Wombs For Rent

REVIEW - "Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent" aired on PBS, Public Broadcasting System on September 18, 2009 on the weekly news-magazine, NOW, hosted by David Brancaccio along with senior correspondent Maria Hinojosa. The story, Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent, was about an infertile couple seeking surrogate mother - Marcio and Beth Mardones from Chicago. Back in 2000 Beth had cervical cancer. In February of 2000 doctors had removed her uterus to save her life. The Mardones couple were in the surrogate motherhood research stage of finding a surrogate mother to have their baby. They were willing to pay the cost of egg donation IVF surrogacy using Marico's sperm. They then contracted with a California gestational surrogacy agency called SurroGenesis.

According to the wombs for rent story, commercial surrogacy is not allowed in most countries of the world nor in most states in America. There are no laws on banning or against surrogacy here in California, by the way. Remarkably, it is a $500,000 fine and 10 years in prison to pay a surrogate or egg/sperm donor in Canada. We are proud to be one of the good and honest California commercial gestational surrogacy agencies. The Mardones couple sold their apartment for $50,000. They deposited the money into an escrow account at the Michael Charles Group, an escrow account company. This was at the direction of SurroGenenis. SurroGenesis then started finding a surrogate mother.

Subsequently, M/M Mardones were matched with Salina Ramirez who was willing to become a surrogate mother. She would take the steps to becoming a surrogate mother at an agreed upon surrogate fee of $20,000 plus expenses. Salina, a single mother with two children, worked for a medical office in Sacramento the state capital of California. The frozen sperm from Marico was flown in and a separate anonymous egg donor was found. Salina became with child on the first try. Since Salina's insurance did not cover surrogacy, SurroGenesis had arranged (falsely apparently) to employ Salina so they could put her on the company group insurance plan with Blue Shield. This, by the way, is not allowed and can be considered fraud.

Then, when she is four months pregnant, Ms Ramirez gets notice in the mail that the insurance policy was canceled due to non-payment. Tonya Collins, owner of SurroGenesis, had taken some $2,500,000 in deposits from 60 clients and skipped. Michael Charles Group, the supposedly neutral escrow company was actually owned by Collins. Collins had complete access to all the money. This NOW expose', Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent, is an exception to the caring, honest and hard-working surrogacy and egg donation agencies plus all the fertility clinics, doctors, OBGYN's and non-profit organizations involved with ART (assisted reproductive technology)worldwide.

A Ms. Spar, author of the book "Baby Business" was interviewed by NOW for the wombs for rent story. She said, "I think it is womb selling or womb renting. So, I think there's no doubt that a surrogate mother is providing a bodily service for a fee. It's clearly a relationship marked by vast inequities. You have rich people buying bodily functions of poor women."

Back in California, Ramirez was contemplating getting an abortion. M/M Mardones, however, agreed to buy a new expensive insurance policy from Lloyd's of London, a surrogate healthcare provider, and to go ahead with the surrogate pregnancy. Salina had the baby by C-section and only got part of her surrogate fee. In fact, she may still owe some money for the delivery expenses. M/M Mardones took the child back to Chicago. Blue Shield is now claiming fraud.

On NOW's web site there is copy of a 25 page lawsuit against Ms. Collins along with full video and full written transcript of the whole TV program, Surrogacy: Wombs for Rent. See: http://video.pbs.org/video/1267855478

Onewonders why Tonya Collins went rogue? Was there a problem with surrogacy issues with another client and a lawsuit developing? Was there a battle with estranged husband, James Collins, who may have been part owner of SurroGenesis? They were apparently separated and the marriage was on the rocks. Anyway, the FBI is investigating. In my mind the problem would not have gotten out of hand if all parties had used an attorney versed in surrogacy law and used the attorney's trust fund account for paying out the money.

The lesson here is to make sure the funds are in a neutral escrow. Also make sure there is a fully signed surrogacy contract agreement that typically govern how the monies are disbursed and the surrogate fee is to be paid. In the United States there is no Federal over site or licensing of commercial surrogacy. Laws on surrogacy are different in every state. This is probably due to the, Roe v. Wade, court decision about abortion that gave women rights to their own bodies. Every since, Roe v. Wade, there has been a hands off policy on the subject of embryos by many levels of government.

There are no laws on banning or against surrogacy in California. The main benefit of surrogacy arrangements handled by a California commercial surrogacy agency is that there is good court history of acceptance. A 1993 California surrogacy court case, Johnson v. Calvert, gave parents all rights to the child. Then in a 1998 case, Buzzanca v. Buzzanca, the court ruled that the child was lawfully to go to the intended parents even though there was no genetic link to the child by either of them (surrogates egg & anonymous sperm donor). This makes California the land of opportunity for infertile couples seeking surrogate mother along with lesbian mothers and gay men wanting to do same-sex parenting. Watch the "Wombs For Rent" show on link or Google - "wombs for rent".

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