Image courtesy of stella85thomas at Flickr.com

Image courtesy of stella85thomas at Flickr.com

Germany holds a marginal scientific position in all things (regarding) biomedical reproduction. This is partially to do with the German Embryo Protection law that came into force in 1991 and severely blocked scientific research in this area.

Childless couples in Germany are generally cut off from many scientific advances such as egg donation, surrogacy, and much more.

High-quality information on these topics is generally hard to find, and communication between the groups representing reproductive medicine in Germany is very much in need of improvement. My website, Paleo-Mama, continues to be the prime website where important scientific advances such as the AUGMENT method, mitochondrial transfer, reproductive options for homosexual couples etc. become (for the first time) reported and available in the German language.

During a recent fertility fair in Berlin, I had an opportunity to talk to Rich Vaughn from the International Fertility Law Group about surrogacy options in the US for German couples. Many things were said, that even I didn’t know. I will not reproduce our conversation in whole, but rather stick to what is relevant to this article.

Here is just a snippet of our very informative talk related to egg donation, law regulations, privacy policies in different countries, available options for German gay couples, etc. Fertility law attorney Rich Vaughn and founder of International Fertility Law Group (IFLG) is a proud advocate for LGBT equality and gay and lesbian this is what he had to say on the topic:

Darja:

– Do you have experience with German couples? Can you tell me what the average German couple or client looks for and looks like?

Rich:

– Yes! During my career I had over a hundred German clients, a lot of same sex couples from Germany and a lot of heterosexual couples -mostly male-male and heterosexual couples.

Darja:

– Do you get involved once the baby is there?

Rich:

– I get involved in the beginning when they’ve been matched. Often, for me, the agency has made the match and we have to do the contracts with the surrogates and the parents. The same is done with egg donors as well. Lawyers get involved in early stage before the donors and perspective parents poke themselves with needles.

Darja:

– Are all the surrogates from the US and was it always like that?

Rich:

– Yes, all the surrogates are from the US. I’m not licensed to practice law in any other country. Most lawyers are licensed in 1 state, maybe 2, but you have to be licensed by each state. Each country has its own set of rules about who can be a lawyer in that country, so in the US, it’s state by state. What we do in California is different than what we do in Texas, which is very different than what we do in Florida or Minnesota.

-Sometimes, the agencies will introduce the clients to lawyers. Sometimes, they find the clinic, and the clinic introduces them to an agency, and an agency introduces them to me. We all have a role in this process. In my experience, most clients start with a clinic and then find a way to an agency. When they have a donor or a surrogate match, they are ready for contract and they find their way to me or any other lawyer.

Darja:

– What is an average price and duration for this process?

Rich:

– On average, if a couple is looking for egg donation and surrogacy, it will take about 18 months. Some will be faster, some will be slower. The average cost for egg donation and surrogacy is anywhere between $40,000 – 200,000.

Darja:

– Maybe you’d describe if there is such a thing like difficult German couple? How old are couples? What do they do? What’s their motivation? How happy are they?

Rich:

– There’s no “typical” German client. What we look for is if they have private health insurance that could potentially be used to pay for the baby’s medical care in the US, because that is an option. That’s very unique for clients from Germany. Private health insurance would pay for baby care in the US – that does not exist in other countries.

Darja:

– How odd! They pay for a medical care of a homosexual couple and at the same time they don’t pay for basic fertility treatments in the same country.

Rich:

– Yes, exactly! If they’re going to use their private German health insurance they have to match with an unmarried surrogate because German law would assume that the pregnant woman is the mother, and if she’s married that her husband is the father. But, if she’s not married, then during the pregnancy, she can go to a German consulate and sign the acknowledgement of paternity, acknowledging the father, or one of the fathers if it’s 2 men. The German law at birth sees the father as the legal father, and then he can use his insurance to pay for the baby’s medical care. They have to pay upfront, but they can be reimbursed by the insurance company.

Darja:

– Where do most of the German clients come from? I imagine you haven’t seen couples from German province.

Rich:

– If I’d have to guess, most of my German clients came from Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, respectively. I also had a few from Frankfurt.

This is all for now, and I hope that you are able to recognize encouraging and quality advice in regard to parenthood options for gay couples. It is not only adoptions nowadays, we have egg donation in its legal complexity that we tried to bring closer during our talk. I sure am happy that I had an opportunity to share with you this input, coming from the first hand, from leading expert in the field.

About the Author:

Darja Wagner, a PhD cell biologist combines her knowledge of cells, hormones and vitamins to help women with infertility issues. She is the author of the blog "All About Egg Health: How to Get Pregnant After 35". Darja helps women to apply latest advances in reproductive biology to maximize egg quality for higher chances of conception, in either a natural way or by means of assisted reproductive technology.

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