Career Women Rent Wombs
To Beat Hassles Of Pregnancy
By Tessa Mayes
The Sunday Times - London

A fertile 35-year-old business executive with three children hired another woman to carry her fourth child because she did not want to jeopardise her career.
The £43,000 procedure was organised by Conceptual Options, a private clinic in California. It not only enabled the woman to have her own fertilised egg implanted in a surrogate mother, but also allowed her to prearrange the sex of the baby.
"I want a daughter, but I don't want it to affect my career," said the woman, who already has three sons aged five, six and nine.
An increasing number of women are "renting" wombs for reasons of time pressure and vanity, with clinics in Britain as well as in the United States being asked to provide the service.
Successful businesswomen, actresses, athletes and models are among those opting for "social surrogacy". They cite career pressure, the pain of childbirth and the prospect of stretchmarks as the main reasons for avoiding pregnancy.
Theresa Erickson, a lawyer for Conceptual Options, said: "It's not for us to judge why people do not want to carry a baby, although I have turned people away. Women can just say, 'I need a surrogate', and doctors won't force her to allow them to check her fertility."
Paul Serhal, medical director at the Assisted Conception Unit affiliated to University College Hospital London (UCL), said he was recently approached by an actress in her thirties.
"She was concerned about stretchmarks and wanted a surrogate to carry a baby produced from her egg and her partner's sperm," Serhal said last week. "If she came back, I would ask the issues to be considered by the hospital ethics committee."
The Los Angeles-based Egg Donation and Surrogacy Programme said that 5%-10% of surrogacy requests are for social rather than medical reasons. It added that nearly half of those are from men who do not want their wives to go through the physical endurance of pregnancy. Recent cases include:
A Hollywood actress who hired a surrogate mother to carry a baby created from her egg and her lover's sperm. The surrogate had to sign a confidentiality agreement and, according to the clinic, "probably did it for the money".
A model who approached a clinic in the American state of Georgia for a surrogate because she feared that a normal pregnancy would lower her income while she carried the baby.
An American university professor who approached lawyers in Chicago to find out if she could have a social surrogacy. According to one lawyer close to the case she was worried about losing her tenure at the university if she became pregnant herself.
Cases of healthy women using surrogate mothers for social reasons are likely to anger campaigners for traditional families who believe that advances in fertility treatment have already gone to far.
Last week a clinic in America announced that it had offered sex selection to nearly 200 couples for social reasons. The Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, said patients chose the baby's sex for reasons of "family balancing".
Experts say it is only a matter of time before a child is conceived in Britain using social surrogacy. The practice is not illegal here, although the government does not encourage surrogacy. The health department said last week that it supports the Warnock report of 1984 which described social surrogacy as "ethically unacceptable". A spokesman said: "The government agrees that surrogacy is a last resort in cases where there are compelling medical reasons to do so."
However, undeterred by restrictive practices in this country, British couples who can afford it are travelling to America as "fertility tourists".
Andrew Vorzimer, an attorney at Vorzimer, Masserman & Chapman in Beverly Hills, said: "I have been approached by couples from all over the world, including models, athletes and celebrities, for vanity or employment reasons, but I have declined to help them."
Many American clinics do refuse to offer the service, arguing that it brings surrogacy services for reasons of infertility into disrepute. Sherrie Smith, programme administrator for the Centre for Surrogate Parenting and Egg Donation in Maryland, said: "If a woman is too busy to carry the child, or doesn't like the physical appearance of pregnancy and wants somebody to do that for her, she's probably too busy to be a mother."
Dr Peter Brinsden, medical director at Bourn Hall, the world's first IVF clinic which offers the largest surrogacy programme in Europe, said: "It is unacceptable to use assisted reproduction technology such as IVF in surrogacy cases or to employ sex selection for social reasons. The technology was developed for infertile couples. Responsible clinicians and scientists need to stop the renegades and not condone social surrogacy."
Others see nothing wrong in offering women social surrogacy services, however. Professor Lori Andrews of Chicago-Kent College of Law in America said: "Women are leading different lives today. They postpone child-bearing, don't have a husband or choose alternative methods such as surrogacy to avoid derailing their careers."
The British Medical Association publishes guidelines for doctors on surrogacy. "We are sceptical about social surrogacy. Surrogacy is a serious step, fraught with emotional risk and legal pitfalls. If natural childbirth is possible, it is infinitely preferred," it said.



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