What to Know About International Surrogacy — and Why Domestic is Best

Intended parents have a lot of choices to make when it comes to their family-building journeys. If you’ve come to this article, you’re likely considering international surrogacy as a way to bring a child into your family.

It’s normal — and advisable — for intended parents to consider all of their options before deciding which family-building method is right for them. But, if you’re thinking about surrogacy overseas as an American intended parent, there are some very important things to know beforehand.

In many cases, international surrogacy is not the easier, cheaper version of domestic surrogacy that you may think it is. In fact, at the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, we typically do not recommend international surrogacy for many reasons (which you’ll read about below). In our experience, the best way to complete a surrogacy in South Carolina is to stay local with professionals like our own surrogacy program and trusted fertility clinics in the area.

We are always happy to answer any questions you have about domestic vs. international surrogacy when you call our offices at 864-573-5533 or contact us online. In the meantime, we’ve gathered some of the information about international surrogacy that you need to make the most educated decision for your family.

First: The History of International Surrogacy

When intended parents consider surrogacy, many automatically assume that international surrogacy programs may offer a more affordable way of adding a child to their family. This notion comes from the complicated history of foreign surrogacy.

For many years, surrogacy across the world was unregulated — opening up the opportunity for intended parents from one country to travel to another (usually poorer) country to complete their family in a more affordable way than back at home. For years, destinations such as India, Nepal and Mexico were popular spots for intended parents to have a surrogate carry their child to term. After their baby was born, intended parents would bring their child to their home country.

However, as stories about mishandled surrogacies and exploited surrogates began to make the news, many international surrogacy laws began to change. Countries began to shut down their borders for international intended parents, allowing only surrogacy with domestic intended parents who met certain qualifications. Many times, these closures were not anticipated and intended parents were left in an uncertain legal situation not knowing how to get their child home.

While there are still some countries which allow surrogacy today, the options for American intended parents have certainly dwindled. What was once a popular, lucrative business is now one full of uncertainties and risks — which is what all American intended parents need to understand before jumping headfirst into surrogacy outside the U.S.

Why Surrogacy Abroad Can Be Dangerous and Risky

Many intended parents only consider the lower international surrogacy cost when deciding that this path is right for them. But, this lower price tag disguises a lot of other issues, including:

  • Exploitation of carriers: How much does surrogacy abroad cost? Not much in comparison to U.S. surrogacy — but this is for one big reason. The women who carry children for foreign intended parents are paid much less than women in the United States. Yes, their costs of living may be lower, but consider this: The women who choose to be surrogates often do so because there is no other job that pays the same amount. International surrogacy programs often take advantage of these women, who are often less educated and not completely aware of what their decision to be a surrogate really means.
  • Lower quality of medical services: When international surrogacy programs charge less for surrogacy, it means that some quality and quantity of services are lower than in the U.S. Typically, this includes medical services. If you are pursuing surrogacy abroad for the lower cost, you will typically work in a country where medical services are harder to access and less advanced. Intended parents should consider the health of their unborn baby and their gestational surrogate when it comes to this aspect. There have also been many situations where intended parents later find out that their eggs or sperm were not used, creating another difficult legal situation to navigate.
  • Additional legal and immigration expenses: International surrogacy laws and immigration laws are always subject to change — adding a constant risk for American intended parents who pursue surrogacy abroad. It’s no different if you live in South Carolina. While local judges are comfortable with and regularly grant parental rights in domestic surrogacy cases, many of them are not as open with international surrogacy cases, meaning you put yourself at risk for legal complications upon bringing your child back to the United States.

Why Work with Our Program in a Domestic Surrogacy Instead?

Here at the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, we respect every intended parent’s right to make the decision that is best for their family. However, we highly recommend that all intended parents evaluate these risks and consult with legal counsel before signing up with an international program. There are many programs in surrogacy-friendly states (such as South Carolina) instead of abroad.

As mentioned, the legal path for international surrogacy upon a return to South Carolina remains unclear. With changing immigration laws, there is no telling exactly how easy or difficult establishing parental rights or obtaining a child’s citizenship will be in any given situation. If your child is born in South Carolina, on the other hand, you can rest assured that our legal professionals will safely and legally handle all of the official matters around your child’s birth and parentage.

There’s another reason that many of our clients choose a domestic surrogacy: They get to meet with and build a relationship with their gestational surrogate from day one. In international surrogacy, intended parents are lucky if they meet the woman who is carrying their baby more than once, and there can be a degree of uncertainty due to difficulties in communication and travel.

In our surrogacy program, all intended parents and gestational carriers are from South Carolina or the immediate surrounding area. This means you can be actively involved in your gestational carrier’s pregnancy, being there for important events such as ultrasounds and her delivery. Our intended parents find that this personal connection and involvement is well worth whatever extra compensation they may need to pay their surrogate.

Combine all this with our legal experience and expansive services, and we think it’s obvious why a domestic surrogacy in South Carolina is safer and more successful than a surrogacy overseas. Want more information on our domestic surrogacy program? Contact our team today.

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