Thursday, June 23, 2016

International Surrogacy Facilitators and Client Abuse: No end to it, apparently.

It's been a little over six months since I've updated.   Despite doing everything we could to lock down our Facebook accounts, Drew and I, like many other intended parents and prospective intended parents had to delete our accounts,  because the unrelenting abuse by "professionals" in the international surrogacy industry became so exhausting, we decided that it was in the best interests of our family to step away from social media.

Over the past six months, we've had the joy of seeing our daughter blossom into a precocious, vivacious and loving toddler.   We've had the joy of watching Q. revel in being a big brother and seeing Miss C and Miss M bonding as only sisters can.  

We've missed Johnny ever single day.   As we will, for the rest of our lives.  

One would think that if someone you didn't like and didn't respect had stopped blogging, you might be relieved, or silently smug, or something.   But that would presume that one was a reasonable person.  

On the twenty one month anniversary of Johnny's death, this arrived in my inbox:

I don't know what motivates a person to leave a comment this nasty on a video where grieving parents talk about the loss of their child.   I fail to see how this advances international surrogacy or lends legitimacy to the individual who left the comment.   I have my suspicions about who left this comment, many people within the international surrogacy community will recognize not only the writing style, but the pattern of vitriol and abuse.  

There are those in the community who talk about "doing good for all" and who try to call themselves advocates for families.   There are those who talk about advocating for intended parents and surrogates.  Some of these people may actually be trying to do so.   However, the above does not reflect well on any of the professionals in this community....  the fact that this behavior is well known and continues to this day reflects poorly not only on the individual and their business, but also on those who promote and participate with this person.  

"Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people."  Dennis Prager

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Surrogacy in Mexico closed to foreigners and gays.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Surrogacy in Cambodia: Who really takes the risks? Who really pays the price?

As expected, the government of Cambodia is already moving to stop commercial surrogacy in their country:

"Meanwhile, the Cambodian government is scrambling to create new laws to stop the fast-growing surrogacy industry before it expands. Touch Channy, spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that government ministries will discuss how to manage the growing numbers of surrogacy clinics. “The ministries need to work together to ensure that this case doesn’t happen in Cambodia,”

It is absolutely devastating to know that the many of the same people who ignored issues in India , then watched the fear and pain of their clients in Thailand as that country closed its doors to international surrogacy, jumped into Mexico within weeks, then began promoting surrogacy in Nepal- where they watched intended parents and their babies get stranded there simply start over in yet another country.   

I wish I could believe that these companies truly cared about surrogates, babies and intended parents. However, what Sam Everingham from  Families Through Surrogacy says "“Many of the clinics have a business model where they take advantage of being able to take clients to a country with a legal loophole,” he said, “until it’s no longer there, and then they have to move somewhere else.”   about clinics is equally applicable to international surrogacy facilitators, agencies and agents.   If your business model boils down to "get as many clients as you can in as fast as you can" before you get kicked out..... that does not inspire confidence in a company or an individual.  

I know the desperation that is driving couples to listen when their new "BFF" agent tells them that there are some risks, but not to worry you can trust your "Auntie" and they are professionals who are experts in all areas of this yada yada yada.   If any of you are reading this, please ask yourself this:

1.  How can a person who does not speak the local language, is not a legal or medical professional and who has spent only a  handful of days in a given location be an "expert" on something as medically, ethically and legally complicated as surrogacy?   

2.  Ask your facilitator what responsibility they will bear if you are directly harmed by taking their advice.  If they make a grave error about the quality of medical providers they have chosen for you,  who will be accountable for the results of that error?  Your facilitator?  No.  It will be you and your very fragile and much loved baby.  If you and your babies end up stranded in a country where surrogacy wasn't legal in the first place and whatever "loophole" the agency  was counting on is now closed.... will they help you pay your bills while you're in country?  Pay for your legal counsel?   Help you keep your job while your stuck thousands of miles away from home?   Do they have the concrete ability to do ANYTHING to help your family when things go pear shaped?  See how far that accountability and their commitment to you the client goes when you try to get that in writing.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Flavor of the Month - Written by Drew

The last eighteen months have been tough for international surrogacy facilitators and agents.  In the wake of several high profile cases, India has continued to tighten its restrictions on surrogacy.   Thailand closed its doors in 2014 although the case of Baby Carmen continues to highlight the danger of surrogacy in a place where the legal framework is evolving.  An earthquake in Nepal didn't slow them down, but the Supreme Court in Nepal has put a moratorium on surrogacy.  The news from Mexico has not been encouraging

Of all the possible locations on the planet to descend upon for surrogacy, where are the international facilitators and agencies going now?


