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With Surrogate Mothers, US Citizenship Is for Sale

by Jennifer Lahl

The international surrogacy market is fraught with problems, but one major problem that goes largely unnoticed is that U.S. citizenship is being bought and sold to international couples who hire U.S. surrogate mothers to carry their children to birth.

Here is a short primer on how one becomes a U.S. citizen. First, most Americans have birthright citizenship, meaning anyone born on U.S. soil is automatically deemed a citizen of the United States. Second, one can become a citizen through naturalization, which happens by going through the legal immigration steps, applying for citizenship, and having citizenship granted.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has as its first sentence the Citizenship Clause, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

But can you buy citizenship in the United States?

The answer is “Yes,” and it is quite easy and relatively affordable, all things considered. Babies born of U.S. surrogates to international couples are often referred to as anchor babies, because by virtue of being born in the United States, these children secure an anchor as citizens, afforded all the rights and benefits of that citizenship.

And those rights and benefits are many: the right to vote, the right to a U.S. passport, and most importantly, the right to “family unification,” or the provision of a pathway to citizenship for other family members who may want to come to the United States.

As Andy J. Semotiuk wrote in Forbes, “Anchor babies, birth tourism, and surrogacy are pushing the envelope of what are the rights of citizenship in North America.”

Reproductive or birth tourism is a booming business. As one country cracks down on the buying and selling of eggs or sperm, or the renting of uteruses, the Big Fertility market shifts to accommodate the change.

For example, in China, all surrogacy is illegal, as is the sale of human eggs, so the Chinese flock to the United States to buy a baby. In fact, I have interviewed several U.S. surrogates who were contracted to carry babies for couples in China.

One whistleblower I spoke with worked for an agency in southern California and handled the VIP clients. When asked who those clients were, she said she worked solely with Chinese, who came with loads of cash to buy eggs and rent wombs.

She described to me how it wasn’t uncommon for the Chinese to hire two or three surrogates, and once their pregnancies were confirmed and the sex and health of the babies were determined, the couple would choose which pregnancy they wanted to continue and which ones they wanted to be terminated.

If that isn’t enough to say we need to stop this birth tourism industry, perhaps these stories will be. A surrogacy attorney in New Jersey reported that a Chinese person approached her, wanting her to represent him in a U.S. surrogacy arrangement, but what didn’t seem right was this person wanted to hire five surrogates at the same time. In another case, the foreigner “wanted to keep two babies, and put the rest up for adoption,” according to a different surrogacy attorney.

With U.S. citizenship granted to five babies, three of which were going to be put up for adoption, most certainly to the highest bidder, it isn’t much of a leap to think of baby trafficking rings. In fact, two women in Vietnam were busted on a surrogacy baby-selling ring, selling babies to people in China.

And this practice works both ways.

In 2015, three individuals who ran a multimillion-dollar fertility agency in Irvine, California, were arrested “in the biggest federal criminal probe ever to target the thriving industry, in which pregnant women come to the United States to give birth so their children will become American citizens,” according to The New York Times.

The U.S. Department of State has a policy on how U.S. couples who travel abroad to hire a foreign woman as a surrogate can be sure to have U.S. citizenship granted to their baby born of surrogacy in another country. Sadly, the State Department needs to address the problem within our own house, of granting citizenship to anchor babies.

As it stands, when surrogacy is involved, the child is used as a commodity, a means to an end, if you will, and that end is U.S. citizenship.

First published by The Epoch Times


The Untold Harms of Surrogacy

I have lost count of the number of celebrities hiring women to gestate their babies.

Elton John and David Furnish set the trend ten years ago and the list just keeps growing: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West; Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick; Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen; Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. More recently, Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper became single dads via “third party conception,” meaning they purchased eggs from one woman and rented the womb of another. This arrangement also constitutes “gestational surrogacy,” where a woman enters into a contract, most often for money, to carry a non-genetically related child for another couple or a single person.

