’s important that you go over the rules and regulations that may affect your situation before you start the process.
Surrogacy is an opportunity to expand your family and bring life into the world, but it is legally complex. Make sure you understand your rights and obligations so that both you and your child are protected in the process and you successfully become your child’s legal parent as intended.