 As a wise man once said, I'm not making this up.

Let's see what the US State Department (link) has to say about traveling to Cambodia.

On Crime:
"Cambodia has a high crime rate, including street crime. Military weapons and explosives are readily available to criminals despite authorities’ efforts to collect and destroy such weapons. Armed robberies occur frequently, and foreign residents and visitors, including U.S. citizens, are among the victims. The Embassy has also received reports that hotel rooms of U.S. citizen visitors in Phnom Penh were burglarized while the occupants were asleep."
"Local police rarely investigate reports of crime against tourists, and travelers should not expect to recover stolen items. It has also been reported that some police stations charge foreigners between $20 and $100 to file a police report."

The concept of someone breaking into my hotel room while I'm sleeping is creepy to say the least, the idea of this happening in a room where my newborn infant is sleeping is horrifying.  That's saying nothing about the military-grade weapons that are easily accessible.

On LGBT Rights:
"While there are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Cambodia, public attitudes remain negative towards LBGT individuals, and same sex marriage is generally not permitted. There have been no reports of arrests or violence related to LBGT travelers."

The fact that there have not been reports of arrests or violence related to LGBT travelers may seem encouraging, however the cultural climate of negativity towards the LGBT community is  concerning.  What is more concerning is that despite several cases of LGBT parents experiencing legal issues in non tolerant countries, that facilitators and agencies continue to bring their clients to places where their rights are not recognized and protected. 

Most importantly, this is what the US State Department says on on Health:

"Medical facilities and services in Cambodia do not meet international standards. Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have a limited number of internationally-run clinics and hospitals that can provide basic medical care and stabilization. Medical care outside of these two cities is almost non-existent. Local pharmacies provide a limited supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications, but because the quality of locally obtained medications can vary greatly, make sure to bring a supply of your medications that is adequate for the duration of your stay in Cambodia. You should be wary of purchasing local medication. Counterfeit medication is readily available, often indiscernible from authentic medication, and potentially lethal."

Even if we were to ignore everything else, what about the above paragraph indicates that Cambodia is a safe and appropriate place to conduct a surrogacy?   By definition, surrogate pregnancies are considered high risk.  The increased risk of multiple pregnancy and prematurity make access to high quality health care critical for the safety and wellbeing of babies.

Likely, if you point this out to one of the facilitators or agents currently touting Cambodia as the next great option  for international surrogacy they will  tell you that "their" doctors and clinics are state of the art.  Given that they make thousands of dollars from IPs with absolutely zero accountability for outcomes, I suppose it's not surprising that they would minimize the risk.   Disappointing, but not surprising.  I mean really.... who cares what the State Department has to say as long as the facilitators "feel" good about it. 

Families through Surrogacy's website has the following to say about surrogacy in Cambodia:

Note:  The Cambodian surrogate retains parental rights under the law.   While facilitators may feel comfortable minimizing the risk that this poses to intended parents, one only has to look at the current Baby Carmen case to see just how dangerous ignoring the legal rights of the surrogate is.  

As always, we urge all hopeful IPs to consider the risks to everyone involved when it comes to weighing your options, no matter how desperate you may feel.  As has been said here before, where your baby will be born is the first decision you will make that could have serious and/or long-lasting repercussions on your baby's health.  As the first anniversary of my twins' birth and my son's death quickly approaches, I remember how we were reassured repeatedly that our surrogate was receiving the absolute best care possible, and that my twins would have access to the same level of healthcare as they would in a regional medical center in the United States.  My wife and I believed what we had been told repeatedly by our facilitator, and it wasn't until we received conflicting information in the wake of the premature birth that our facilitator admitted that she wasn't a medical professional.

As a matter of fact, none of them are.

None of them are legal experts in any of the numerous countries they have churned through over the last almost two years, either.   There is no possible way any of them could become legal experts on surrogacy in country after country after country.  

None of them are fluent in the local language, and I find it implausible that any of them could have become experts in the local customs and cultural practices in the very limited amount of time that they spend there before declaring a program "open for business." 

Yet they routinely present themselves to desperate intended parents as being experts who are able to determine whether a hospital, clinic, or even an entire country is an appropriate and safe place to bring a newborn into the world.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Perhaps my previous post was not clear.

