A 2009 Reflection on the State of Surrogacy & Egg Donation

December 22nd, 2009

As 2009 draws to a close, it’s worth looking back to reflect on some of the issues we’ve grappled with in the evolving industry of third-party reproduction. Not unlike other years in its relatively short history, this one was a mixed bag. In hindsight, some of the issues in the spotlight generated a gut-wrenching feeling of disbelief and outrage, others a sense of excitement and joy for the advancements of our field.

There were absolutely a couple of high points for our industry this year. Sara Jessica Parker’s decision to use a surrogate to expand her family drew positive attention to assisted reproduction. As more celebrities participate in third-party arrangements and choose to share those decisions, we hope the public will become more educated about this growing method of family building and become even more accepting. Its mounting awareness not only helps those facing fertility challenges recognize additional options, but starts to help dispel the false idea that women can wait to have children into their forties or fifties naturally (without medical/technical intervention). Now, if celebrities would also cop to using donor eggs, that would be even better progress!

Also on the positive side of the spectrum this year was the increase in reproductive tourism, bringing more couples to America to circumnavigate their country’s restrictive stance on third-party reproduction and take advantage of our advanced medical care.

And finally, this year brought the creation of DNA (Donor Network Alliance), a real progression in the egg donor industry revolutionizing the way patients around the globe search for egg donors and collect important information. I’m proud to be a founding member of this unique resource that presents thousands of prospective egg donors from egg donor agencies around the country on a single Web site.

I’m not sure I even have to go through the low points of 2009, since they commanded our national conversation for so much of the year…but I’ll go ahead and run down the list anyway.

This year brought us the surrogacy scandals of SurroGenesis, Bala, Angels in Waiting and B Coming. These organizations were run by unscrupulous individuals with little or no experience in the field of infertility. Unfortunately, their fraudulent activity left the public with the false impression that the industry is fraught with this kind of corruption and deceit. Of course, most facilitators of third-party arrangements are caring individuals with an agenda based upon helping intended parents build families. This is exactly why this year’s streak of bad business has tainted our collective reputations. Even worse, rumors continue to swirl as agency insiders complain other rogue agencies are teetering on the brink of the same undoing.

Then, of course, there’s the Ocoto-mom saga, which brought its share of disgrace to the field of infertility treatment. This is a prime example of what happens when vital parts of the process are missing or are blatantly disregarded. Possibly worst of all was this year’s German High Court ruling of surrogacy as immoral leaving many gestating surrogacy pregnancies in limbo.

Every time I think I’ve seen it all, along comes another conundrum to stump and amaze me in more ways than one. That is one of the things that keeps me devoted to this highly charged (and admittedly often difficult) business. There is always a new development for better or for worse that keeps the reputable members of the industry on our toes and communicating effectively. But, overall, the fact that what I do really does impact others lives’ in a positive way enables me to work through the rough parts of the business and find creative ways to learn from all the wacky, weird and downright awful issues that sometimes arise.

I hope 2010 is a year of expanded understanding of the wonders of Assisted Reproduction by the public and positive stories for an industry that is, by and large, made up of caring, consciousness, dedicated professionals who are passionate about what they do. Best wishes in the New Year - Nazca