Having a baby is taking on a new twist for U.S. women who are outsourcing their wombs to European couples and others across the globe where surrogacy is illegal.
Some call it global fertility tourism. But "people helping other people" is how Laurie Thompson of McHenry, Ill., describes the 14-week-old twins she is carrying for a same sex couple from Spain, conceived with a donor's eggs, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"There's such pride in knowing that I did this for somebody," Thompson tells the newspaper about her two experiences as surrogate, which also have included a pregnancy for a married couple from Serbia.
Thompson, who is married and paid in the $20,000 to $25,000 range, plus expenses, tells the Tribune surrogacy works for her because she avoids emotional attachment to the babies growing in her belly.
"This is something that is probably hard for most people to do -- with the emotional connection and everything -- and I was able to do it," she tells the Tribune.
During the last five years, Illinois adoption and fertility organizations say they have seen a growing number of local women carrying babies for women as far away as Istanbul and Uruguay, the Tribune reports. And, throughout the United States, there are an estimated 1,400 babies who have European parents and are being carried by U.S. moms, the newspaper adds.
The babies are born U.S. citizens, surrogacy agency officials say, but that's not a primary motivation for the parents, who typically come from European and Latin American countries where surrogacy is illegal or unavailable. The parents have exhausted other options and are willing to pay about $50,000 to $100,000 -- part of which goes to the surrogate -- to have biological children, the Tribune reports.
There is no formal tracking system, but one of the larger U.S. agencies, the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Encino, Calif., estimates that about half of its 104 births in 2010 were for international parents.
Illinois is one of the centers for this practice because it has one of the most surrogacy-friendly laws in the nation -- at least two dozen international babies were born to surrogates in 2010, according to a Tribune survey of major agencies. The only other states that explicitly allow contracts for paid surrogacy are Arkansas, California and Massachusetts.
"We're getting inquires from international parents constantly. Because of the referral process, it's skyrocketed," Zara Griswold, director of Family Source Consultants in Hinsdale, Ill., tells the Tribune. "We recently got an inquiry from somebody in China."
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