The non-profit organization “Men Having Babies” recently held its annual gathering in San Francisco, and it was quite an impressive event. There were more than 200 guys in the audience, learning about the “journey” to obtaining a child through surrogacy. The event included presentations by a wide range of surrogacy agencies, and presented information on how to evaluate agencies, how to choose an egg donor, and how to make prudent decisions about the choice of surrogates. You can learn more about the organization at http://www.menhavingbabies.org.
In response to the criticism from various factions regarding the perceived unethical surrogacy practices – mostly involving overseas agencies – the organization has issued ethical guidelines for intended parents. It’s currently a “proposed framework” and its available for review on the Men Having Babies website. It’s a remarkable document – based in part on a parallel effort undertaken by a group in Israel – and it should be read by anyone involved in this process, either as a parent or an agency.
The Framework opens with a helpful glossary of terms, and follows with a general Statement of Principles. The principles support surrogacy as an option that should be available to intended parents, and stresses that prospective surrogates should have autonomy of decision-making regarding the pregnancy, birth, and transfer agreements. The emphasis is on informed decision-making without duress or undue pressure. The principles also cover the touchy issue of compensation, striking a balance between the right to compensation by all parties -including agencies – with a concern for the negative impact of excessive fees.
The second section presents baseline “protocols” for providers, with details about medical screening, clear contracts, legal representation, and minimal standards for accommodations, compensation, and interpersonal relationships.
Whatever one’s position is on the ethical, political and legal aspects of surrogacy for gay men, it’s helpful to review these guidelines. It’s an open question where to draw the line on these issues — either as parents, professionals, or legislators – but having clarity about the most crucial issues certainly helps in formulating our responses.