Baby Selling Ring Involving A Lawyer

The news hit this week of a baby selling ring involving a San Diego lawyer (Theresa Erickson), a Maryland attorney (Hilary Neiman) and an “agency” run by Carla Chambers of Las Vegas, Nevada.  They plead guilty to being part of what the U.S. Attorney’s Office describes as a baby-selling ring. Read more from FBI about the plea.

Theresa Erickson, a California attorney, plead guilty to wire fraud.  She and her co-conspirators were taking women to the Ukraine to a fertility doctor who would transfer embryos to the uterus of each woman.  The reason they were using a Ukraine clinic was because they didn’t have a medical clinic in the United States that would do a transfer without a signed surrogacy contract with intended parents in place.  The embryos were supposedly created from sperm and egg donors; however, no one really knows where the eggs/sperm/embryos came from.  The women were then returned to the United States during the second trimester where the group would then work on finding couples who wanted to pay for the baby.  The couples who were solicited were told that the pregnant woman was the surrogate for another couple that fell through and that the pregnant woman needed to be rematched with a new couple.   In waiting until the women were in the second trimester of the pregnancy they were able to “sell” the babies based on the sex of the baby and actual knowledge of whether the woman was pregnant with a single baby versus twins or more.   According to prosecutors, the new couple would pay between $100,000 and $150,000 for the baby.

The couples that were paying these fees were buy proscar paypal desperate for a baby and were told by licensed attorneys, Theresa Erickson and Hilary Newman, that the process was legal and was considered “surrogacy”.    This illegal activity came to light when one of the preganant women became suspicious and reached out to a separate attorney to ask for help.  The woman was advised to contact the FBI and the investigation began.

Once the women were matched with a couple that wanted the baby, Theresa Erickson would file false documents with a California Superior Court to obtain parentage decisions.  She would allege that the baby was the result of a surrogacy contract that was in existence prior to the pregnancy between the carrier and the intended parents.  When in fact a contract did not exist prior to the pregnancy.    It appears from the court filings that a dozen couples fell for this scheme.

Surratt Law Practice assisted the FBI in this case when they were contacted by one of the women who were sent to the Ukraine to be impregnated.   We are saddened by this situation but gratefull that the FBI did such a wonderful job in pursuing this case and bringing justice.  It is really imporant for prospective parents to investigage any professionals that they are thinking of working with either for adoption or assisted reproduction.  The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) has released a press release, explaining just that.   “AAARTA is a non profit organization of attorneys, judges and law professors throughout the U.S.and Canada who are bound by a strict code of ethics and have distinguished themselves in the fields of adoption and assisted reproduction.”  Kimberly Surratt is a fellow with AAARTA.

US Surrogacy Orders are Ineffective in the UK

There are a great number of surrogacy agencies out there that do not sufficiently assist their clients in obtaining proper legal representation.  They often recommend a one size fits all attorney from a State or Country that is irrelevant to the contract.  I have recently been contacted by a Solicitor from Britain, Pamela Collis, who has expressed a great deal of concern because she is seeing British couples utilizing surrogacy in the United States without proper legal advice from Britain.

She has noted many British couples utilize a US surrogacy agency, have a child in the US and obtain a US court order that makes them the parents of the child pursuant to US laws.  The orders declare the British couple as parents and terminate the interest of the surrogate mother and her spouse (if any).

The problem is that when the British couple return to Britain, the US order is invalid.  Britain, under their legislation (the Human Embryology and Fertility Acts), treats the surrogate who delivered the child as the parent of the child and her husband (if any) as the father (unless he did not agree to the surrogacy arrangement).

According to Ms. Collis, the end result is that “the commissioning couple are not the parents under British Law and the child is not entitled to a British passport and any ‘indefinite leave to remain’ visa stamped into the child’s US passport has been unlawfully obtained.”  This is creating a great deal of complex and difficult immigration problems and the the result is the “unwitting commission of criminal buy proscar in australia offenses” for Ms. Collis to have to fix on behalf of her clients.  Clients assume the US order would be effective in the UK, which it is not.   What complicates matters further is that the time limit to apply to the English court for a “parental order” to confer on them the state of “parents” is limited to only six (6) months from the child’s birth.

Ms. Collis has been dealing with cases in which the parents realized the problem well after six (6) months – far to long for her to assist them in obtaining a parental order.  The only option Ms. Collis has for them may either be to conduct a full adoption of the children under the English system or “make do with another order under [their] Children Act which is not the same as being a legal parent.”  Those are the actions needed merely to deal with parentage, without consideration of the considerable attorney’s fees yet to come to deal with the passport, immigration and criminal problems.

The solution!  Every surrogacy arrangement must ensure that the contracts and legal arrangements are drafted or reviewed by an attorney licensed to practice in each and every jurisdiction where the agreement is likely to be interpreted to ensure compliance with that jurisdiction’s applicable laws.  Do not take any shortcuts in this process or the outcome can be grave.  The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys requires such action as an ethical requirement of each fellow.  To learn more about the Academy or find a well trained advocate for Assisted Reproductive Technology visit www.aaarta.org.

Starting The Surrogacy Process

Surrogacy is an intemidating process that often appears legally complex which is a deterrent for some families. I suggest that it is not so bad when you have the right professionals on your side.

Finding a Legal Professional

Surrogacy is an area of law where you do not want to hire a legal professional that does not have experience. These matters are complex and the conflict of law issues between not only states but different countries prove to be more than most professionals bargained for in starting the process. The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) was developed to assist the public in finding qualified attorney with sufficient education and experience in this area of law. AAARTA is dedicated to the advancement of best legal practices in the area of assisted reproduction and to the protection of the interests of all parties, including children, involved in assisted reproductive technology matters. Go to www.aaarta.org where you will find a state by state listing of the fellows and their contact information.

Finding a Medical Professional

There are medical doctors that work exclusively in the area of reproductive medicine. I do not recommend that you utilize an everyday OB/GYN. Reproductive medicine is an expensive process that you want a physician to get right the first time to avoid additional costs. The American Society for  Reproductive Medicine is an association of physicians that practice in this area of medicine. They have a website that is dedicated to patient needs at www.reproductivefacts.org. On that where to buy proscar site you can click on a button on the right hand side where it says “Find a Healthcare Professional”. You should also use this site to simply find additional information regarding reproductive medicine that is written for the patient and not for other physicians.

Finding an Agency

Many people attempt to go through the process of surrogacy without an agency for one reason – to save money. It is understandable really. The cost of the surrogate fees along with the medical expenses is tremendous to start with, adding an agency fee on top of that is often more than people can handle. However, if you are thinking about surrogacy and you don’t have sufficient money to add an agency fee then you may want to rethink surrogacy as a possibility for you. Many things can go wrong in a surrogacy process to cause the costs to sky rocket. If you are no prepared for that then you are only putting the entire process at risk. If you do have the money for an agency and decide to use one. There really isn’t a decent way to screen an agency through any other organization. AAARTA is working on developing such a list but for now rely on a trained legal professional to help you in the screening process.

Additional Resources

American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys: www.aaarta.org

American Society for Reproductive Medicine: www.asrm.org

The American Bar Association has a new article titled “As Surrogacy Becomes More Popular, Legal Problems Proliferate”http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/as_surrogacy_becomes_more_popular_legal_problems_proliferate/

 

Reno’s First Baby of 2011 Born to Same Sex Couple

The Reno Gazette Journal reported on January 2, 2011 that the first baby born in the year 2011 in Reno, Nevada was to a same sex couple at Renown Medical Center.  The newspaper didn’t say a word about them being a same sex couple (good for them) but the couple’s picture was in the newspaper.

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