Better fertility treatments can mean much older parents. But how does this affect their offspring?

Older parents

For nearly 40 years, fertility treatment has grown ever more advanced and so entrenched that it’s not uncommon for couples to begin their families in their late 30s, 40s or even 50s, producing much older parents.

Much older parents…  But even as questions about the technology to extend fertility have been answered — yes, children born through in vitro fertilization are healthy; yes, freezing embryos appears to be safe; yes, mothers can generally deliver babies safely well beyond the classic childbearing years — another important question is emerging: How old is too old for their offspring?

Offspring like Hayley, the 10-year-old daughter of a 58-year-old, Ann Skye.

“I knew that she was going to really need to build her own support system in life, or potentially would need to,” said Skye, who lives in North Carolina and works in public health. “I think that has really impacted the way we parented her. We were strong proponents of letting her cry [herself] to sleep for that same reason: She needs to be able to self-soothe.”

In December, two prominent psychologists and two reproductive endocrinologists published an opinion paper in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics questioning whether it was time to establish age restrictions in the field. They wrote that research has shown that children often experience social awkwardness if their parents are a half-century older than them and face greater risk of autism and psychopathologies. These children are also more likely to serve in a caregiving role and experience bereavement as adolescents or teens compared with their peers whose parents gave birth in their 20s and 30s, they wrote.

Do those risks constitute the potential for “great harm” to the child and outweigh a person’s right to “reproduce without limitation or interference” at any age, the authors asked.

“It is a self-perpetuating issue; the more older patients that seek [fertility] treatment, the more people feel that it is reasonable to seek treatment, especially in an age where sensational births are widely celebrated as positive events in the media,” they wrote.

In the United States, the number of live births to mothers ages 45 to 49 increased from 3,045 in 1996 to 8,257 in 2016, and the number to mothers ages 50 to 54 increased from 144 births to 786 births over the same time period, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The average age of women becoming mothers in the United States is now 26, up from 23 in 1994, according to the Pew Research Center.

WashingtonPost.com, May 30, 2020 by Eric Berger

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Fertility Clinics Stay Open Despite Unclear Guidelines

fertility clinics stay open

Fertility clinics stay open – Many providers have continued seeing patients through the pandemic, forcing them to choose between clients and staff safety.

Since March, fertility stay open clinics across the country have halted treatments for tens of thousands of people because of Covid-19, forcing patients to suspend their family planning. In recent days, some clinics have reopened, resuming services and procedures despite ongoing coronavirus concerns.

But shifting guidelines and minimal oversight have left clinics to decide for themselves when and how to resume in vitro fertilization, or I.V.F. At clinics where I.V.F. is ramping back up, or never slowed at all, some staff members are concerned about a lack of adequate protective equipment and safety policies.

On April 24, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued recommendations for restarting operations, leaving it up to individual clinics to determine how to proceed. The professional society had previously advised fertility clinics to avoid starting new treatments, postpone nonemergency surgeries and shift to telemedicine.

The shutdown generated a flurry of media attention and pushbackfrom fertility doctors and patients. Most clinics paused starting new I.V.F. cycles, which are highly time-sensitive. But a few remained open, even operating at full capacity, causing the industry to debate when to resume care and what counts as medically urgent.

“Fertility treatment is by no means elective,” said Leyla Bilali, a nurse at a fertility clinic in New York City, referring to the consensus that infertility is a disease. “It’s just, right now, it’s not a matter of life or death.”

Clinics that stayed open scrambled to implement protocols compliant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as temperature checks, masks and physical distancing. Still, people have gotten sick. At Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, seven staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. At Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, clinicians have reported flulike symptoms but have not been tested because of limited test availability. And several employees at Extend Fertility, an egg-freezing clinic in Midtown Manhattan, fell ill with possible cases of Covid-19.

“We really didn’t feel it was appropriate to go out on a limb, outside major A.S.R.M. guidelines, and keep things open,” said Dr. Bat-Sheva Maslow, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Extend Fertility who tested positive and recovered from the virus in March. “Covid-19 is almost impossible to control at this point. That weighed very heavily with us.” Extend Fertility has since closed its offices to virtually all patients.

Amid the pandemic, clinics face a dizzying array of vague and, at times, conflicting instructions from states, cities and health agencies like the C.D.C. Doctors must interpret guidelines as they see fit — often the case in fertility services, which are largely paid out-of-pocket and where patient care and profit can be at odds.