I will not be posting comments from surrogacy professionals who abuse intended parents.   Period.      

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Commenting on this blog is not a right.

This is my blog.

I am not obligated to post abusive, inappropriate ugly comments.

I am not obliged to justify what I do and do not post here.

I am not obliged to give anyone a platform to attack and shame intended parents for speaking out about their experiences.

I am not obliged to promote anyone's business.

It is not my responsibility to promote international surrogacy.

If as an industry professional you feel that I am a big meanie head for demanding that people who charge thousands of dollars for their services be accountable?

Monday, September 14, 2015

When you don't know what to say to someone who has lost their child......

1.   Don't be an ass, don't insert a but after your condolences.   Try this:  "I am so incredibly sorry that this happened.   I just don't know what to say."  

2.  Do not ever say or imply that my son's  death was "for the best".   Period.   Ever.   If Johnny had lived he likely would have been neurologically devastated.   Guess what?  I love my children regardless of their abilities.   We would have loved and treasured him regardless of his potential for accomplishment.   Say this instead, "You must be devastated.   Would you like to talk about it?"

3.  Do not tell us that "god needed another angel".   Even if the person you are speaking to is religious, telling someone who has just lost their child that somehow it's because "god" needed them more than their parents did is naive at best, and insulting at worst.  Try this instead, "I'm going to be thinking about you.  I wish there were more I could do."

4.  Don't tell us when we should be done grieving.   You don't get to tell me when I "should" do anything related to Johnny's death.   Instead, say this "I know that this pain will never go away.  Anytime you would like to talk about Johnny, I would love to listen." 

5.  Don't tell us that if you lost a child that you wouldn't be able to go on.   What choice do you think I had?  Mere hours after my son died, I had to get on a take care of my daughter.   When I came home, did I want to crawl into bed and die myself?  Yes.   Was it an option?  No.  Because someone had to be there, not only for my living children, but for my husband.   Say this instead, "I can't imagine how you must be feeling.  I am so very very sorry."

6.  Don't compare grief.   Losing your parent, your friend, your sister, your grandmother or your beloved beagle is not the same as losing a child.   (Yes, these are all examples of grief comparison that I have heard.  Just say this, "There is nothing as painful as losing someone you love.   I am so sorry that this happened to you."  

7.  Don't try to make my grief about you.   You do not need to tell me how hard it is for YOU that I'm grieving.  You do not need to tell me that my son's death was hard for your kids or your husband or your best friend.   While you may be trying to show me that you're empathize with my feelings, all it does is put me in the position of having to comfort you.  I don't have the energy for that.   Try this instead, "My entire family has been thinking about you and how difficult this must be.   Please know that we care about you and want to help if we can."

8.  Don't be afraid to say my son's name.   There isn't a moment that goes by that I am not thinking about him.  Knowing that other people still think about him is a good thing.  If you are thinking of Johnny say, "I was thinking about your little guy the other day, if you ever want to talk about him, I would love to listen."

9.  Do not say "At least you have Maizy."   Please go look at your children.  Report back to me which one of them is disposable.   Of course, I am grateful that I have my daughter.   I am beyond grateful that I have all of my children.   That does not for one second take away from my pain at losing Johnny.   Say this instead, "How are the kids?  Do you think they might like to go to the park?  Would you like me to come by and hang out with them for a little while so that you could take a nap?"

10.  Don't try to imply that I, or any other parent who has lost a child is responsible for the death of their child.   Every single one of us lives with guilt and shame every day even if it is totally undeserved.  We don't need any help with that.  This is not the time to say,  "This is why I <insert did surrogacy domestically, don't vaccinate, used xyz product, etc>  If you need to congratulate yourself on what an amazing parent you are and reassure yourself that what happened to me will never happen to you-  Do it on your own time.  Say this instead:   "I am so incredibly sorry."  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Surrogacy Beyond Borders Review and Complaint

Instead of addressing the very grave concerns raised by recent reports in the Mexican media about their practices, Surrogacy Beyond Borders has unfortunately chosen to attack and defame anyone brave enough to talk about this openly.   In my opinion, responsible, ethical providers have the ability to confront criticism honestly, are transparent about what mistakes were made and are committed to making concrete changes to improve.

More response from Lily Frost- Markowitz and Surrogacy Beyond Borders