Archive for the 'Assisted Reproduction' Category

An Ingenious App for Waiting Parents

We all love babies, but let’s face it: When you’re going through infertility treatments or waiting to adopt a child, sometimes other people’s babies are the last thing you want to see. Like most things in life these days, there’s an app for that – at least, for Google Chrome users. Simply download and it will remove all photos of babies from your newsfeed and replace them with the photo of your choice (such as the friendly tree shown above, or a photo of your favorite adoption attorney). According to the L.A. Times, the app has already gotten 41,000 “Likes” on Facebook. Talk about better living through technology!

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

House and Senate Bills Affecting Family-Building

Today I am writing letters to my senators and representative about two bills that affect adoptive families and people with infertility. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I encourage you to do the same! Below are the two main bills that are of interest to those trying to build their families through adoption or assisted reproduction.

The Adoption Tax Credit: Senate Bill S82/ House Resolution HR 184

The adoption tax credit, which currently covers up to $13,360 in qualified adoption expenses, is set to expire in December of this year. With the average adoption costing about $30,000, I don’t know many families who could afford to adopt without this assistance. These bills in the House and Senate would repeal the “sunset clause,” effectively making the Adoption Tax Credit permanent. There are a few important points about the current Adoption Tax Credit that should remain permanent:

  • The current credit is refundable. This is a new thing, having started in 2010. I won’t get too tax-nerdy on you, but essentially making the credit refundable makes it easier for middle- to low-income families to adopt.
  • The current credit includes domestic, international, foster-care, agency, and private adoptions.
  • The current credit allows families who adopt children with special needs to claim the full amount regardless of their adoption expenses. This is important because many of the expenses of adopting a child with special needs don’t happen until after the adoption is final.

    The Family Act: Senate Bill S 965/ House Resolution HR 3522

    This legislation creates a tax credit for infertility treatment. Infertility is usually medically treatable, but many infertile couples can’t afford this medical care because it’s expensive and not always covered by insurance. Only 9 states currently mandate that insurers cover the full spectrum of infertility treatment, and TRICARE, the insurance for active-duty military and veterans, does not cover treatments like IVF. A tax credit for out-of-pocket costs would solve this problem by paying for expenses not covered by insurance.

    Won’t you take a moment to write to your elected representatives about these issues? If you don’t know who your representatives are, you can find out here by entering your zip code.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

  • Diane Rehm Show on Assisted Reproductive Technology

    Talk about being late to the party: A client just pointed out to me that NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show devoted a show on the legal and ethical aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in August of 2010 and suggested that I check it out. Great tip! An OB/GYN, two attorneys, and an ethicist were on the show to share their perspectives, and the questions that listeners called in are great, too! Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can still listen to it here. Of course, in a 50-minute show, the panelists were only able to scratch the surface of the legal and ethical issues raised by ART. A few of the questions raised on the show include:

  • Has our technology advanced faster than our laws regarding Assisted Reproduction?
  • Does the state have the right to make laws about who can be a parent through ART (the issue of a mentally ill parent specifically was raised)?
  • How much information should children conceived through ART have the right to know about their biological parents?
  • Meanwhile, here at The Vaughan Firm we are working on adding a section on ART to our website, to reflect the fact that we are now doing a lot of this work, which is closely related to adoption in many ways. I’ll post when the new web page is complete!

    What do you think about the ethics and legal issues of in vitro fertilization, donor eggs, donor sperm, and surrogacy? Were there questions you would have liked to see covered on the show that were not? Post in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Surrogacy Raises Special Issues

    I was delighted to turn on my radio this morning and hear this thoughtful piece about surrogacy on NPR’s Morning Edition. My clients often have questions about surrogacy and assisted reproduction, and of all the ways to bring a child into your family, surrogacy is probably the most confusing, legally speaking. To understand why this is so, think for a minute about a few of the legal scenarios that could arise in surrogacy:

    • A couple makes an agreement with a surrogate to carry their baby using the couple’s own egg and sperm. When the baby is born, the surrogate changes her mind and decides she wants to keep the baby.
    • A couple makes an agreement with a surrogate to carry their baby using the couple’s own egg an sperm, but sometime during the pregnancy, they change their minds and don’t want to adopt the baby.
    • A college student in dire financial trouble is offered $50,000 to carry a baby for a couple who desperately wants one.
    • A couple or single parent who does not meet the state’s requirements for adoption decides to get around that by paying a surrogate to carry a baby for them.
    • A couple makes a contract with a surrogate to carry their baby, but during the pregnancy she starts abusing alcohol or drugs.
    • A couple and a surrogate make a contract in a state that allows surrogacy, but then the surrogate mother goes into labor in a state that does not enforce such contracts.

