Globalized Surrogacy Gone Awry Once More

This story has been in the news for a few days now and I’ve been meaning to get to it.   Perhaps it is a good thing I waited because now one source has provided the (nearly inevitable) other side to the story.   This is really yet another variation on the “surrogacy gone wrong” sagas that I write about from time to time.

Though at it’s heart, this story features a major disagreement, here are the facts I can work out.  I’ll highlight where there are disagreements.    Teresa and Rudolf Bako are an Austrian couple who wanted to have a child.   They tried for a long time and were unsuccessful.     Carrie Mathews lives in Colorado and served as a surrogate mother for them.   There was a long contract, drafted by the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, that was meant to set out the terms of their arrangement.

Mathews became pregnant with twins after embryos were transfers that occurred in Cyprus.   This is actually a point where I run into a couple of questions.   First–where did the genetic material come from?   (There’s a subsidiary question, too–does the answer to the question I just asked really matter or am I just being curious?)   The Bakos were in their fifties so it might be the eggs weren’t Teresa Bako’s.   And then of course–why Cyprus?  My guess would be it has something to do with law and convenience.   Perhaps a doctor in Austria wouldn’t do the transfer (surrogacy not being legal there) and perhaps coming to the US, where a doctor might have done it, was too inconvenient?

Anyway, Cyprus it was.   It says they were there for 17 days.   Matthews became pregnant with twins. And here I do get confused.   The pregnancy did not go smoothly.   The doctor–who it says was the Bako’s doctor and was in Cyprus–recommended bed-rest.  Now I’m not at all sure how the doctor in Cyprus was in a position to do this–surely Mathews was receiving pre-natal care closer to home than that.  I surely hope so.

The twins were born (I’m guessing in CO, but I actually cannot find anything that says) in July.   There are all these nice photos of everyone beaming shortly after the births.   The Bakos took the babies back to Austria.   Mathews needed post-delivery care.   And somehow things totally fell apart over the substantial expenses that accrued because of the more complicated medical care.   It appears that at this point there are counter-suits over who might owe what to whom.

So what’s to say?  First off, this is not DIY surrogacy.   That’s probably a good thing.  But it is the surrogacy center run by Hilary Neiman, who pled guilty to criminal fraud charges arising out a of an illegal surrogacy ring this past summer.   That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  And it highlights a serious problem:   Surrogacy arrangements are complicated–emotionally, physically and economically.    I don’t think it is a good idea to draft your own agreements.  You really need to rely on someone who is a skilled and ethical professional to do that.  But the internet being what it is, it’s hard for people to tell who is a skilled (and ethical) professional.

We know that Neiman bent the rules (to put it mildly) in other instances in order to make money–that’s my conclusion from her guilty plea anyway.   With that in mind, you’d almost expect her to at least cut corners in other cases, wouldn’t you?   After all, she gets a cut of the money here (and I would guess that her surrogacy center did get paid), but probably not until things are all nicely signed up.

To be clear, I’m not sure there was anyway the Bakos and Mathews could have known that Neiman was so unreliable.   The whole fraud worked because she had a very good looking facade.   Perhaps they are all victims of what is at the very least sloppy work.

There’s at least one detail that I’m particularly worried about here–beyond the money part, which I do not mean to minimize.   Surrogacy is apparently illegal in Austria.   I have no idea what the law is in Colorado, assuming that’s where Mathews gave birth, or in Cyprus for that matter.   And I don’t know who the legal parents of the twins are.   I guess what really troubles me is that I don’t even know whether it is clear who the legal parents are.   That’s something I really do worry about, you know?


11 responses to “Globalized Surrogacy Gone Awry Once More

  1. Oh my. I was under the impression most of these people look for women who are on welfare so that everything is entirely covered no questions asked and then the woman gives the child up for adoption if its hers and if it is not hers (if she is a gestational carrier) they do a pre-birth order so that the real mother can have her name on the birth certificate. I think being a gestational on welfare is kind of sketch though since the carrier profits and the tax payers foot the bill. I’d think she’d have to reimburse the state out of her earnings. That’s the wicked b**ch in me though. I probably need to eat something.

    • I think this assumption is unsupported (and probably unsupportable). Indeed, I’m not sure I’m aware of a single instance in which a surrogate was a woman receiving welfare, though I’m sure there must be one or two out there.

      There was a story in Newsweek within the last few years (I think I blogged about it) that identified military wives as an important pool from which surrogates are drawn, but this is hardly the same thing. At the same time, since health insurance for members of the military is paid for with tax dollars you might raise the issue you identify in this context.