Now Amy Schumer, talking about her pregnancy complications, is considering using a surrogate to have her next child. In her HBO documentary, Expecting Amy, her friend Christy Turlington Burns talks about wanting to have another baby, at which Amy exclaims, “Great! I’m looking for a surrogate, because I’m never doing [pregnancy] again.” Schumer suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy with her now 14-month-old son Gene. While morning sickness is common in pregnant women, hyperemesis gravidarum is much less common and presents as severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and dehydration. Women often need to be hospitalized, as in Schumer’s case. Because the risk is high of having this condition in subsequent pregnancies, it appears Amy is thinking about outsourcing her next pregnancy. Time magazine once listed pregnancy as No. 1 in their list of “top 10 chores” to outsource.

Flicking through these headlines while standing in line at the grocery store, many might think that surrogate mothers have undertaken an amazing act of service. However, if you scratch below the gloss of People magazine, you will learn about the serious health risks to women who carry babies for others, as well as the serious risks to the children they give birth to.

Let’s start with the maternal-morbidity and -mortality rates in the U.S. Morbidity trends in the U.S. have been increasing for years. Per the Centers for Disease Control website, the most recent report shows that severe maternal morbidity has increased by almost 200 percent, from 49.5 percent in 1993 to 144.0 percent in 2014. Pre-eclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide. The U.S. maternal-mortality rate has also been steadily rising. In fact, the U.S. is the only developed country where maternal mortality is on the rise. As the authors of a recent Harvard Business Review report note: “Over 700 women die of complications related to pregnancy each year in the USA, and two-thirds of those deaths are preventable,” “black women in the USA are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women — regardless of education, income, or any other socio-economic factors,” and an additional 50,000 American women suffer from life-threatening complications of pregnancy according to the CDC.

Now let’s extrapolate this data to the pregnancy of a surrogate mother. Fertility and Sterility, a leading fertility medical journal, published a 2017 study comparing “perinatal outcomes after natural conception versus in vitro fertilization (IVF) in gestational surrogates.” Significantly, the study compared a woman’s own pregnancy with her gestational surrogate pregnancy and found that:

Neonates born from commissioned embryos and carried by gestational surrogates have increased adverse perinatal outcomes, including preterm birth, low birth weight, hypertension, maternal gestational diabetes, and placenta previa, compared with singletons conceived spontaneously and carried by the same woman.

Dr. Allen Merritt, a perinatologist at Loma Linda Medical Center in California, published a snapshot of the medical outcomes of surrogate deliveries at Loma Linda in 2012-2013 and found that of 69 infants delivered from surrogates, there was an increase in multiple births, NICU admissions, and longer hospital stays which added to hospital charges. In fact, in the case of surrogate mothers who gave birth to a single baby or twins, hospital charges increased 26 times, and in triplet births, hospital charges increased 173 times. Of course, these increased lengths of stay in the hospital and spiked costs were all because these women were in a high-risk pregnancy category, putting their health and the health of the unborn babies at risk.

The profound consequences of this data are illustrated in the news of surrogate mothers who have died in the U.S. Brooke Brown of Boise, Idaho died in 2015 of pregnancy related complications.  The twins she was carrying for a couple in Spain (where all surrogacy is illegal) died too.  Crystal Wilhite, a young mother of two in Southern California, also died of complications of her surrogate pregnancy in 2017. And just this year, Michelle Reaves, also a young mother of two, in San Diego, Calif., died from pregnancy-related complications. This was her second surrogate pregnancy for a couple she had already had a baby for.

Knowing the bleak maternal-morbidity and -mortality rates in the U.S., and adding to that the high-risk nature of a surrogate pregnancy, why would Ms. Schumer, or anyone else for that matter, want to put a young mother’s life at risk?

As originally published in National Review Online


Stop Surrogacy Now News

This year will go down in the history books as the year when a global pandemic literally stopped the world in its tracks. All of us working to abolish surrogacy have had to learn a new way to work.  Can we all say Zoom?  

There is a new film team, including members of StopSurrogacyNow, embarking on a documentary film project. Three interviews have already been done over Zoom.  An original signer of SSN, Gary Powell, has written two very important pieces on the Surrogacy case in the U.K. If you missed them, they can be found here and here.

