#1 Question People Ask About Egg Donation and Surrogacy

Dawn Davenport

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What we don’t know is scary, and most of us don’t know much about third party reproduction, such as egg donation and surrogacy. We asked two legal experts to shed some light on the top question they get when infertility patients or others are beginning to think about surrogacy and egg donation.

questions about egg donation and surrogacy

#1 Question for Egg Donation

The top question reproductive law attorney Catherine Tucker receives on the topic of egg donation was from families that for whatever reason feel they need to use an anonymous egg donor, but want some degree of contact or information sharing now or in the future for medical or even social reasons. According to Ms. Tucker, while the word “contact” and “anonymous” may seem like contradictions it is possible to structure your agreement with the anonymous egg donor to allow for future contact for medical reasons and if the child someday desires contact. In fact, according to Ms. Tucker, this has become the trend in egg donation.

#1 Question for Surrogacy

There are definitive steps to take that will help ensure your child remains yours.

The top question Stephanie Caballero, an attorney specializing in assisted reproduction, receives on surrogacy is about the risk of the surrogate keeping the baby. I totally understand this concern—who wouldn’t worry about this on some level? According to Ms. Caballero, the truth is that it is a very small risk and there are definite steps you can and should take to avoid this from happening when you are deciding on the type of surrogacy, the location of the surrogate, and what to include in your contract.

For a more in depth discussion of questions about egg donation and surrogacy, check out this Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast.

 


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Originally published in 2010; Updated in 2018
Image credit: jim simonson

13/06/2018 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 24 Comments



24 Responses to #1 Question People Ask About Egg Donation and Surrogacy

  1. c says:

    “The choice of a closed donation, just like the choice of a closed adoption, is a valid choice for family making. It is neither a form of child abuse nor civil-right-disenfranchisement. Just like nobody should force or criticize a parent\biological-parent for choosing an open adoption, not should a parent\biological” parent be criticized for choosing a closed one”

    Justin, perhaps you misunderstand – I’m specifically talkig about choosing a donor who can never be traced or contacted. That IS selfish – you can’t tell me you would be doing that for your child’s sake. It would be less selfish to choose a donor that is open to contact at 18, when the child is an adult (which is what happens in a closed adoption). No-one is suggesting that the donor has to be part of your life.

    Also, we are talking about donation, not adoption. Adoption involves pregnant women who are making a difficult decision and even though I don’t really approve of closed adoptions, one can at least accept that the already pregnant bparents are making the choice because of a crisis situation.

    However, a person donating sperm or an egg are doing so because they feel like it so if they are refused as a donor, there is no real skin off their nose. So if one makes a law that all donors must be open to contact at 18 (and some countries have made that law), if the DC child so wishes (and they might not), then one just ends up with a different group of donors. If a potential donor isn’t happy about that, then too bad, he doesn’t get to donate.

  2. Marilynn says:

    Greg so do you believe that women are not the mothers of their own offspring if carried and delivered by a gestational carrier? You believe the gestational carrier is the mother and not the woman who conceived the child? If the mother never existed, the child would not exist. A person delivered by a gestational carrier could still exist if the carrier never existed because they could easily have been carried and delivered by a different woman. If their mother was a different person, they’d be a different person.

  3. c says:

    “c,
    Donors may opt out of openness, and their wishes should be respected (same as with biological parents). Wishing to help infertile couples, while not wanting to assume parental responsibility, is not the same as doing something “willy-nilly”.”

    It is not just about the “infertile couples” though is it Justin. The donors need to think about the subsequent human being that is being created. That human being has the right to know who their biological forebears are.

    As I’ve said before, there is no need for total anonymity, i.e the donor conceived human never being allowed to know who the donors are. Banning it forthwith would cause no issues.

    “Wishing to help infertile couples, while not wanting to assume parental responsibility, is not the same as doing something “willy-nilly”.”

    What’s openness got to do with “parental responsibility”? Openness is for the child’s sake. By openness, I am not necessarily saying that the donor has to be part of the child’s life growing up but more at the very least being open for contact when the child is 18. If the child wants to make contact, then good; if not, then also good.

    People who conceive via donor egg and sperm and want total anonymity, i.e. their child never being able to find out who their biological relatives are, are just being plain selfish. Note I am specifically talking about total anonymity.

    As for reducing the number of donors, many donors are prepared to go along with what the receiving parents wish and I think some donors in the past have done anonymous donations because it is what the receiving couples want. I think some of those same donors might be prepared to still donate if the receiving parents wanted their child to be able to make contact at 18.

