By Abbey Doyle Evansville Courier & Press, Ind.
A surrogate, Tara Pearce, wasn't all Sara McCarter needed to carry her twins to delivery. Without Surrogacy Together, a surrogacy advocacy group that works to promote ethical and positive surrogacy experiences, the cost could have been prohibitive.
The group has several goals:
To give surrogates and intended parents a platform to share their positive stories of surrogacy through publications.
To give the children born through surrogacy the truth of the positive way they were born rather than "sensationalized stories of surrogacy gone wrong."
To celebrate the women who step up and offer the gift of parenthood to another and to help couples or individuals become parents through surrogacy who wouldn't be able to otherwise by collaborating with other professionals to provide services pro-bono or at a big discount.
The group works with Expect Miracles, a surrogacy agency, as well as other professionals who help with the process.
Christy Anderson, co-founder of Expect Miracles and Surrogacy Together, said her organization coordinates with the in vitro fertilization clinic, as well as with lawyers and psychologists who are also providing all professional services for no cost to a couple.
Anderson and her husband have gone through multiple surrogacy journeys. The first resulted in the loss of twins due to a pregnancy complication.
"We were $40,000 out of pocket and didn't even have a baby on the way," she said. "The financial toll on hopeful parents can be devastating on top of the devastation of infertility or trying to build a family through surrogacy.
"We knew we were also the lucky people that had that $40,000 to loose chasing this dream baby.
"We eventually were able to have our daughter, Austin.
"In having the agency, we consult weekly with individuals who truly will not have the funds to ever complete a surrogacy. Infertility like ours and Sara and Zach McCarter's crosses all socioeconomic boundaries. It is not an affliction of the wealthy."
Anderson said that about 13 percent of couples suffer from infertility and many of those lack the finances to overcome it.
"That statistic is heartbreaking," she said. "This community has given us support, love and has lifted us up in our darkest moments, so we felt compelled to give back. Finding a way to help others who would not otherwise be able to have a child, while celebrating the surrogate families who make sacrifices to help others were our original goals.... .
"Then enter our daughter, Austin, who deserves her story to be authentic and not tainted by media focus on unethical, poorly arranged surrogacies gone bad. That seem to be what the general population only knows of."
In the surrogacy process, Anderson said, the egg meets the sperm in a dish through the medical process of in vitro fertilization.
That egg and/or sperm could come from the parents or from a donor. The embryos are transferred to the surrogate.
About 18 weeks into gestation, the agency will file for what is commonly known as a pre-birth order -- a court order establishing parentage before birth so the birthparents will go directly onto the birth certificate and be able to make medical decisions for the child.
Each state has different laws concerning the surrogacy process. In Indiana, a surrogacy contract is "unenforceable," meaning the state is not going to make a legal decision based on the private contract. The consequence could be the contract not being followed by either party, with no grounds to enforce it.
McCarter said because their transfer happened in California, that state would have jurisdiction in the case and the state will honor surrogacy contracts.
But every state, Anderson said, honors "altruistic" surrogacies, such as the kind of surrogacy arrangement McCarter has with her surrogate, Tara Pearce.
"Surrogacy is often seen widely as unethical due to an imbalance of perceived wealthy parents and impoverished, taken-advantage-of surrogates," Anderson said.
"In most surrogacies, the playing field is even. The average intended parent is Sara and Zach (McCarter) with perhaps one investment they can cash out. The average surrogate is Tara (Pearce) -- a financially stable, compassionate woman who has a desire to make a contribution to the world and views herself as a long term baby-sitter rather than in any sort of parental role to the child she carries for someone else."