    Is your head spinning yet? It’s easy to see why many countries (and one state — Washington, D.C.) have simply banned surrogacy altogether. In the U.S., each state has different laws about surrogacy (for a map showing the laws of each state, click here). If you make a surrogacy contract in a state that doesn’t enforce them and then one party changes their mind, the other party may simply be out of luck. This is especially morally troubling if a surrogate carries a baby for a couple who changes their mind during the pregnancy, leaving the baby without a legal parent. Clearly, careful planning and expert, ethical legal representation is essential at every step.

    What are your thoughts about surrogacy issues? Should surrogacy be legal? What protections should be in place for surrogate mothers, adopting parents, and (most importantly) babies?

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Legal Issues Abound in Assisted Reproduction

    When it comes to technology, very often our technology evolves too fast for our laws to keep up. Nowhere is this more true than in assisted reproduction technology. In vitro fertilization, surrogacy, embryo implantation, and similar developments are just a few examples of technologies that can sometimes stump the lawyers in the room.

    A good example is the question, now before the United States Supreme Court, of whether a baby conceived after the father’s death can be considered a “survivor” for the purposes of getting Social Security benefits. In this case, Karen and Robert Capato had only been married for a few months when they learned that Robert had esophageal cancer. He donated sperm at a fertility clinic, fearing that chemotherapy for the cancer might leave him unable to father children. Sadly, it later became clear that his cancer was terminal, and the couple made a plan for Karen to use those sperm to have more children after his death. Karen conceived twins via in vitro fertilization, and they were born about a year after their father’s death.

    The Social Security Administration has denied the twins survivors’ benefits, arguing that children conceived after their father’s death are not entitled to benefits because “they were brought into being by a surviving parent with the knowledge that the deceased biological parent will not be able to contribute wages for their support.” The Administration also argues that it follows state law regarding survivorship, and that Florida, where the Capatos live, does not recognize posthumously-conceived children unless they are specifically mentioned in the will of the deceased.

    A federal appeals court sided with the Capatos, holding that since the children were undoubtedly Mr. Capato’s biological children, that it was clear that they were his children within the meaning of the Social Security Law. The court noted that in this case “medical-scientific technology has advanced faster than the regulatory process.” I should say so! The case is now on appeal before the Supreme Court.

    What do you think about this issue?

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Embryo Adoption?

    Back when I first opened my adoption practice and before I was doing Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) law, a new client called and told me that she was interested in adoption. As I usually do in such cases, I asked her whether she had given any thought yet to what age child she would like to adopt. A newborn? Toddler? An older child? I was somewhat surprised when she replied, “we are interested in embryo adoption. Do you have any experience with adopting embryos?” Of course, at that time I had no such experience, and in fact I was completely puzzled by the question. I knew that you can’t adopt a baby before that baby is born, so the idea of an embryo being adopted completely flummoxed me. So, I did what any attorney in the age of the Internet would do: I Googled it.

    Here is what I learned. If a family has gone through in vitro fertilization (IVF), they may have frozen embryos left over, stored in the cryobank after they have decided not to have any more children via IVF. They may choose to keep them frozen, destroy them, donate them to medical science, or donate them for a couple who can’t conceive on their own. This last option, embryo donation, is what leads to “embryo adoption.” Certain agencies and fertility clinics allow infertile couples to have a donated embryo implanted either in the “adoptive” mother or in a surrogate.

    Why do I keep putting the words “adoption” and “adoptive” in quotation marks? Well, as I mentioned earlier, no child can be legally adopted before he or she is born, so legally speaking, embryo adoption is simply not adoption. It’s simply a contract governing property, in this case an embryo. The parties must draft a contract making it clear that the donating couple claims no parental rights over the embryo, and that the “adopting” family takes full responsibility for that child. However, since most families do not like to think of their future children as property governed by contract (who would?), the agencies have coined the euphemism “embryo adoption,” which sounds much nicer.

    Reputable agencies also follow the procedures of domestic private adoptions for these embryo transfers, including requiring a home study for the “adoptive” parents, requiring that both the donating couple and the adoptive parent(s) are represented by attorneys, conducting “matching” to make sure that the two families are a good fit, and ensuring that all parties get counseling. However, since Assisted Reproductive Technology is unregulated or lightly regulated in many states (including my home state of Virginia), they are not required to do this. It is up to the families involved to make sure that the agency is reputable and that all parties are well-informed, prepared, and protected.

    Now that I am an ART practitioner myself, I have a much richer understanding of “embryo adoption” and how it works legally. However, the basic premise that I learned on that first day remains sound: Embryo adoption is not adoption, and people who are building their families do well to hire an experienced lawyer who can explain the difference and protect their rights.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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