|Genesis Egg Donation & Surrogacy Group, Pasadena, CA. |
With China’s controversial one-child policy no longer in effect, the U.S. is seeing a huge jump in surrogacy-related services.
Ideal Legal Group Inc., a family law firm in Alhambra that specializes in international surrogacy, has already experienced an uptick.
“We had a total of six clients for all of last year, but we’ve already had four clients just for the month of April this year,” said Evie Jeang, the law firm’s founder and managing partner. “I see lots of surrogacy agencies popping up. They’re doing a lot of advertising — but it’s in Chinese, not English.”
The group, which also has offices in New York and San Francisco, also offers legal services in family law and workers compensation.
“I have people come up to me asking for help to form a business or corporation,” Jeang said. “They want to be the connector to help the Chinese couples who come to us for referrals to clinics and surrogacy agencies. This is like a new wave of business.”
The government of the People’s Republic of China intended to slow the nation’s surging population growth with its one-child policy, adopted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Enforcement of the policy tended to be stricter in cities and more lax in rural areas. And some ethnic minorities were exempt.
But the government began to phase out the program last year before brining it to an end Jan. 1.
Ideal Legal Group isn’t the only Southern California business that has noted an increase in surrogacy-related activity. Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director for The Fertility Institutes in Encino, said an increasing number of new agencies have popped up.
“I’ve been contacted by 15 to 18 agencies out of China that serve women there who want to get pregnant,” he said. “And 90 percent of them don’t have any patients. They’re just new agencies trying to make a buck.”
Steinberg said his operation is especially appealing to Chinese couples who are looking to have more children.
“Our biggest thing is gender selection,” he said. “We do genetic studies on the embryos before they go back to the parents. So we will know if it will be a male or female. We can also pinpoint health problems like sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease and muscular dystrophy before it becomes a child — when it’s in the embryonic stage.”
The ability of a woman to choose the gender of her child resonates with Chinese couples, Steinberg said.
“In China, they don’t have any social services to take care of parents when they get old, so it’s the male child’s responsibility to do that,” he said. “That’s why having a boy in some cases can be so important. But another couple might have a boy and want a girl, or they might have a girl and want a boy.”
Steinberg said some Chinese couples want American women to carry their babies so that they become American citizens with access to U.S. schools and other perks.
The Genesis Group, a Pasadena agency that deals with surrogacy and egg donation, is also picking up more business these days.
“It’s been growing and right now about 40 percent of our business comes from China,” said Lisa Chiya, the agency’s chief operating officer. “We’ve been around for 10 years. But now I’m seeing a lot of consultants coming from China who want to tap into this market, so they might have affiliate agencies here. But some of these people have no experience whatsoever, and this is a complicated process. There is the legal aspect and the pre-screening aspect.”
Under California law, the intended parents and surrogate mother must each be represented by independent counsel. Each surrogacy agreement is different depending on the particular preferences of the parties involved.
Most surrogacy agreements will include expectations for both of the intended parents and the surrogate to comply with, including communication about doctors visits and dietary and travel restrictions.
Chiya said surrogate mothers in California are typically paid $35,000 to $50,000 for their service. They also receive a benefits package that provides money for such things as a monthly allowance, housekeeping, travel expenses and psychological support services.
“You have to be careful with who you are dealing with,” she said. “If you are dealing with an agency that doesn’t know what they are doing, then you are putting your parental rights and the baby’s rights at risk.”
Image via Yelp
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