Because of unclear guidance, in most states it is difficult to tell whether remaining open during the pandemic is legal or if fertility procedures are considered an essential service. New York is an exception: On April 7, the state’s health department issued an advisory deeming infertility treatment an essential service, thus exempt from closure. New Jersey’s governor, in an executive order responding to the coronavirus crisis, made a similar but less specific exemption, referring to general family planning services but not directly to infertility.

NYTimes.com, by Natalie Lambert, May 1, 2020

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How Co-parenting Has Equipped Queer Families To Handle The Coronavirus Pandemic

Co-parenting Coronavirus

Co-parenting families are drawing on the resiliency that comes from living on the margins in the Coronavirus pandemic.

Co-parenting families are drawing on the resiliency that comes from living on the margins in the Coronavirus pandemic. Four months ago, Lisa Lo, from Calgary, separated from the father of her two young children, ages two and five, in part because she wanted to open her marriage to relationships with both men and women.Co-parenting Coronavirus

Lo, whose name has been changed to protect her family’s privacy, is polyamorous, and she’s had three relationships since her separation, one of which has ended, and two of which have been complicated by pandemic living arrangements.

Some of these relationships have brought big feelings, but through it all, Lo is mindful of keeping an emotional balance for her kids, who spend most of their time with her. “They pick up on my emotions,” she said. “If I’m happy, they’re happy. If I’m stressed and upset, then they’re stressed and upset.”

But that was all pre-pandemic: “Now, dating has been put on hold,” she told HuffPost Canada. Lo’s priorities are different these days. She is very much focused on the challenges COVID-19 poses to all multi-household families: creating consistent self-isolation protocols, navigating the handing-off of children, communicating in a time of stress, finding legal counsel.

To create a situation that worked for everyone, Lo had to have hard conversations with her ex-husband about whether to integrate any of her existing polyamorous relationships into their isolation cohort.

They settled on Lo living with one somewhat-ex-partner (it’s complicated). They are also still employing a nanny in both households, in part, because this is supportive of Lo’s mental health. The negotiations about child schedules and hand-offs between households have been complex.

Lo has also been challenged by some of her loved ones about having non-immediate family members in her household “pod” during the pandemic. But, she was able to take that in stride.

She said being queer has given her a lot of practice with tough discussions: “I’m used to being outspoken about things that are unconventional. I’m done being in the closet about anything.”

Rachel Farr is an assistant professor of Psychology, and she runs the FAD (Families, Adoption, and Diversity) research lab at the University of Kentucky. She said that for LGBTQ2 families, this pandemic both feeds into existing patterns of resilience and creates new ones.

“Some of the emotional dynamics I think are true for any family trying to negotiate [this pandemic],” she told HuffPost, “but there are added layers of sensitivity and vulnerability for queer families, who also face stigma and various forms of silencing through institutional discrimination or lack of legal protections.”

Huffingtonpost.ca by Brianna Sharpe, April 23, 2020

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Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births

Coronavirus adoptions surrogacy

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births

Coronavirus upends years of planning for international adoptions and surrogacy births.  Andrea Hoffmann’s mad dash to America began shortly after 2 a.m. on March 12 in Munich, when her husband roused her from sleep and said, “We have to get on a plane now.”Coronavirus adoptions surrogacy

The Hoffmanns both wanted to be in Maryland for the birth of their son to a surrogate who was due in late May. But Christian Hoffmann realized their plans had to be changed after watching President Trump on television as he announced travel restrictions on Europeans to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

When Christian left Andrea at the Munich airport at 6 a.m., they expected he would join her in a few weeks.

More than a month later, Christian Hoffmann is still in Munich, working at home for a pharmaceutical company. His wife is living temporarily in an apartment in Frederick, Md., doing administrative tasks on her laptop for her job as an air traffic controller. She has spent countless hours watching the news and the first five seasons of “Game of Thrones” on Netflix, and bonding with their surrogate, who has brought her three daughters to the parking lot of Andrea’s building so she can watch them dance from a second-floor balcony.

“We are just so glad one of us is here,” she said. “I didn’t think it would come to this. I thought, ‘It will be all right; they cannot lock down everything.’ I never would have imagined this situation.”

The sweeping travel restrictions, imposed with little advance notice, have interrupted plans for prospective new families around the world. The United States has imposed restrictions on travelers who have been in China, Iran and most of Europe, as well as Canada and Mexico. Nine of 10 people in the world live in countries that have closed their borders because of the covid-19 outbreak, narrowing international travel to a trickle.

