Science has made amazing advances in the field of Assisted Reproductive Technology in the past 40 years. These advances have helped countless traditional couples struggling with infertility and non-traditional couples and single parents who are unable to conceive a child on their own realize their dreams of having a child or even multiple children. While science has advanced, the law has not advanced as quickly. While the decision to have a child is a massive choice in and of itself, the choice to utilize ART to conceive a child requires even more consideration. Here are 7 things you need to consider before utilizing assisted reproductive technology to grow your family.
- What type of assisted reproductive technology is most appropriate for your family?
There are many different forms of Assisted Reproductive Technology, each with its own costs, benefits, risks, and questions that must be answered. If you are going to utilize artificial insemination or invitro fertilization? Are you going to have to utilize an embryo transfer procedure? Are you willing to use an anonymous donor for sperm or an egg or even embryos? If you are going to use a surrogate, who will carry the child? Will a known donor have a relationship with their biological child, even though you and your spouse will be raising him or her? You must carefully choose which type of ART is right for your needs with the with the help and guidance of both medical and legal professionals.
- Are you prepared for Potential Conflict with Donors and Carriers
Any time you enlist a third party, such as a surrogate or a sperm donor, there is the potential for misunderstandings and changed minds. Who is legally entitled to parental rights over the child when a conflict occurs between the couple that intended to raise the child and the biological parent who had previously agreed to carry the child or donate their genetic material to conceive the child? The law tends to skew towards ruling in such cases based on the original intent of the agreement, but it is still a very new area of the law with very little case law to turn to.
- There are significant legal risks involved.
If you have a conflict with a donor or carrier, there are significant legal risks involved. While science has advanced quickly, the law surrounding assisted reproductive law has not. In Alabama there is very little law that can give guidance and comfort to a couple or single person who utilizes collaborative assisted reproduction such as the use of a surrogate. The law in Alabama does not guarantee that surrogacy arrangements will be upheld, nor does it give the intended parents involved any guidance regarding how to best finalize these arrangements. Also, the law does not provide concrete protections to the non-carrying female member of a female same sex couple whose partner utilizes artificial insemination or invitro fertilization to grow their family. Having sound legal advice and being prepared to deal with a potential legal battle must be part of your considerations prior to engaging in the use of assisted reproductive technology.
When struggling with infertility or the inability to have a child of your own, patience is key. It may take a significant period of time to attempt to utilize fertility treatments if are able to carry a child of your own or to locate an appropriate surrogate if you are unable to carry a child of your own. If you choose to utilize the assistance of a surrogate, it will take time to negotiate a surrogacy agreement, determine if donated eggs, sperm, or both may need to be utilized, to have the surrogate evaluated by a medical professional, the surrogate to begin the embryo transfer procedures, and hopefully a confirmation that the surrogate is indeed pregnant. These initial phases can take several months and sometimes well over a year to finalize. Then, you will still have the nine months of the pregnancy to wait for your baby or babies to be born. Then, it can take quite some time for the whole arrangement to be finalized through a paternity/maternity action or an adoption.
Most forms of ART can be incredibly expensive, without any surefire guarantee that they will work or that a court will recognize the arrangement between the surrogate and the intended parents. There is a possibility that you will spend tens of thousands of dollars and never achieve the results you desire. You have to weigh the costs versus the risks and potential benefits, and decide exactly how much you are willing to spend in pursuit of having a child. In some cases, an adoption may be a more affordable and desireable route.
- Estate Planning
Assisted Reproductive Technology can raise major legal questions about estate planning, particularly in cases where the child was born of donated gametes. For example, if a trust were to be specifically left for the benefit of a grandparent’s biological descendants, would the child be entitled to the trust’s distributions? Or, if one spouse has cryogenically preserved his or her gametes, and then passes away, should probate be delayed or affected if the remaining spouse chooses to utilize the frozen eggs or sperm to conceive a biological child of the deceased? These are very complex legal matters that have not been entirely settled yet due to the fact that the technology is so recent.
- Higher Likelihood of Multiple Gestation
When methods of assisted reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization are utilized where more than one embryo is used at a time, the potential for multiple gestation becomes much higher. Perhaps you were financially prepared to raise one child, but what about two or even three all at once? Consider the increased chances of having multiples when you utilize assisted reproductive technology.
This list is by no means all-inclusive of the potential things you should consider before electing to pursue any form of ART. It is a major decision that should never be taken lightly. Before you decide to utilize assisted reproductive technology to grow your family, you should consult with an experienced assisted reproductive technology attorney to help you weigh all the options available to you to grow your family.