What Makes a Good Surrogacy Agency?
In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist and Page Provan Director Stephen Page talks about makes a good surrogacy agency.
G’day, I’m Stephen Page from Page Provan and Family and Fertility Lawyers, and I’m talking today about what makes a good surrogacy agency. What I’d like to have today, but I don’t have in front of me is an apple and an orange, or chalk and cheese, because these things are different and yet they seem the same.
When intended parents come to me and they say, look, we want to talk about going to a good surrogacy agency. In fact, we went online and found this really great surrogacy agency and described the country, at which point I have to stop them and say, well, are you assuming that the surrogacy agency that you’re going to is the same as a surrogacy agency as in, for example, the United States?
The obvious response is yes. The reality, however, is often no. So the first thing that you need to know about choosing a good surrogacy agency, and I’ve talked about this before, is compare a surrogacy agency with a bottle of milk. A bottle of milk has a lot of regulation with it, if you go to Coles or Woolies or your local corner shop, you want to make sure that the bottle of milk you buy for a few dollars isn’t going to poison you.
So we have all these regulations in place to make sure it doesn’t. A surrogacy agency, however, a place where you’re going to be spending tens of thousands of dollars, typically has no regulation wherever it might be in the world. Whether it’s an altruistic surrogacy agency, and we have one of those in Australia, the Surrogacy Australia Support Service, or it’s a surrogacy agency operating in the United States or Canada or in a developing country.
Typically, it won’t have any regulation at all, not a job. The starting point, from my point of view, is if you’re going to engage a surrogacy agency, go and make inquiries. By all means, contact me and ask me about who’s good, and at this point, I just refer to the old product disclosure statement. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. But it’s the best guide we’ve got.
Who is reputable? Who knows what they’re doing? Who should be avoided? One of the things that I’ve observed for a long time is that those who are desperate to have children sometimes engage what is called baby lust. It’s like gold fever, but instead it’s about having a baby. You’ve spent so much time researching this, talked to so many people, looked at so much online that it must happen now, and like an unguided missile, you’ve chosen this particular agency because it must be right, even though it may or may not be.
On two occasions, I’ve had couples who have gone to US surrogacy agencies, which were duds. Well, even worse than that, the owners were fraudsters. In one case, the couple came to me years after the agency owner had taken their money and stolen it, and they were coming to me to try and fix the damage. Well, we still want to be parents, but we’ve lost, it was about 40,000 Australian.
Thankfully, eventually, that the owner, who was a lawyer, was caught up with, and by the FBI, prosecuted and jailed. But it didn’t do any good for that couple who lost their money. In another case, a couple came to me and they said, we’ve chosen this agency because this agency appears to be very good, and my response to that was, well, there are hundreds of agencies in the US alone, and I have never heard of this agency before.
That might be because they’ve never worked with Australians previously, or it might be because they’re dodgy. I just didn’t know. Sadly, it was the latter and their circumstances were even worse than the first couple. In this sense, they paid the money over to the agency. They had the surrogate in place. The surrogate is pregnant, and then the agency took the money. So just imagine, you have a woman who’s pregnant, you’ve promised her and contracted with her to give her all this money, and you don’t have it because someone stolen it.
What does that impact on her? Well, she’s still entitled to all her compensation and all her expenses being met. So suddenly, out of the blue, you have to find tens of thousands of dollars, and they did so. Thankfully, again, the FBI caught up with this agency owner, and he was prosecuted. Probably the worst I’ve seen in terms of dodgy agencies was a guy called Rudy Rupak, and this is a contrast from a good agency to a very bad one.
I can’t say that I’m an expert in the field, but I met him once at a conference, and he seemed to be the archetype of a California porn film director straight out of the 70s. Lots of hair, gold chain, lots of oil, and I just had an ick factor.
He set up an outfit, an agency in Mexico some years ago, and it had two claims to fame to it. The first was it was a Ponzi scheme, suck in the money but not actually deliver any results. So keep sucking in the money from intended parents but not actually give them anything in return, and secondly, trafficked Colombian women to Mexico for surrogacy.
His efforts were exposed by Australia’s ABC and the New York Times and as part of a theme, again, he was caught up with by the FBI and prosecuted and jailed, and while we’re talking about the FBI and prosecuted and jailed, about 10 years ago, there was a reputable surrogacy agency in California run by a lawyer, and she even had her own TV show talking about surrogacy.
But she got greedy, and what was the outcome? She was trafficking Ukrainian women who were already pregnant and saying to intended parents, oh, by the way, this surrogacy arrangement fell through and we’ve got a baby on the way for you. Well, it was all a lie. So again, caught up with by the FBI, prosecuted and jailed, and I’m so glad she’s not in practice. But all of these bad stories haven’t told you what actually makes a good surrogacy agency.
A good surrogacy agency on the US model is one that manages and matches. Its first job is to match you with your surrogate, and that means someone who fits with you and your needs. Australian intended parents typically want to have an ongoing relationship with the surrogate, and so surrogacy agencies look at that. They also want to make sure that the surrogate is not only a good fit and feel for you in terms of the psychology, but also the law.
We want to make sure that the surrogate, or the agency, I should say, wants to make sure that the surrogate fits in the right location, because there are issues with Australian law that have to be sorted. Generally, Australians are pretty flexible about this, but nevertheless, there’s a pretty keen checking mechanism they’ve got to go through. The second thing that a good surrogacy agency does is to manage, and that’s to make sure that the whole thing works.
That’s dealing with the IVF clinic, with the intended parents, with the surrogate, the surrogates partner, if there’s an egg donation arrangement, and IVF, making sure all of that happens. So that like clockwork, it starts, it keeps going, and it stops on time to get you in and get you out as quickly and as cheaply and above all, as stress free as possible.
Despite the horror stories I told you at the beginning, most surrogacy agencies in the US are wonderful. The feedback I’ve had from clients universally is, lots of paper, we have to sign all these agreements, but it’s all transparent. We know precisely what we’re going to get. That’s not the case necessarily if you are in a Post-Soviet state or a developing country.
The quality may be there, but it may also not be there. It really varies. And how is it going to vary? You don’t know until you’re in the journey. Therefore, if you’re looking at a good surrogacy agency, ask around. By all means, contact me and ask me. I don’t want my clients going to bad surrogacy agencies.
I want to make sure the journey of my clients are smooth, fast, and as stress free as they can be. I don’t want my clients to be ripped off. I want my clients to become parents and have as far as they can, a joyous experience becoming parents through surrogacy. Make your inquiries, by all means contact me. I’m there to help.