As a result, many people overseas with surrogates in the United States are either stranded thousands of miles away or stuck in the United States, unable to bring their newborns home. And Americans who were about to fly abroad for international adoptions cannot enter the countries where children wait for them, often in orphanages.

“We literally had 15 families who had tickets purchased to leave the next day or in few days, and 10 families ready to purchase tickets,” said Susan Cox, vice president for policy at Holt International, an Oregon-based Christian organization that arranged more than 500 adoptions from other countries last year.

“In some cases, their adoptions had been in process for two or three years. They were finally at the point where the child was ready to travel, and the adoption was ready to be completed. They were so close.”

Thomas Mitchell and his wife, Callie, had been waiting for eight months to bring a 3-year-old boy home from an orphanage in northern China. Mitchell built him a bed that his daughters painted and decorated his room at their home in Chattanooga, Tenn., with a mural of pandas and pagodas. They had plane tickets to China in early February, but 12 days before their departure date, the adoption was put on indefinite hold.

“At first, we thought it would be a couple weeks’ delay,” said Thomas Mitchell, a real estate transaction coordinator. “Then it snowballed. Now, nobody knows when we can go.”

Washington Post, April 16, 2020, by Carol Morello

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How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy, Foster Care and Adoption

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – The pandemic is not just impacting parents and pregnant people — all prospective parents are facing new challenges.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy – Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has upended life for those who are or hope to become pregnant in the United States. Fertility doctors have indefinitely postponed all advanced fertility treatments, and some major hospitals in hard-hit areas are trying to ban partners and doulas from delivery rooms.

But the pandemic is affecting expectant parents forming families through surrogacy, foster care and adoption as well.

Global travel restrictions have left surrogacy agencies in the United States scrambling for exemptions for their international clients — particularly for those whose surrogates are scheduled to give birth in the next month or two.How Coronavirus Is Affecting Surrogacy

Circle Surrogacy, an agency based in Boston, has 15 international clients with due dates before May 1. “We’ve had our legal team prepare letters for each of these families, which has gotten many of them into the country despite travel bans,” said Sam Hyde, the agency’s president. Still, he said, his foreign clients were at the mercy of individual immigration officials. “Some have been sympathetic to the plight of our clients, others have not — it’s really been a case-by-case basis.”

 

Some intended parents, as clients of surrogacy agencies are known, who are currently struggling to gain entry into the United States are hoping to do so after completing a 14-day quarantine in a country with less severe travel restrictions.

Last week, for instance, Johnny and Patty — a Chinese couple working with a surrogate living in South Carolina — traveled from Shanghai to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to begin two weeks in isolation at a local hotel. The couple, who work for an international company and use these westernized names, asked that their last name be withheld since surrogacy is still relatively uncommon in China. They hope to complete their quarantine in time to witness the birth of their daughter, who is due in mid-April, and claim guardianship over her.

But with travel restrictions tightening seemingly daily, they worry their effort may still be in vain. “First we bought plane tickets to travel through Thailand, but now travel is restricted there,” Johnny said in an interview from their hotel on the second day of his quarantine. “Then we tried Dubai, but that is now also restricted.” Traveling via Cambodia, he said, was the couple’s “last hope” to reach the United States in time for their daughter’s birth.

Though they would be disappointed to miss the delivery, the couple said they were even more concerned, in that scenario, about the baby’s well-being in the ensuing days before they are allowed to travel. “Who will take care of our baby if we can’t arrive before she’s born?” Patty said.

Will Halm, a managing partner at International Reproductive Law Group, said surrogacy agencies were creating contingency plans for clients living abroad who may be prohibited from entering the United States over the next few months. “Plan A is absolutely to have parents in the U.S., joyfully watching their child being born,” he said. “If they can’t get into the country in time, that’s when we look to plans B, C and D.”

 

In one of the better scenarios, agencies hope friends or family members living in the United States can temporarily assume guardianship of the baby until the intended parents are granted entry into the country. As a backup, however, caseworkers are also preparing strangers — health care professionals, child care providers and even surrogates themselves — to care for the newborns until travel restrictions are eased.

“These babies will not be abandoned,” said Dr. Kim Bergman, founder of Growing Generations, a surrogacy agency with dozens of international clients who may be impacted by travel bans in the coming months. “We have an army of former surrogates who are ready and eager to act as helpers and guardians for as long as necessary.”

The ongoing crisis has created an uncertain environment for foster care parents and children as well. “Basically, everything is on pause until things are back to normal,” said Trey Rabun, who works as a services supervisor at Amara, a foster care agency based in Seattle, Wash. — one of a growing number of states ordering its citizens to work from home.

