Need Better Education Around Cross-Border Reproductive Services

December 21st, 2010

I’m always glad to see the media working to educate the general public about advanced reproductive technologies and the people able to build families though its use. That said, I have to say I was taken aback by the approach and some of the language used in a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Assembling The Global Baby”, which mainly focused on cross border reproductive services.

While I can certainly understand the idea that the most colorful description of surrogacy, egg donation and other ART helps to attract readers, I was disappointed that this article put so much focus on the price tags associated with these family building alternatives. I think they, and many people not directly affected by these challenges, lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about people who desperately want, but can’t have, children the typical way.

At several points in the article, the writers make an odd comparison between surrogacy and adoption, saying that “Prospective parents put off by the rigor of traditional adoptions are bypassing that system by producing babies of their own…” As if intended parents who choose surrogacy just can’t be bothered with the adoption process and have opted for the cushier path. How can there be no reference to the idea that having some biological connection with one’s child is what’s driving this decision for so many? Besides, there’s no description of the “rigors” they’re referencing and frankly, after describing all of the physical, medical and ethical complexities of surrogacy, it’s simply bizarre that the article would imply that this is an easy path.

It’s actually this level of complexity that I think needs to be communicated to the public. Those unaffected by the challenges that lead to these alternative family building methods don’t necessarily understand how emotionally grueling this process is. Add to that the additional complications of globalizing the process and you can get some less than positive results.

While I don't disagree with global approaches, I think it’s important to note that the loose laws of other countries most likely provide very few protections for the children created. What if parents walk away due to any number of personal or child related problems? The children are left behind with no recourse. As this and many other articles focus on price tags and tell a story of comparison shopping, they tend to leave out what I think is one of the most important outcomes of low cost choices – that they often yield a high probability of low protections for everyone.

Ultimately, the best way for all participants in the process to protect themselves is to partner with a reputable agency with whom they’ve built substantial trust to help guide them through this complex world.

Let me know what you think..