Egg and Sperm Donors
Traditionally, an individual or couple in need of donated eggs (ovums) and sperm utilize the services of a medical clinic that has procured the eggs and sperm from individuals who wish to keep their identity a secret from the recipients. The egg and sperm donors may or may not have been paid by the clinic for their "donation". Almost always, the recipients are charged a fee for receiving the donated eggs and sperm as part of the overall fees of the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process. As of March of 2011, there has never been a reported case from Pennsylvania wherein the recipients of the donated eggs or sperm from an anonymous donor have attempted to sue the egg or sperm donor for child support or other obligations.
In other circumstances, a friend or family member may agree to be an egg or sperm donor under a private agreement that the donor not participate financially or in the upbringing of the child. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that private agreements between a biological parent and a known donor that the known donor will have no financial responsibilities or legal rights concerning the child shall be enforceable against both parties, as long as the child was conceived through artificial insemination and the agreement was made before the child was conceived. In other words, in this situation the biological parent shall not be entitled to child support from the known donor and the known donor shall not be entitled to custody rights.
Surrogacy is the process whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant for the purpose of gestating and giving birth to a child she will not raise. The woman is called the surrogate mother or gestational carrier. In many situations the woman is carrying the child for a party with whom she has entered into a surrogacy contract. The intended parent(s) is/are the individual or couple who intend to raise the child after its birth. Surrogacy is particularly popular with infertile couples and same sex (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered) couples. However, there are countless reasons an individual or a couple may chose to utilize the surrogacy process.
Types of Surrogacy
The two types of surrogacy are traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. In traditional surrogacy, the pregnancy is usually achieved by artificial insemination from the intended father or a sperm donor. The surrogate mother is the biological mother of the child delivered since she provided the egg. The intended father may or may not be the biological father of the child. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother (gestational carrier) carries a baby conceived through the IVF process. The egg may be from the intended mother or the egg may be from an egg donor (ovum donor). The intended mother's egg or a donor egg is removed and fertilized with the sperm of the intended father or a donor sperm. In the process of IVF, the eggs are fertilized outside of the woman's body and the resulting embryos placed in a surrogate mother (gestational carrier), who then carries the baby to term.
Surrogacy and Donation Contracts in Pennsylvania
Having a formal contract regarding sperm or ovum donations or surrogacy filed with the court is not a requirement in Pennsylvania. However, a private written egg or sperm donation contract or surrogacy contract between the parties is highly advisable. These agreements are necessary in order to define the expectations, rights, and responsibilities of the donors, genetic parents, gestational carrier and intended parents.
Our experienced Pennsylvania assisted reproduction lawyers address pre-conception and pre-birth issues in our contracts. For example, a surrogacy contract will define what parties are included in the agreement so this does not become an issue that must be addressed in the future. The agreement may include, the infertile or same sex couple, the surrogate mother, the surrogate's significant other, the donor, and/or the donor's significant other. Other pre-conception issues may include the rights of the parties regarding custody and control of the embryos or sperms, the parties' expectations regarding future contacts, the course of medical treatment, what party will be responsible for medical expenses, and who will be liable if complications arise.
In addition, our assisted reproduction attorneys draft surrogacy contracts to address the complex legal issues that may arise post birth. Some examples of these issues include: postpartum care for the donor or surrogate, where the birth will take place, who will name the child, the right of either party to medical information in the future, the rights of the child regarding knowledge of biological siblings or extended family, and the legal status of the child.
These issues, as well as expectations regarding confidentiality and compensation, are best addressed by assisted reproduction lawyers who can draft the legal documents necessary to protect all parties.
Pennsylvania Pre-Birth Orders
Our Pittsburgh surrogacy attorneys are familiar with the procedures to establish legal parentage through pre-birth orders utilizing Pennsylvania's "Assisted Conception Birth Registrations" procedure. This procedure was developed by Pennsylvania's Department of Health in October of 2003 to establish a uniform state procedure for birth certificates involving children born through assisted conception. The procedure requires a "Certificate of Live Birth" to be completed by the hospital or birthing facility wherein the information from the gestational carrier is listed. In addition, a "Supplemental Report of Assisted Conception" form is completed which will list information from the intended mother and intended father, if appropriate. Finally, this procedure requires a certified copy of a court order signed by an Orphans' Court judge from the county where the birth took place or the home county of the intended parents. The Assisted Conception Parentage Decree must state that any certified copies of the birth record of the child should reflect the names of the intended parents. All of these documents must be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Health within six months from the date of birth or the Certificate of Live birth with the gestational carrier's information will be registered as the official birth certificate by the Division of Vital Records.
While there is a procedure established by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there are no statutory requirements that require an individual judge in any county to issue a requested pre-birth order of court. It is not likely that a judge will refuse to issue the pre-birth order; however, it is within the assigned Orphans' Court judge's sole discretion to make the decision. The procedure is known to have been approved by individual judges in Allegheny County, Westmoreland County and Indiana County.
Cases When Assisted Conception Birth Registration Procedures Are Not Available
Couples should not worry that their desire to form a family may be hampered if the Pennsylvania Department of Health Assisted Conception Birth Registration procedure can not be completed on their behalf. An alternative to the Assisted Conception Birth Registration procedure is the use of Pennsylvania adoption proceedings. If the adoption process is utilized and one of the intended parents is also a genetic parent, the adoption process may be simplified such that only the stepparent adoption procedures may be required by the Orphans' Court. Along those same lines, if a same-sex couple wishes to complete an adoption and one partner is genetically related to the child, the non-biological parent can obtain parentage rights through a second parent adoption. Pennsylvania law recognizes the rights of same-sex couples for adopting both when there is a genetic relationship and in situations when there is no genetic relationship to the child.
To read more about Pennsylvania appellate court cases involving surrogacy, artificial insemination, and the legal rights of egg and sperm donors, click here.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Surrogacy Attorneys Today
Email our Pennsylvania surrogacy and assisted reproduction law firm to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our experienced Pittsburgh surrogacy and assisted reproduction lawyers or call us today at our Pittsburgh office at 412-281-9906, Southpointe (Canonsburg, Washington County) at 724-436-5500, Cranberry Township (Butler County, PA) at 724-776-9906 or toll-free at 1-855-VARI-LAW (1-855-827-4529). Our Pittsburgh and Southpointe law offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and evenings by appointment. Our Cranberry Township office is open by appointment only. We're different from many other Pittsburgh adoption lawyers, click here to learn why.
Appointments may also be available in other meeting locations throughout Western Pennsylvania upon advance arrangements with our office. Ask the secretary scheduling your appointment for details including appointment locations.
Our Western PA family law office routinely accepts cases in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County. Our Pittsburgh adoption attorneys accept adoption cases in other Western PA counties such as Armstrong County, Erie County, Fayette County, Greene County, Somerset County and Venango County on a case-by-case basis.