Intended Parents

International vs. Domestic Surrogacy: What You Need to Know

As you’re considering having a child via surrogacy, you can certainly consider an international surrogacy rather than a domestic one. However, it’s helpful to understand the key differences between the processes.

Talk to a surrogacy professional at a domestic surrogacy agency and an international surrogacy agency to learn more about which path might be best for your family. To help you understand these differences in the meantime, we’ve listed some of them below.

The General Differences in the Surrogacy Process

Clearly, the biggest difference between international and domestic surrogacy will be the distance involved. With international surrogacy, communication will be more difficult, and you won’t get to play as active a role in your surrogacy process if it takes place overseas. You may not get the reassurance you need by meeting in person with your surrogacy professional, medical professional and surrogate in a foreign country; you may just have to trust that the process is handled ethically and correctly if you can’t make multiple trips to the country that you work in.

The distance and international borders also create additional legal complications, like bringing a foreign-born child back into the United States and navigating surrogacy laws in your chosen country. Unlike many American surrogacy processes, surrogacy in another country may not have a clear-cut surrogacy process, and potential legal complications can severely impact your family-building process. If you choose to pursue an international surrogacy, it’s important you understand these aspects beforehand.

Keep reading for more information about specific aspects of international vs. domestic surrogacy:

Which Costs More: International or Domestic Surrogacy?

When American intended parents consider an international surrogacy, usually it’s because they want to save money by pursuing what they think is a cheaper process. However, like with other family-building processes, a surrogacy chosen because it’s cheaper is also one that comes with many more risks.

In surrogacy, the quality and quantity of services provided generally correlates with the cost of obtaining them. Therefore, while an international surrogacy may seem cheaper than a domestic surrogacy, consider this: This is because you usually don’t have the same case management support and because a surrogate is not receiving the same amount of compensation as an American surrogate does. In fact, some surrogates cannot receive compensation at all due to national laws, which causes another ethical complication.

There is also always the risk of hidden costs in international surrogacy, especially when you are living in another country and have no direct influence on your surrogacy process. Something that seems less expensive at the beginning of the process can actually greatly increase in costs when you have delays in legal, medical and travel processes.

When you’re adding a child to your family, consider what’s most important to you — saving money or following through with a surrogacy process that makes you comfortable and that you fully trust. With the proper preparation, you can afford a domestic surrogacy. If you’re choosing an international surrogacy solely because of costs, it’s recommended you speak to a financial advisor and a U.S. surrogacy agency to determine what is really the best option for your family.

How Do Medical Standards Differ in International Surrogacy?

Another important difference to consider is the standards of medical practice in the U.S. and the country that you choose to complete your surrogacy process in.

In the U.S., all assisted reproductive technology professionals should adhere to the standards set by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Other countries, however, don’t have the same national standards, especially if the surrogacy process is still rather new in that location. Therefore, some international medical professionals may not have the same safety standards to protect your embryos and the surrogate involved — and, being in a different country, you may not be able to oversee or receive the same updates as you would in a closer location. In addition, sending your embryos abroad or traveling to that country yourself for the embryo creation process is risky, especially if you’re using your last viable embryos for this process.

While there may certainly be acceptable and safe medical professionals in other countries, choosing to complete a surrogacy in the U.S. can provide you more peace of mind during this important process because of the advanced medicine available. If you do choose to complete an international surrogacy, do extensive research with your chosen medical professional to make sure that your and the surrogate’s rights and safety are being protected during this process.

Are International Surrogates Screened as Thoroughly as Domestic Surrogates?

While there are always exceptions, in general, international surrogates may not be screened as fully as American surrogates. This is usually no fault of their own; their surrogacy professionals may not have access to as advanced medical screening equipment. And, because there is a high demand for international surrogates, international surrogacy agencies may not always hold their surrogates to the same physical, mental and emotional standard as American surrogacy agencies would — especially if their fees are lower and cannot cover the costs of an extensive screening process.

Even if a surrogate is screened medically, there may not be a way that her living conditions can be properly screened — which can add another unknown element for American intended parents. Unfortunately, without proper screening, you cannot be sure that a surrogate is pursuing this process of her own accord — which adds more ethical complications to the international surrogacy process.

However, in a domestic surrogacy, all surrogates are screened physically, mentally and emotionally to make sure they’re 100 percent ready for the surrogacy process. Surrogacy professionals not only make sure they can carry a surrogate pregnancy but also that their living conditions and family life are conducive to the surrogacy process — and that it will be a positive one for her, as well. This extensive screening protects both of you medically but also helps to prevent unnecessary delays from an unsuccessful match.

Are the Laws Enough to Protect Us and the Surrogate We Use?

While the surrogacy laws in the United States vary from state to state, there are plenty of locations where you can complete a surrogacy safely, with laws that protect you and her during the process. You can create a surrogacy contract that addresses liabilities and responsibilities, and it will be enforced to protect your parental rights and her right to compensation. Surrogacy attorneys across the United States have developed a straightforward process that you can trust in.

However, international surrogacy may not have these protections. International surrogacy laws are changing rapidly, and many countries are starting to ban foreigners from completing surrogacy within their borders. Therefore, American intended parents working in these countries are left at a standstill, with money and time invested and no way of knowing if they’ll ever be able to finish that surrogacy process.

But these laws don’t just affect international intended parents. Many countries only allow for altruistic surrogacy, which means a surrogate cannot be paid for her services. This quickly enters into ethical complexities; how can international intended parents take advantage of a foreign surrogate, without her receiving the proper compensation she deserves? The situation can also be more complicated if a woman is forced into surrogacy by her husband, who in some cultures controls all of the funds that his wife makes.

While international surrogacy laws will vary by country, there are many where the legal situation in place just does not protect the rights of intended parents and surrogates, if they can even legally complete the process at all. Before pursuing an international surrogacy, talk to a surrogacy attorney experienced in your chosen country’s laws to determine whether it’s possible and safe to pursue the process there.

Deciding Between International Surrogacy and Domestic Surrogacy

As intended parents, you always have the right to choose the process that’s best for you — and that includes deciding whether an international or domestic surrogacy is the right choice. This article is not intended to sway you one way or another; it’s intended to point out the recent challenges with the international surrogacy process that you might not be aware of. As always, speak to a surrogacy professional to learn more about the process that interests you to discover if it’s a really a possibility for you.

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