With the news of commercial surrogacy becoming legal in New York State and the babies born via surrogacy in Ukraine during global travel bans, many of us have been responding and calling upon members in the government to ACT to respond appropriately to the human rights violations of women and children in surrogacy. Our colleagues in France and Sweden have acted proactively considering the news in Ukraine.

The European Network of Migrant Women posted a video worth watching with Maria, Dmytriyeva, an expert in women’s rights, discussing the surrogacy situation in Ukraine.

As StopSurrogacyNow takes an email newsletter hiatus over the summer, only alerting you for breaking news, we wanted to highlight three recent podcast video interviews, as part of a series addressing surrogacy. 

The first is with Toni Bare, a U.S. surrogate mother and signer of our Stop Surrogacy Now campaign, who traveled with me to Albany, N.Y. to meet with members of the legislature to tell her deeply personal and harmful experience as a surrogate mother.  

The second podcast video interview is with Jennifer Lahl, who speaks broadly about third-party conception, and the risks to women and children as well as the human rights violations to them.

Finally, Gary Powell discussion the surrogacy situation in the U.K. and a recent judgement awarding a woman in the U.K. taxpayer funds to travel to California to hire a surrogate mother.

Both interviews were hosted by Kellie-Jay Keen in the United Kingdom. She has a following of some 30 plus thousands, so no global pandemic is stopping us from getting the word out!  If you want to enjoy some podcasts over the summer, please do check out Venus Rising podcasts

Have a great summer!

This year will go down in the history books as the year when a global pandemic literally stopped the world in its tracks. All of us working to abolish surrogacy have had to learn a new way to work.  Can we all say Zoom?  

There is a new film team, including members of StopSurrogacyNow, embarking on a documentary film project. Three interviews have already been done over Zoom.  An original signer of SSN, Gary Powell, has written two very important pieces on the Surrogacy case in the U.K. If you missed them, they can be found here and here.

With the news of commercial surrogacy becoming legal in New York State and the babies born via surrogacy in Ukraine during global travel bans, many of us have been responding and calling upon members in the government to ACT to respond appropriately to the human rights violations of women and children in surrogacy. Our colleagues in France and Sweden have acted proactively considering the news in Ukraine.

The European Network of Migrant Women posted a video worth watching with Maria, Dmytriyeva, an expert in women’s rights, discussing the surrogacy situation in Ukraine.

As StopSurrogacyNow takes an email newsletter hiatus over the summer, only alerting you for breaking news, we wanted to highlight two podcast video interviews. 

The first is with Toni Bare, a U.S. surrogate mother and signer of our Stop Surrogacy Now campaign, who traveled with me to Albany, N.Y. to meet with members of the legislature to tell her deeply personal and harmful experience as a surrogate mother.  

The second podcast video interview is with me, talking broadly about third-party conception, and the risks to women and children.  

Both interviews were hosted by Kellie-Jay Keen in the United Kingdom. She has a following of some 30 plus thousands, so no global pandemic is stopping us from getting the word out!  If you want to enjoy some podcasts over the summer, please do check out Venus Rising podcasts

Have a great summer!


India Leads the Way

As many of you know, India is very close to passing a Surrogacy Bill that would effectively ban all commercial surrogacy in the nation. The bill was slated to pass on November 21 but was sent to committee for final scrutiny and revision before being finalized.

India leads the way by good example, prioritizing the well-being of women above its annual 3.3 billion euro profit from the surrogacy industry. Stop Surrogacy Now signer, Dr. Sheela Saravanan, has been instrumental in this fight. Hear her defend the surrogacy bill in this video

Dr. Saravanan’s informative book A Transnational Feminist View of Surrogacy Biomarkets in India has brought some much needed perspective and clarity to the global debate. It’s an excellent resource for those who wish to know more about the issue. You can read our review of the book here

We appreciate the courageous work of Dr. Saravanan and the many others fighting to abolish surrogacy.