Amara, whose staff members are included in the state’s proclamation, has been able to continue some aspects of the licensing process for foster parents online, such as initial interviews. But other critical components, like home inspections, need to be done in person, Rabun said.

As a result, the number of foster homes, already all too scarce in Washington before the crisis hit, will remain static for the state’s over 10,000 foster care children until the pandemic subsides and business returns to normal, Rabun said. Of bigger concern to him, and other foster care professionals throughout the country, is the impact that “stay at home” orders may have on children not yet accounted for in the system.

“We know abuse and neglect happen more in high-stress situations,” Rabun said. But the people who would normally notice and report these sorts of problem, like teachers and doctors, will be unable to do so in the days and weeks ahead. “No one has eyes on them,” he said.

With courts and other government offices closed in many states, parents who had hoped to finalize adoptions within the next couple of months are also now navigating a drastically changed landscape — particularly for parents completing adoptions abroad.

 

Early in the year, when the coronavirus was barely registering as a news story outside of Asia, Holt International — an agency that facilitates adoption placements between Chinese orphanages and adoptive parents in the United States — was already closely monitoring and responding to the outbreak.

NYTimes.com, by David Dodge, April 1, 2020

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ASRM Guidelines on Fertility Care During COVID-19 Pandemic

ASRM guidelines COVID-19

ASRM Guidelines on Fertility Care During COVID-19 Pandemic: Calls for Suspension of Most Treatments

ASRM Guidelines on COVID-19: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the global leader in reproductive medicine, today issues new guidance for its members as they manage patients in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Developed by an expert Task Force, of physicians, embryologists, and mental health professionals, the new document recommends suspension of new, non-urgent treatments.ASRM guidelines COVID -19

Specifically, the recommendations include:

  1. Suspension of initiation of new treatment cycles, including ovulation induction, intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), in vitro fertilization (IVF) including retrievals and frozen embryo transfers, as well as non-urgent gamete cryopreservation.
  2. Strongly consider cancellation of all embryo transfers, whether fresh or frozen. 
  3. Continue to care for patients who are currently ‘in-cycle’ or who require urgent stimulation and cryopreservation.
  4. Suspend elective surgeries and non-urgent diagnostic procedures.
  5. Minimize in-person interactions and increase utilization of telehealth.

The above recommendations will be revisited periodically as the pandemic evolves, but no later than March 30, 2020, with the aim of resuming usual patient care as soon and as safely as possible.  ASRM has been closely monitoring developments around COVID-19 since its emergence. Data on its impact on pregnancy and reproduction remains limited. However, the task force used best available data, and the expertise and experience of the members to develop the recommendations. Until more is known about the virus, and while we remain in the midst of a public health emergency, it is best to avoid initiation of new treatment cycles for infertility patients. Similarly, non-medically urgent gamete preservation treatments, such as egg freezing, should be suspended for the time being as well. Clinics who have patients under treatment mid-cycle should ensure they have adequate staff to complete the patient’s treatment and should strongly encourage postponing, the embryo transfer.

Ricardo Azziz, CEO of the ASRM stated, “This is not going to be easy for infertility patients and reproductive care practices. We know the sacrifices patients have to make under the best of circumstances, and we are loath to in add, in any way. to that burden. And it will not be easy for our members. The disruption to routines, the stress on staff members and the very real prospect of economic hardship loom large for ASRM members all over the world.  But the fact is that given what we know, as well as what we don’t, suspending non-urgent fertility care is really the most prudent course of action at this time.”

Dr. Racowsky added, “We should recognize that the situation on the ground is fluid, and as such we will continue to revisit and review our recommendations at least every two weeks, to provide providers and their patients with the best information and support we possibly can.”

ASRM Press Release – May 17, 2020

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The Latest Study on Regulation of Compensated Gestational Surrogacy in New York

compensated gestational surrogacy

The Latest Study on Regulation of Compensated Gestational Surrogacy in New York

The Latest Study on Regulation of Compensated Gestational Surrogacy in New York underscores the need to pass this legislation and shows that it would provide the most comprehensive protections for gestational carriers in the US.compensated gestational surrogacy

This report on the regulation of compensated gestational surrogacy in New York, issued in March 2020 to the New York State Legislature by Weill Cornell Medicine and the Cornell Law School is one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind and leads the reader to now other conclusion but that New York’s pending legislation, The Child Parent Security Act, would be the most protective of gestational carriers, or surrogate mothers, of any piece of legislation in existence in the US.  Surrogacy legislation  can be ethical and comprehensive.

