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US legal fees for paid-for surrogacy deals can hit $10,000

13 Jun 2022 / ethics Print

US legal fees for paid-for surrogacy deals hit $10,000

For surrogacy arrangements in Canada, no genetic link is required between parent and child, fertility lawyer Cindy Wasser explained to the Oireachtas committee on international surrogacy (9 June).

There were no restrictions in genetic connection, sexuality or marital status, when commissioning a child through paid-for surrogacy deals, she added.

Parentage was established by court order, based on the best evidence available, Wasser said – even if no paperwork was available for babies born in other jurisdictions. 

Parentage by intention

The country’s Immigration Act had been amended to establish parentage not by genetics, but by intention, she explained. 

“The political struggle to be recognised as parents in various countries is enormous,” she said.

US fertility lawyer Richard Vaughn told the committee that, in his jurisdiction, those on public assistance or with criminal records were not permitted to act as surrogates, since offering the service for financial motivation alone was seen as undesirable.

“It’s really specifically when it comes to the surrogate. The issue and the concern is not taking advantage of women who might only be doing this for the money, which has generally for many years been considered a reason to disqualify someone who wishes to be a surrogate,” he said.

Money was not considered an appropriate primary motivator, he added.

Senator Lynn Ruane responded that, as a working-class woman, she didn’t want to see any form of discrimination in terms of race, ethnicity, or class, in the ability to work as a surrogate, and that those on welfare should not be excluded from the practice.

'Everyone is making money'

The lawyers before the committee were asked about the fees involved.

Cindy Wasser responded that, with an egg donor, the cost for surrogacy was approximately Can$150,000, which included agency costs of $20,000.

“I charge $3,700 plus tax for a Canadian surrogacy agreement, $4,000 to international people. 

“When we talk about the altruistic process in Canada, everyone is making money for sure, except the surrogate and the donor. They get nothing,” she said (apart from reimbursement of expenses). 

“They don’t make a profit, they want to do it because it’s a matter of their heart,” she added.

Richard Vaughn said: “On average in the US, if you’re including egg donation and surrogacy, the costs can range from US$140,000 to US$200,000, and the legal fees are less than 5% of that, anywhere in the range of $5,000-$10,000, depending on the state,” he said.

Retired High Court Judge Bronagh O’Hanlon said that paid-for global surrogacy deals should be regarded in terms of contract law, between a surrogate mother and intending parents.

“[If] you’re interested in doing this deal with this person, that’s how it gets reality. You have your pre-conception suite of orders and your post-birth suite of orders,” she added.

The retired judge said that she felt that the word ‘altruistic’ should be taken out of contracts, because there were costs involved.

“If the regulation is good enough and robust enough, I would take out the word ‘altruistic’ and I would have international and domestic, all in one, with good regulation.”

'Whole lot of money'

Judge O’Hanlon said it would take “a whole lot of money and an awful lot of time” to set up an assisted-reproduction regulation authority.

“And it’s slow. In a way, the court has a simple mechanism as it is, so just expand on that, and have it clean and simple and straight."

Judge O’Hanlon added that she didn’t see why a person on welfare couldn’t act as a surrogate mother.

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