      • Julie you can think of many where the women were on wellfare come on now. This was a big case you blogged about it too:

        “He and his wife, who had suffered six late-stage miscarriages including four sets of twins, used a surrogacy website to find a single mother of two on benefits who was willing to carry the baby they longed for.”

        They sought a single mother with at least two children who was on “benefits”, willing to carry the baby they longed for.

        • I actually think you are more likely to find a surrogate on benefits if you have a DIY case (as this one was). Surrogacy agencies–surely reputable ones, but possibly even less reputable ones–tend to screen women on benefits out.

      • You can think of more, here goes Erickson’s case like I said:
        (p.s. I am not a reader of life news google took me there)

        “The Associated Press reported that Erickson also admitted to filing false applications for the surrogates to California’s state insurance program to subsidize the medical costs of the deliveries of the babies.”

      • Ok so in searching I now see where walefare is suppose to be a taboo so I see why you and K99 were taken aback by my statement but hopefully I supported my understanding based on how things are explained in the press.

        So how does the medical thing work? She’s suppose to have her own insurance but it cannot be welfare. So what if she has a jankey cheep policy with a $200 co-pay for every visit instead of $30 or what does the insurance companies have to say about women making a profit from creating a situation where they will most likely require regular office visits and full on hospital childbirth? Medical coverage does not generally anticipate a financial benefit from needing care and I’d think the insurance company would be just as bent out of shape as the State. A woman that gives birth uses up more in medical cost than paid into by the woman.

  2. Marilynn, why do you assume that “most” of these people are women on welfare? I’m not sure how much you know about surrogacy but in most cases, agencies won’t work with surrogates in government assistance and it is strongly encouraged that the surrogate be able to support herself and not depend on the compensation for day-to-day living expenses.

  3. kh99. I was under that impression because of Teresa Erickson’s recent problems one of the issues was that the women were on public assistance and also in most of the stories I’ve read about surrogacy the carrier is not using her own private insurance. I’ll look for links but many articles state the people shopping for a carrier specifically look for someone on assistance because she can be well cared for medically. It never occurred to me about living expenses. Just medical.

    Nobody would pay full price for prenatal care child birth and follow up; they would not pay it for themselves nor would they pay it for a hired carrier. I can see where insurance would cover the cost of prenatal and delivery f the child was the offspring of a female insured party because its really no different to them than if she carried her own baby…I have to think more on that. But if a woman cannot conceive, then the insurer would not anticipate having to cover her prenatal visits or child birth. That would all be some other woman’s problem. I guess, what is the alternative? The couple doing the hiring pays the premium for a years worth of Kaiser for the carrier? Would Kaiser or Blue Cross not want part of her earnings? I know when my husband was hospitalized for three months he got a small settlement from the insurer of the truck that hit him and Kaiser took some of it. He was covered on my policy. They took a good chunk.

  4. Marilynn, the examples you cite of surrogates on assistance truly are the exception to the norm, and it’s a shame that those are the cases that make it to the news. In the interest of full disclosure, I have a child via gestational surrogacy, so I understand the surrogacy community after years of research for our journey. Most Intended Parents and agencies will run from surrogates on assistance because of stability. You want the family in which you entrust your embryo to be as stable and comfortable as possible. You don’t want to have to worry about whether your child is getting nutrition it needs and if the surrogate is taking care of herself.

    As far as insurance, if a surrogate does not have insurance that covers pregnancy, the IP will buy insurance for her or put the necessary money in escrow to pay for the costs out of pocket. In many cases, the carrier will use her own insurance. Ours did. She verified with her insurance that it was ok. Believe me, if you spend time on, you’ll see many, many threads devoted to making sure things are in compliance with insurance, where to find policies that will cover the pregnancy, etc. Insurance is not taken lightly.

    • So the woman that was pregnant on your behalf had private insurance from either her employer (not you but from whatever she does for a living) and the carrier stated that they would not seek to recover money since she was receiving money for her discomfort or whatever. Is that correct. It only occurred to me because I would not say receiving damages for loosing a foot was like earnings but Kaiser thought it was and they took some to be sure.

      Well thanks for enlightening me. Funny thing is women on welfare might be limited in what food they can purchase and the choices ironically might be healthier than free will. My free will while pregnant led me to some fairly unhealthy choices. What food group is pop tarts? And what meal is at 3:30 in the morning? 🙂

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