To quote from the article, “The trend among state legislatures in the United States is to permit rather than prohibit compensated gestational surrogacy. Since 2000, fifteen states and the District of Columbia have acted to explicitly permit compensated gestational surrogacy. On the other hand, only four states have taken a prohibitive approach since 2000 and two of those states permit uncompensated gestational surrogacy.”

“In forty-four states there is no prohibition on surrogacy by statute or there is explicit or implicit permission. Even in the six states that have statutes that appear to prohibit surrogacy, courts have granted pre-birth orders to intended parents and have issued other pro-surrogacy decisions. Consequently, surrogacy in varying ways, including by approving pre-birth orders.”

“In sum, the health and medical literature does not weigh in favor of continuing to prohibit gestational surrogacy in New York. There are generally no disparate health outcomes for gestational carriers as compared to non-gestational carriers using assisted reproductive technology (ART) nor are their disparate health impacts on children. Additionally, there are no disparate psychological impacts on gestational carriers as compared to women who have had spontaneously conceived pregnancies. States across the country are moving to legalize and regulate gestational surrogacy in the last decade.”

March 20, 2020 by Cornell Weill Medical Center and Law School 

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Finally, the 2020 US Census is counting LGBTQ families

2020 US census

The 2020 US Census is underway, and new changes should result in a better understanding and representation of gay and lesbian families.

This year, the 2020 US Census is substantially changing its “relationship” question for households with more than one occupant. There are now four options: In addition to opposite-sex husband/spouse or unmarried partner, forms also include same-sex husband/spouse or unmarried partner.2020 US census

That should result in a more accurate count of LGBTQ families, which is important not only for scholars but also to better deliver services and make policy decisions.

But the community likely will remain underrepresented because the Census has not altered its gender question since it began in 1790.

Respondents can still select only “female” or “male.” Despite society’s awakening about the transgender demographic and a flourishing of pronouns, members of the community will have no way to identify itself unless they leave the question blank.

I predict, though, the Census will likely alter its gender question by 2030 or earlier for more detailed American Community Survey counts. 

That’s because the Census Bureau, albeit slowly sometimes, usually changes to reflect evolutions in society.

Take married couples. Up until 1970, the Census Bureau considered the husband to be the “head of household” and his spouse to mark the category of “wife of head,” no matter who was the breadwinner.

After the social upheaval of the 1970s, the Census substituted a “husband/wife” category for “wife of head,” allowing wives to be identified as the “head of household.” 

While the percentage of households that chose this option was relatively small, it did herald the increased movement of women into higher education and the fact that many wives were the primary breadwinner.  

That same year, the Census also replaced “roommate, boarder, lodger” with “partner,” though it was combined with “roommate” as the option.  

The Census, though, has been slower to adopt to the modern LGBTQ rights movement, which started with the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

bridgemi.com, by Kurt Metzger, March 5 2020

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Why a lack of oversight of surrogacy in Canada leaves some parents feeling taken advantage of

surrogacy in Canada

Surrogacy in Canada: Legal experts say Health Canada’s new rules won’t solve industry’s transparency problems of 

Surrogacy in Canada – Cuddling a child of her own was something cancer survivor Anna Camille Tucci feared might never be possible.surrogacy in Canada

In 2017, the Toronto woman had a full hysterectomy as part of treatment for ovarian cancer — but not before doctors harvested her eggs and created embryos with her husband’s sperm.

“Since I can remember, I wanted kids….That’s just something that was in my heart since I was tiny,” she said. “Even the thought of not being able to carry [a baby] — that was really difficult.”

But in December 2019, the 30-year-old’s dream of being a mom came true. A surrogate gave birth to Tucci’s healthy baby boy.

Motherhood has been “bliss,” Tucci says, yet she can’t shake lingering questions she has about the thousands of dollars she and her husband paid through the surrogacy agency they’d hired to help them navigate the delicate process.

With surrogacy in Canada, it is illegal to pay a surrogate, but it is legal to reimburse her for pregnancy-related expenses such as additional food, clothing, vitamins and any transportation costs she incurs traveling to her medical appointments. In some cases, the transactions are handled using a trust that is set up and managed by a surrogacy agency.

Over the course of a three-month investigation, CBC News spoke with dozens of people involved in surrogacy in Canada, including parents, surrogates and lawyers; their experiences reveal a burgeoning industry in which agencies lack oversight and mandatory transparency.