    However, we have to start thinking beyond the receiving couples and think of the subsequent child. Just occasionally, it would be nice to think about the child, ya know?

  4. c says:

    “C. Do you think what they donate is sperm and eggs? Cause that is not what their contracts and agreements say. It’s just how its spun for pr purposes. Honestly other than for research purposes, who’d want their junk i they had not agreed on abandoning their children conceived under contract at birth?”

    All I know is that the donated sperm and eggs create a human being and that human being has rights – the right to know where they came from.

    At least part of the grieving process of those suffering from infertility is the loss of the biological connection yet it seems that some (not all) are prepared to have their subsequent child not ever have a choice in the loss of biological connection. I don’t care if the child wants that connection or not, they should at least have the choice. Thus using totally anonymous sperm/eggs is hypocritical and selfish and is not done for the child but for one’s self.

    As I said above, sometimes people have to think beyond themselves and think of their child – not just as their child but as a human being with rights of their own.

  5. marilynn says:

    I use to be just for ending anonymity. Then I realized that is not the only thing wrong with this process. There are multitudes of things wrong, but for one, these people are denied the benefit of court approved adoption that is normally a prerequisite before someone gets parent like authority over a a person that is not their offspring. So they lack that protection. Basically they wind up with their non bio parent because they were given as a gift or sold to them. Nice.

  6. marilynn says:

    C. Do you think what they donate is sperm and eggs? Cause that is not what their contracts and agreements say. It’s just how its spun for pr purposes. Honestly other than for research purposes, who’d want their junk i they had not agreed on abandoning their children conceived under contract at birth?

  7. Justin says:

    c,
    “If I were an egg donor, I’d want to know that how the resulting child was and that she was happy. I would want her to be able to ask any questions that she needed to ask. I would know that it was about the child, not her parents. I wouldn’t just give away a biological part of me willy-nilly.”
    I’m not sure about that. Donors may opt out of openness, and their wishes should be respected (same as with biological parents). Wishing to help infertile couples, while not wanting to assume parental responsibility, is not the same as doing something “willy-nilly”.

  8. Greg says:

    I think Justin was referring it the consistent notion that the woman who gives birth via egg donation (the woman who raises the child) is not the child’s mother. He is right that is insulting, hurtful and untrue especially from groups that were able to conceive children who lack an understanding. It’s insulting that the woman who carried and nurtured the child for 9 months and raised the child is not a mother to the child.

    Justin is dead on with point 4 that with divorce rates being what they are there are a lot of children that are raised by one biological parent and rarely see the other. Perhaps that is something people should think about when they are getting a divorce when thud have children. Or should we put laws in place to prevent that?

    C,

    Question, if you had that biological background when you were younger would you wanted to donate your eggs in an open donor situation? I apologize if that’s too personal a question but you bringing up the lack of biological information preventing you from donating I’m curious if it was just that. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.

  9. c says:

    So I don’t get crucified, I better make the disclaimer that I am certainly not talking about all people suffering from IF, as many IF sufferers are very responsible in their family-building decisions. So if you are responsible in your decision-making, then obviously I’m not talking about you.

    I am talking specifically about those people who chose irresponsible methods of family-building, whether they suffer from IF or not.

  10. c says:

    “2. And more to your point, you make a case for egg donation to become more like an open adoption, rather than like a closed one. I wonder, though, whether egg donors would want such an arrangement (to actually be a mother to a child), and whether insisting on such an arrangement will limit their willingness to donate their eggs.”

    If I were an egg donor, I’d want to know that how the resulting child was and that she was happy. I would want her to be able to ask any questions that she needed to ask. I would know that it was about the child, not her parents. I wouldn’t just give away a biological part of me willy-nilly.

    The truth is of course as an adoptee, I would never have been able to donate an egg or, if I’d been a man, donate sperm. My lack of knowledge (until 3 years ago) about my own biological background would have made me unsuitable as an egg, or if I’d been a man, sperm donor.

