The America Fertility Association ( AFA ) hosted a Gay Women's Gathering to discuss fertility options for lesbians at Women and Children First Bookstore Aug. 6.
Scott Brown, director of client experience and communications at California Cryobank, Dr. Laurence Jacobs of Fertility Centers of Illinois and Julie Tavoso of the Law Offices of Julie M. Tavoso, LLC addressed a crowd of about 80 people about the medical, legal and financial aspects of becoming a parent.
Ken Mosesian, executive director of the AFA, talked about the history of the association and the inclusion of LGBT family building as one of their four strategic goals. Mosesian explained that despite initially losing funding when they announced their LGBT family building goal in 2008 they are proud of the stand they took and the people who supported their decision.
In his remarks, Brown focused on the issue of known versus anonymous donors. He noted that people seeking to become parents need to assess their level of commitment to the process and educate themselves because it's expensive and emotionally draining.
"Choosing a known donor can be a great option ... but the first misconception is that it will be cheaper than an anonymous donor," said Brown. Brown noted that consulting an attorney is vital to the process because there are still legal issues to contend with so all parties are protected and parental recognition is secured.
With a known donor, Brown explained that the person seeking to become a parent has to pay for the medical workup on the donor to find out the medical history of that person ahead of the insemination and the process can take up to eight months because the sperm has to be quarantined and tested again for any diseases at the six month mark.
With an anonymous donor there is a wealth of information available to the couples ( or single women ) due to the extensive donor information that is compiled by cryobanks, said Brown. Also, Brown noted that prospective parents are able to start the process as soon as they choose the donor because the medical testing has already been completed on the donor.
Another option for prospective parents is the open donor route, Brown noted. An open donor agrees to a minimum of one contact with the child after they turn 18 years old if the child requests it and all contact is facilitated through California Cryobank, said Brown.
Brown noted that it's important to do your research and choose the cryobank that is the right fit for you. Once you choose the cryobank, Brown explained that the next step is to log on and narrow down your choices by looking at the physical characteristics of the donor, their childhood photos, their essays, and any other information that they provide about themselves to the cryobank.
Jacobswho has been doing this work for 35 yearsdelved into the medical aspects of the process including the pros and cons of artificial insemination versus IVF treatments and what both options entail. When Jacob's made the comment that lesbians don't have to have a relationship with a man in order to have a child the audience erupted in laughter. He also mentioned that Illinois is a favorable state for reproduction and called attention to the LGBT focused website he started a few years ago called Rainbow Reproduction.
There are far more similarities between lesbian couples and straight couples than differences, said Jacobs. The biggest difference is lesbians don't know if they are infertile so a medical workup and counseling is very important to not only save money but also to determine if they can even conceive a child, Jacobs explained. One thing Jacobs does see is that lesbians are more anxious about seeing a fertility specialist because they are unsure of how they will be received by the doctor and staff at the facility. "The most important thing is that you are treated with respect ... the mark of a good fertility specialist is not so much if you get pregnant or not it's how they feel about you and the care that you've given them," he said.
During the couple's first visit, Jacobs said that he talks about the medical workup, does information gathering about the person who will be conceiving the child, and discusses any lifestyle issues that need to be addressed such as smoking, losing weight et. al. Jacobs noted that they offer a psychological screening so couples will know how to deal with any questions their children might have, the financial aspects of the treatment and insurance information.
Tavoso spoke about the legal issues surrounding the process. In Illinois, Tavoso noted that lesbians who are married or in a civil union have more protections than lesbian couples who aren't because the non-birth mother is legally recognized as the other mother on the child's birth certificate, however, there are still legal hurdles that lesbian couples with children have to face to ensure that their family is fully protected from a legal standpoint. Illinois law says that the woman giving birth is recognized as the legal mother regardless of whose eggs are used, said Tavoso.
It is important to follow the law and use the proper facilities, i.e., clinics and cryobanks so the couple is protected and the sperm donor is absolved of their parenting obligations, said Tavoso. Tavoso advised attendees that the turkey baster method is not a good idea because of the legal risks involved. Completing a second parent adoption is vital for lesbian and gay parents so they are recognized as their child's parent in areas of the country and world where their marriage isn't legal, said Tavoso.
A Q&A session followed the presentations.
See www.theafa.org, www.cryobank.com, www.fcionline.com/fertility-specialists/dr-laurence-a-jacobs, www.rainbowreproduction.com/lesbians, and www.reproductive-law.com for more information.