Five different families raised concerns about money that was paid to surrogates through their trust accounts.

Tucci wanted to know how nearly $2,000 a month was being spent, but the agency’s policy was that receipts aren’t released until after the birth.

In another case, an Ontario father demanded his agency send him his surrogate’s receipts. He found many didn’t have dates, some were duplicates, others were from before he’d met his surrogate, and one had a lottery ticket listed.

“I think people have found a way to pull the parents’ heartstrings,” Tucci said. “I think the industry as a whole — everyone that’s involved in it — I think they’re all there to make money in the end.”

Growing demand for surrogates

The most up-to-date data from Statistics Canada shows roughly one in six couples in Canada experience infertility — a figure that has doubled since the 1980s. Infertility combined with an increase in same-sex couples starting families means the demand for surrogates has boomed.

No public health agency tracks surrogate pregnancies, but data voluntarily provided by Canadian fertility clinics shows at least 816 surrogate births were reported between 2013 and 2017.

Once couples factor in fees for agencies, lawyers and fertility clinics, the cost can quickly reach $100,000 per pregnancy.

Introduced in 2004, Canada’s reproductive legislation was meant to prevent the exploitation of women and the commercialization of surrogacy.

The maximum penalty for paying a surrogate for things that aren’t pregnancy-related is a $500,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

Parents shocked by cost of reimbursements

Tucci and her husband selected a surrogate through an agency and paid the company nearly $10,000 in fees for consultation and to manage their surrogate’s monthly reimbursements through a trust fund. They negotiated a legal contract with their surrogate that allowed her to claim expenses up to a maximum of nearly $2,000 a month during the pregnancy.

“We thought she would never actually meet that max that we had in the contract. But we found out that that’s not true,” Tucci said.

The surrogate would submit her receipts to the agency every month. The agency would then review them and reimburse her through the trust fund.

Agency says it is ‘extremely diligent’

The five families who shared their stories with CBC News were clients of the same agency — Canadian Fertility Consulting (CFC).

CFC says it is the largest agency in the country. It has roughly 400 ongoing surrogate-couple relationships and oversees some 300 surrogacy births every year.

Owner Leia Swanberg is the only person who’s ever been charged for paying surrogates in Canada.

RCMP raided Swanberg’s Cobourg, Ont., offices and she was charged in February 2013. Later that year, she pleaded guilty to regulatory offences for paying surrogates without receipts and was fined $60,000.

by CBC.ca, Chris Glover, Chelsea Gomez, Laura Clementson March 2, 2019

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Supreme Court to Hear Case on Foster Care and Gay Rights

Foster Care Gay

The justices will consider whether a city may exclude a Catholic adoption agency from its foster care system because it refuses to work with gay couples.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Philadelphia may exclude a Catholic agency that does not work with same-sex couples from the city’s foster-care system.Foster Care Gay

The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled against the agency. The city was entitled to require compliance with its nondiscrimination policies, the count said.

Leslie Cooper, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Supreme Court’s decision in the case would affect many families.

“This case could have profound consequences for the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the country,” she said. “We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children. Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse.”

In a Supreme Court brief, the agency agreed that the legal questions before the justices were enormously consequential.

“Here and in cities across the country, religious foster and adoption agencies have repeatedly been forced to close their doors, and many more are under threat,” the brief said. “These questions are unavoidable, they raise issues of great consequence for children and families nationwide, and the problem will only continue to grow until these questions are resolved by this court.”

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123, is the latest clash between anti-discrimination principles and claims of conscience. It is broadly similar to that of a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

In 2018, the Supreme Court refused to decide the central issue in that case: whether businesses may claim exemptions from anti-discrimination laws on religious grounds. It ruled instead that the baker had been mistreated by members of the state’s civil rights commission who had expressed hostility toward religion.

The foster care agency relied on the decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in arguing that it too had been subjected to hostility based on anti-religious prejudice. It added that its free-speech rights would be violated were it forced to certify that same-sex couples are fit to be foster parents.

The city responded that the agency was not entitled to rewrite government contracts to eliminate anti-discrimination clauses.

“It has never been the case that religious entities, or entities with deeply held secular views, are constitutionally entitled to enter into government contracts and then defy any terms to which they object,” the city’s brief said. If the agency’s “sweeping constitutional claims were accepted,” the brief said, “they would cause mayhem in government contracting.”

NYTimes.com, By Adam Liptak, February 24, 2020

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