  11. c says:

    “The top question Catherine Tucker receives on the topic of egg donation was about how much contact for medical or even social reasons is possible with anonymous egg donation. While the word “contact” and “anonymous” may seem like contradictions it is possible to structure your agreement with the anonymous egg donor to allow for future contact for medical reasons and if the child someday desires contact. In fact, according to Stephanie, this has become the trend in egg donation. We talk in depth about how to do this on yesterday’s show”

    It is good to see it is becoming the trend. In fact, totally anonymous donations (i.e. one where there is no hope of the donor conceived person ever knowing the donor) should be banned – there is no real reason for totally anonymous donations to exist. It can then be up to the DC person to make contact if they so wish – if they don’t want to make contact, they don’t have to. At the very least, they should be able to make contact as an adult. As egg/sperm donation is a totally voluntary act, then if the potential donor is not happy about the possibility of contact, then they can be deemed as not suitable for donation.

  12. marilynn says:

    Justin
    “3. Even taking your point and likening the donation to adoption, isn’t it the parents’ choice, both biological and adoptive, to set an adoption as close or open? Why set a rule for everyone, rather than leave it to choice?”

    Because leaving it to choice means that people won’t and don’t have equal rights at birth and that is unfair. We are talking about simplistic rights like the right to medically accurate and complete vital records for yourself and the right to access those of your immediate relatives for medical and personal reasons. We are talking about the right to be legally recognized as kin within our own biological families as well as kin within our extended family network like step families, in laws, foster and adoptive families.

    Kinship is a measurement of distance between individuals, no different than a mile is a measurement of distance or a pound is a measurement of weight. It is the same for everyone, it is not a matter of choice. If you got a speeding ticket when you were going the posted speed limit and the cop said he was choosing a different speed today to make his ticket quota would that not be unfair? A dead beat Dad can walk off on his kids by his own choice but it does not change the fact that he is their father and has an obligation to care for them, so it is important that he be recorded as their father in order that their rights are maintained and that they would have legal recourse against him if need be. You are talking about people who want to walk off from the responsibility of parenthood AND pretend that they are not even biological parents. But pretending that impacts other people and their identities and kinship roles. If I decide not to be my parents daughter anymore do I get to go erase their names from my birth record and change their reality take away their parenthood? By doing so take away my sibling’s sister and brotherhood and would I no longer be an aunt our children no longer cousins because of my choice not to talk to my parents any more? Choice is fair insofar as it only effects yourself. When other people’s identities and rights are undermined by our choices it is not fair and the law is not currently fair to people with biologically inaccurate birth records and their relatives. Information is yours to keep private when it impacts nobody but you. Claiming to be the parent of another person’s offspring impacts the rights and kinship identities of two whole families without their knowledge or consent and the legal losses are many. I honestly think people are good at heart they just are not thinking beyond their immediate needs and desires. When faced with complaints from donor offspring they react by saying not everyone feels that way or there is no way to know how they will react. It’s sad to say you want to study the psychological impact that being born with unequal rights has on people because maybe its not that bad and they don’t really need those rights and we can keep on doing what we are doing and claiming we had no way of knowing they’d be upset. Let’s do another study on how well adjusted they are compared to – (name a subgroup).

  13. marilynn says:

    Justin
    “2. And more to your point, you make a case for egg donation to become more like an open adoption, rather than like a closed one. I wonder, though, whether egg donors would want such an arrangement (to actually be a mother to a child), and whether insisting on such an arrangement will limit their willingness to donate their eggs.”
    No kidding? You think? You’ve got my number for sure. I don’t want to restrict the reproductive freedom of anyone to reproduce with whomever they wish known or unknown so long as they are held fully accountable as parents for their own offspring when they are born just like every other person is held accountable for their offspring. Why because then their offspring would be born with equal rights and they would have obligations equal to those of other biological parents. Currently the law does not treat some bio parents the same as other bio parents which means their offspring are not born with equal rights. This is an injustice that needs to be corrected regardless of anyone’s feelings on the matter. People can choose not to exercise their equal rights it does not mean they don’t still deserve them. We discourage people from reproducing irresponsibly don’t we? We try to educate people not to have children they cannot or do not want to care for themselves. We try to limit the number of children who have to be separated from their families and adopted into other families because it is a tragedy when people are separated from their families no matter how necessary it might be or how wonderful the adopting party is we know that when parents fail to raise their own offspring it is a tragedy. So I think it would be great if women thought more carefully about having offspring with total strangers and agreeing not to raise their offspring because obviously to say otherwise would be to encourage that tragedy of a bio parent failing to raise their kid. Its a good thing when people are responsible for their own reproductive behavior and limit their offspring to those they can care for personally right? Why would we discourage women from having offspring they don’t want to raise while they are in high school, but then offer them thousands to do the very same thing once they hit college? People really forget that women are delivering the donor’s biological offspring. I really think they erase her and her family from their minds. I’m sure they would not want to be thought of as the mother’s of their own children at least initially because it would make it much harder to accept the money or walk away. Which would be my goal to put reality in everyone’s face to make it harder to take money and walk away. I certainly hope that women are discouraged and choose not to give up their eggs when they realize that they’ll still be bio mothers when their kids are born. Feelings don’t matter facts do.

