Surrogate mother goes against trend in conservative states

Lawrence woman carries baby for gay couple in Calif.a

If her pregnancy goes as planned, a Lawrence woman’s baby will have 10 fingers, 10 toes and two proud fathers.

The woman, Meagon, has chosen to be the surrogate mother for a gay couple in California. Soon, doctors will attach a donated fertilized embryo – not her own – to her uterine wall, and her pregnancy will begin.

Meagon, 25, is married with two young children. She put herself through college selling eggs to a fertility clinic.

She said that in the beginning, she didn’t care whether the adoptive couple was gay or straight. But other people in Kansas might, which is why she asked to not use her full name.

According to Fay Johnson, program coordinator for The Center for Surrogate Parenting, surrogates in conservative states such as Kansas often are scarce.

“Sociologically, it’s an edgy thing to do,” Johnson said. “The more conservative the place, the less surrogates.”

Johnson said she knew a surrogate mother who moved to Missouri from California after carrying another couple’s child. Within weeks of the move, rumors circulated around the tiny town that the woman and her husband had “sold their last child.”

That could be why her organization, which connects surrogate mothers to adoptive couples, has dozens of surrogates in states such as California but only “one or two” in Kansas.

Lifestyle concerns

The Rev. Terry Fox, senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, said that he and other religious conservatives don’t oppose the practice of surrogacy because it is still reproduction through natural means.

“I don’t have a problem with the surrogate procedure,” Fox said. “The Bible is pretty silent on that issue.”

But he said he did see a problem with surrogacy when it results in a gay couple adopting a child.

“Children do better and have a much greater quality of lifestyle with a traditional family,” Fox said.

He added that gay advocate groups could use surrogacy as a platform to “help recruit children to the gay lifestyle.”

Meagon said she likes to believe that her community will be open-minded to surrogacy.

“I think being in Lawrence really helps with the gay part,” she said, noting the gay couple was a little nervous after learning she was living in Kansas.

Meagon said though pregnancy can be uncomfortable, the good feeling she’ll get from helping the couple will make each ache, pain and scrutinizing glance worth it.

“My children might be gay when they’re older; they might be infertile. I hope they learn that, especially in America, doors don’t close for people who are different. Or people that have disabilities or people who have different sexual orientation. There’s always opportunities,” she said.

After talking the idea over with her husband, who she said was incredibly supportive, Meagon went to work to find a surrogacy program. After much research, she found Growing Generations, an organization that connects couples with surrogates.

Tests for surrogacy

Becoming a surrogate isn’t easy. Growing Generations put Meagon through vigorous tests, including psychological screening and credit and background checks.

Meagon said she had to take an IQ test even though the baby won’t share her genetics. She also had to confirm she had never accepted government welfare or Social Security payments.

“They want someone who doesn’t necessarily need the money but could use the money,” she said.

Since being approved, Meagon has worked closely with the parents-to-be to schedule appointments and work out a financial arrangement. In the Midwest, surrogates are paid about $15,000 per successful pregnancy.

The California couple also will pay for all medical bills, maternity clothes and travel expenses during the nine months. Meagon said the two men plan to attend most of the medical appointments.

Meagon said since she’s come to know the couple, she is more excited to help them become parents, adding that turning the baby over to them after birth will be easy.

“It’s not my baby; it’s their baby,” she said.

Legal issues

Surrogacy laws in California are well-defined and fairly liberal. But in Kansas, the legal issues associated with surrogacy are fuzzy.

According to Kansas law, paying the surrogate mother more than medical expenses, legal fees and living expenses is a felony.

Another Kansas law states legal maternity can be established by “proof of (the surrogate mother) having given birth to the child.”

That suggests the surrogate mother could claim the baby as her own after giving birth.

According to Rachel Pirmer, a Kansas attorney who works closely with Growing Generations, surrogacy in Kansas is uncharted territory.

“There are no statutes that deal with surrogacy in Kansas. None. It is an unsettled area of the law,” Pirmer said.

But so far, Pirmer said, she has never worked on a case where a legal dispute complicated the process. She added that in every case, the parents file for paternity or maternity rights and the surrogate also signs a contract in which she agrees to waive her maternal rights completely.

Pirmer said because of the intensive screening surrogates go through, the chances the mother will change her mind after birth are slim.

Pirmer said she had no idea how many surrogacy arrangements are made in the United States or even in Kansas. Neither does Johnson of the Center for Surrogate Parenting.

“There’s no way anyone would know that,” Johnson said. “Nowhere does this kind of stuff get recorded.”

She explained that because surrogacy arrangements aren’t noted on birth certificates, states don’t track the number of babies born to surrogate mothers. Also, because a lot of surrogacy arrangements are made between family members, friends or through other private means, keeping a tally is impossible.

Johnson said that in 26 years of business, The Center for Surrogate Parenting has arranged 1,300 births.