Gay Surrogacy: How to Choose an Agency

by Katharine Swan

For members of the GLBT community who want to become parents, surrogacy is a way to make this possible. Gay couples and lesbians who cannot (or don’t want to) carry a child can have “bio kids” by using a surrogate mother to carry the child.

Surrogate Mother

Choosing how you will find your surrogate is a delicate decision. If you decide to use an agency, you will need to carefully weigh your choices before selecting an agency. Here are four main areas to consider when you and your partner are shopping for a surrogacy agency.

Does the Surrogacy Agency Play Nice with Gays and Lesbians?

Unless you plan on trying to hide your sexual orientation from the surrogacy agency, one of your biggest priorities will be making sure the agency is open to working with gay and lesbian parents. There are two ways to do this:

  • Get recommendations from the GLBT community. If you know anyone in your community who has had children via surrogacy, ask about their agency. If you don’t know anyone specifically, you can ask professionals within the community – doctors, teachers, and child care providers, for example – if they have recommendations or know of anyone who might.
  • Ask the agency point-blank. At your initial meeting with each agency you are considering, ask upfront how they feel about helping gays and lesbians become parents. The downside to this approach is that you can’t later pretend to be straight if none of your choices are open to the idea; however, being honest about your sexual orientation from the beginning is better than risking the agency’s wrath if they find out partway through the surrogacy that they’ve been lied to.

Does the Surrogacy Agency Take Precautions to Protect Surrogates and Clients?

The surrogacy agency should be your middleman – there to organize the surrogacy from beginning to end, making sure nothing is left out. Part of this is making sure that both you and your surrogate take precautions to protect yourselves, your surrogate, and your unborn child from harm.

To protect you, the agency should:

  • Offer a free initial consultation to answer your questions and help you determine whether the agency is the right fit for you and your partner
  • Provide legal consultation, either from a staff attorney or by recommending attorneys who specialize in surrogacy
  • Match you up with a compatible surrogate – someone who shares your views on abortion and selective reduction, wants the same degree of contact as you do during and after the pregnancy, and is comfortable carrying a child for gay or lesbian parents
  • Ensure that all parties – you, your partner, and the surrogate – sign contracts stating the surrogate’s intention to relinquish the child to you after its birth
  • Explain how binding the contract actually is, so that you know your rights should something go awry
  • Offer health insurance for the surrogate, to protect you from having to pay for her prenatal care out-of-pocket
  • Provide counseling, or recommend a qualified counselor – preferably one who is knowledgeable in gay and lesbian surrogacy arrangements

To protect the surrogate, the agency should:

  • Require that she has already given birth to at least one child
  • Perform a thorough medical exam to ensure that she can safely bear your child
  • Perform a thorough psychological evaluation to determine whether she is aware of, and capable of handling, the potential emotional difficulties of being a surrogate – especially for gay or lesbian parents
  • Ensure that all parties sign contracts detailing what expenses will be reimbursed by the parents, how, and when
  • Offer health insurance for the surrogate, since many work-provided plans do not cover surrogacy
  • Provide counseling during and after the surrogacy, or refer her to a counselor who specializes in surrogacy

To protect your child, the agency should:

  • Thoroughly screen surrogates to ensure that they are physically and emotionally healthy, and capable of giving birth to a healthy child
  • Ensure that all parties sign contracts detailing who the intended parents are, and what type of communication the parents and the surrogate would like to maintain during and after the pregnancy
  • Offer health insurance to make sure that the surrogate gets the necessary prenatal care

Does the Surrogacy Agency Offer Enough Services?

Many gay and lesbian would-be parents feel that the surrogacy agency’s role is to coordinate all of the details, making your role as simple and painless as possible. However, everyone has different preferences on how involved in the surrogacy they would like their agency to be. When deciding which agency is likely to offer you what you want or need, you and your partner should consider the following questions:

  • Can you or your surrogate get in touch with the agency at any time of the day or night?
  • Is the agency big enough to give your case enough personal attention, or is their staff small and overworked?
  • Does the agency provide medical screening, counseling, and/or legal representation, or do they refer you to a separate provider? If they refer you, do they have a financial incentive (such as a referral fee or bonus) for doing so?
  • Will the agency set up and manage appointments for services they do not provide?
  • Does the agency provide each party (the parents versus the surrogate) with their own attorney?
  • How are expenses handled? Does the agency act as a middleman, or do you and your partner need to pay them directly?
  • Will the agency continue to provide legal assistance after the birth, when you and your partner are applying for full parental rights?
  • Does the agency offer case management to make sure you and your partner don’t forget anything, or will you need to handle it yourselves?

Don’t forget that you don’t have to look for an agency that offers all of these things. In general, the more involved the agency is, the more the surrogacy will cost you. However, some gay and lesbian parents are willing to pay a little extra to make sure that everything is done correctly. What you want out of your agency – and how much you are willing to pay to get it – is entirely your decision.

How Does the Cost Compare to Other Surrogacy Agencies?

As mentioned above, an agency’s fees often depend on how involved it is in the surrogacy process. An agency that does nothing more than screen surrogates and match them up to prospective parents will be considerably less expensive than an agency that holds their clients’ hands from start to finish.

When shopping for a surrogacy agency, you will want to try to find the fee schedule as quickly as possible, so that you don’t waste your time investigating an agency you couldn’t afford anyway. You may be able to get a general estimate of the cost by visiting the agency’s website or calling them up. Another good time to ask is during the initial consultation, a free visit that enables you to ask questions and determine whether the agency is right for you.

Agencies often give general answers when asked about cost. That is not to say that a ballpark figure is not important, but remember that it is only part of the story. Also be sure to ask for brochures, cost sheets, and information on specific fees. Thorough research on each agency’s price tag will enable you to get a better idea of how different agencies compare to one another.

Choosing Your Surrogacy Agency

Although many gay and lesbian parents find choosing their surrogacy agency one of the most stressful parts of the process, this is an important decision and should not be rushed. Before you commit to anything, be sure that you and your partner are comfortable with your choice of agency. Remember, it is not only the next year or two of your life that is at stake, but also the life and well-being of your future child.


Choosing a Surrogacy Agency

Ten Questions You Should Ask Any Surrogacy Agency

Gay Surrogacy

What You Should Expect an Agency to Provide

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