  14. marilynn says:

    Justin
    I’m going to break my responses up so they are not as long in one read
    “1. Once again, please stop insisting that a woman who gave birth through egg donation is not her child’s mother. That is insulting, hurtful, and more important, untrue.”

    Do you mean that you want me to stop saying that women are the biological mothers of their own offspring whether they give birth to them or not? It’s true. I’ve read the research (like you wanted me to) and even cited it here on this blog, directed people to the ASRM’s page on the definition of biological mother. It is not insulting to say that a woman is the biological mother of her own offspring. The truth as it stands according to current law is that a woman that gives birth to the biological child of another woman is referred to as the birth mother on record. Now I would like to change that law, but for now, legally she is the birth mother of record. Can you explain why you think that it is insulting? What’s wrong with saying that the child she delivers is the biological child of another woman? She shares no biology with the child she delivers, not one drop of blood. Unless she damages the cells in the child she changes nothing about the child’s biological make up. If she does her job of gestating well the fetus will develop to its full potential and will be born the biological child of some guy and some woman who may or may not wind up raising him or her. What is your preference? Do you think its OK to lie to women about their biological connection to a child they did not themselves conceive? It’s cruel and fills them with ideas they know are not completely true, they must know, but enough people keep saying no no your the bio mother they are going to start saying it and thinking it, they might even tell the child they delivered that they are their biological mother and that someone else was their dna donor. What part of our biology does not have dna it? How can one separate their biology and their dna? It’s not possible.

  15. Justin says:

    Marilynn,
    1. Once again, please stop insisting that a woman who gave birth through egg donation is not her child’s mother. That is insulting, hurtful, and more important, untrue.
    2. And more to your point, you make a case for egg donation to become more like an open adoption, rather than like a closed one. I wonder, though, whether egg donors would want such an arrangement (to actually be a mother to a child), and whether insisting on such an arrangement will limit their willingness to donate their eggs.
    3. Even taking your point and likening the donation to adoption, isn’t it the parents’ choice, both biological and adoptive, to set an adoption as close or open? Why set a rule for everyone, rather than leave it to choice?
    4. You forget that children of donated eggs and sperm usually do live with their genetically related relatives, at least on one side. Their lot is no different than any child who grew up with one non-related parent, which occurs frequently in our society.
    5. You can write really long paragraphs, but do you actually have any statistic about children born of donated eggs and sperm needs to know about their donors? Have you read any ACTUAL RESEARCH about whether they want to meet their donors? Have you read any ACTUAL RESEARCH about adjustment if they do or don’t?
    6. As for non nuclear family relatives, who may or may not accept donors’ and parents’ choices – they can keep their bigotry and opinions to themselves. I care less about them, and more about the people actually involved in this birthing relationship.

  16. Natalia says:

    Marilynn,

    I don’t know where your bitterness comes from, and I feel sorry for you because you’re obviously hurt by this subject. I think you’re seeing the issue in a very monochromatic way. Of course, it’s better for a child conceived through donnor egg or sperm or both to have access to their biological origin. However, I have to disagree on that the donor is just a donor. This person hasn’t grown this child on her womb, or even care for the child during her life, so it’s different from somebody that carry her baby to term, and gave her up for adoption. The mother that had that baby growing in her womb, even if there is not biological connection, she’s the mother of that child. And of course, that child has a biological connection to the donnor who donated her eggs or his sperm to help others to be able to procreate. By the way, people that choose to grow their family this way are not only because they’re infertile. Hope you find peace within yourself.

  17. marilynn says:

    If you think about them, these are funny questions; should anyone really be in a position where they want to limit or prevent someone from knowing and bonding with their biological mother and maternal relatives? I know the goal of the egg donation process is for an infertile woman to obtain ‘her own’ baby through the pregnancy experience, but in reality she still winds up raising another woman’s offspring. So the question above really highlights the fact that she WANTS the child she raises to loose contact and legal kinship with their family so that she may feel like the only mother and that her family is the child’s maternal family. The child is not good enough to raise as who they really are, another woman’s offspring and a member of that woman’s family. She gave birth and may have even paid a lot of money to have the child and the title of mother all to herself and she needs the child to behave as if she is their only mother and behave as if her relatives are their only relatives. The child cannot just be themselves and be loved by her, they have a job to do and a roll to play in order that she may come close to the feeling of giving birth to a child that is all hers and looses nothing if raised by her.

