"You just save all of your receipts from the second you're matched. Doesn't matter, anything, you save it..."
A CBC investigation highlights serious transparency problems when agencies reimburse expenses on a parent's behalf.
Last week, the CBC ran a series of stories about surrogacy in Canada. They focused on two specific issues: a lack of transparency when agencies reimburse surrogacy expenses and health concerns about the close timing of pregnancies. Below, I summarize some of the highlights and provide links to the original stories.
As I have said in the past, agencies in Canada need to be regulated.
Lack of transparency when agencies reimburse surrogacy expenses
Five separate families made similar allegations. They said they'd been told there would be a monthly maximum for reimbursement to the surrogate and they were asked to put that amount of money into a trust account that would be managed by their agency. Then, to their surprise, the maximum was withdrawn each month and paid out to the surrogate.
When parents asked the agency to share the receipts, they were told they'd have to wait until the end of the pregnancy. All they could get while the pregnancy was ongoing was a summary. All the families that CBC spoke to worked with the same agency, Canadian Fertility Consulting (CFC).
One surrogate, who miscarried within the first month, was reimbursed $5000, according to an intended father who spoke to CBC. When he got the receipts, he found that many didn't have visible dates, some were dated from before they'd even met, and a few were duplicates. One receipt was for a lottery ticket.
One surrogate who spoke to the CBC explained:
"You just save all of your receipts from the second you're matched. Doesn't matter, anything, you save it, and then it goes into what's called a 'cushion' and ... you will be reimbursed your full monthly amount every single month. They don't question it, apparently... Even before you're pregnant, you have... a virtual bank account of your receipts... so it wouldn't be considered pregnancy receipts, I guess."
I have heard the same.
Another surrogate told the CBC about how she felt when a couple she was working with questioned some of her expenses:
"It got to the point that like... we were fighting over everything... They nickled and dimed for everything... They didn't want to reimburse for the car payments, they didn't want to reimburse for the telephones, they didn't want to reimburse for take-out meals... it was bad. They were like seriously nitpicking at everything... And I was like, okay, I'm done. I was going to abort the baby... At that point, I was so done... It was a breach of contract. They breached it by not paying me. So I figured I'm not going to follow the rules and breach the contract."
Not surprisingly, intended parents are nervous about challenging surrogates on expenses. The problem is that in Canada, intended parents could be convicted of a crime if they are found to be paying a surrogate more than reimbursements for legitimate expenses.
For the full story, check out:
"Why a lack of oversight of surrogacy in Canada leaves some parents feeling taken advantage of," CBC, 02 Mar 2020.
"Baby Business, Part 2: The parents," CBC Front Burner, 05 Mar 2020
Surrogate pregnancies are too close together
The other set of stories looked at health. Specifically, are surrogates getting pregnant too soon after their last surrogacy?
CBC spoke to one two-time surrogate who believes her hysterectomy was necessitated by the close timing of her surrogacies. Her second surrogacy began just six months after the first one ended.
They also spoke to a woman who, just two months after giving birth by c-section, was preparing her uterus for another transfer. Within four months, she was pregnant again — with twins. Another woman was embarking on her fifth surrogacy in less than four years.
The CBC says all the surrogates they spoke to described feeling very emotional right after the birth.
One woman described it like this:
"We've done this huge, incredible, amazing thing — what are we going to do now? And so I knew right away that... I was going to have to do it again."
This addiction to the feel-good side of surrogacy is not uncommon. A number of women have mentioned it to me.
Should it be left to surrogates to decide they're ready to start again? Or should doctors enforce a minimum interval between surrogate pregnancies? One surrogate CBC interviewed said she wished in retrospect it hadn't been up to her.
"Pressure to have multiple babies putting surrogates 'at risk' " CBC, 04 Mar 2020.
"Baby Business, Part 1: The surrogates" CBC Front Burner, 04 Mar 2020.
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