    The fact that the biological mother may not think of herself as a mother won’t change the fact that they are related as mother and child and it won’t change the fact that her relatives will be related to her child. Her relatives may not share her view that their cousin is not their cousin or sibling is not their sibling or grandchild is not their grandchild and they may come to me looking to put their families back together, looking for the children their relative abandoned to tell them of course they are her child and of course they are a member of their own family and please don’t feel rejected. But only if they are told or find out that their relative signed a reproductive agreement giving up some of her offspring. She herself may come to me looking for the children she gave up, ridden with guilt over not knowing who was raising her kids or where. The kids do certainly come to me under 18 and over wanting to know how to find their families. Yes they do and they do not tell people raising them about it even when raised in an atmosphere of openness because they know the woman that delivered them wants them to view their bio mother as a donor. Their job in that family is to make the woman who delivered them feel like she is their mother and her relatives are their maternal relatives and they take their jobs seriously. They will use terms like mildly curious about biological roots, terms like genetic history, to her face because that is their job. They are a member of a different family who was placed in her care to act as her child and they don’t have any choice but to play along. Where are they going to go? Who are they going to turn to when there is no vital record with their mother’s name on it and all the records they could use to find her are carefully hidden from them? Of course they stay the course and play the roll they were given up to play, its how they get their food and clothing and love. If they refused to go along with the act all that might be taken from them and they would have nothing and nobody. This all puts them in a situation where they’d like to have both their own family and the family that raises them – upsetting nobody but a full member of both families. They say this is not possible, but in reality they are an unrecognized member of their own family and a recognized member of a family they are not related to. It would be so much easier if adults could handle reality instead of pretending.

  18. Justin says:

    Thank you, Greg,for your support.

    c (in response 16) – who put you in charge of deciding what is a “responsible family-making decision”? What I do know is that infertile couples, by necessity, have a thoughtful family making process, which is more than I can say for many other couples. Their thoughts might be different than yours, but they are not necessarily “irresponsible”.

    The choice of a closed donation, just like the choice of a closed adoption, is a valid choice for family making. It is neither a form of child abuse nor civil-right-disenfranchisement. Just like nobody should force or criticize a parent\biological-parent for choosing an open adoption, not should a parent\biological parent be criticized for choosing a closed one.

    The choices of openness\closeness bring different advantages and different disadvantages to all involved. Assuming that one is ultimately better, rather than “better for me”, is wrong, just like assuming one type of family structure is “better” than another in an absolute way.

  19. Greg says:

    C,

    A couple of things. From my research there are donors who want to be anonymous because in some cases they do it for the money and don’t want to have an emotional attachment and in other cases just want to help someone who couldn’t conceive naturally for whatever reason (infertile or lack of a partner of the opposite sex) and don’t have an interest in raising the child. Though those in the latter group are more rare. So I think the anonymous preference can be on both the donor and recipient sides of the picture. Thus there would likely to be donors who donated anonymously that would be unlikely to donate if they were only allowed to donate as a known donor. It would likely reduce the number of donors, to what extent I don’t know. Though it would be interesting to see if there are countries that had anonymous donation and then banned it and what impact did it have on the number of donors.

    As I said to you in another thread, infertility takes so much physically and emotionally that it’s easy for a couple to forget that the baby they end up with will become a child and then an adult someday. Again I don’t defend some of the decisions these people make that end up hurting their child but I think it needs to be recognized of what an infertile couple goes through and what their mind set is.

    People in general sometimes don’t think about the situation their child could end up growing up in. For instance a married couple with a shakey marriage sometimes feel that having a baby will fix their marriage. Rather than addressing their marriage they have the child the problems get worse and then they divorce. Then the child is used as a way to get back at the ex spouse during the custody hearings and the child suffers. I think it all goes back to our society being so child centered that outcasts the childless. There are so many stigmas that get attached with having children that lead to the child suffering. It’s a bigger global issue that IMO needs to be discussed openly more.

    BTW, I don’t think you should be crucified at all you bring up some valid points in this discussion and are sensitive to all sides which I know is tough for such a sensitive topic.

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