GoStork Interview Series: Surrogacy in New York with Alexis Cirel, Esq. and Angela Richardson-Mook

Rebecca Hochreiter
CMO of GoStork

We were honored to host Alexis Cirel, Esq., Partner in Warshaw Burstein’s Matrimonial and Family Law Group, and Angela Richardson-Mook, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Alcea Surrogacy for an in-depth discussion about the Child-Parent Security Act, which recently legalized compensated gestational surrogacy in New York, and all the many benefits for New York intended parents to do their journey locally, now that they’re finally able to!

Both Angela and Alexis have personal and professional ties to surrogacy and a deep knowledge of the CPSA. Alexis passionately advocated for the CPSA in the years leading up to its passing and supports the various parties she works with as they navigate the legal aspects of family building (or as they help intended parents do so). Angela has recently successfully integrated the necessary measures required by the law, received Alcea’s license from the Department of Health and in general supports both intended parents and gestational carriers throughout their journeys on a daily basis.

In addition to the broad overview of the benefits of the CPSA, Alexis and Angela also helped answer questions on parental rights, the surrogate’s rights, agency licensing requirements, expenses, insurance and more. Read on for insight from this dialogue packed with legal, data-driven and anecdotal information…

What is the Child-Parent Security Act?

As Alexis explains, the CPSA is broader than surrogacy. It brings New York’s statutory law on parentage up to date and in line with modern technology. The old law did not protect, cover or secure families built through donation arrangements and surrogacy.

The CPSA legally secures a parent and child relationship as opposed to creating one as is done through adoptions. Essentially, it secures a relationship that already exists and models parentage on intent and consent.

The law allows for intended parents and the gestational carrier (and her spouse) to enter into enforceable surrogacy agreements that meet statutory requirements. Once a contract that satisfies all requirements is signed, and then as soon as a pregnancy is achieved (and sometimes even before that) intended parents can get a pre birth order. This is a simple process of going to court, getting a judgement of parentage before the child is born and from the moment the child is born, the intended parents have a secure legal relationship. This is not an adoption or a second parent adoption – it’s a judgement of parentage where the intended parent’s name goes on the birth certificate.

Alexis sums it up perfectly: “We had the advantage of seeing what went wrong in other states and now we have what is the gold standard of the law – it really models and codifies all the best practices so we can help all families.”

The benefits of surrogacy in New York

Proximity – With such a robust law in place, there is no longer a need to travel out of state for a surrogacy journey, and hence a lower chance of missing milestone appointments or the birth.

Continuity of medical care – Pursuing surrogacy in the state also gives intended parents continuity, as far as the ability to use medical providers they already know and trust – not to mention New York has some of the best medical care in the world – so it’s a big advantage for New Yorkers to be able to take advantage of continuing with their established doctors through this new journey.

Cultural diversity – New York is a true melting pot of cultures and diverse families. This means you can build your family in a place where you have representation, because representation matters. Intended parents can potentially more likely connect with a gestational carrier with a background similar to their own, if this is important to them. Everyone can have a lived experience where they can truly connect, and New York is unparalleled in this regard.

Eligibility – The CPSA does not discriminate in terms of who is eligible: single intended parents, married or unmarried same sex couples, heterosexual married or unmarried couples can all legally pursue surrogacy in New York. This reflects the state’s social reality. When pursuing surrogacy in other states, the waiting period is longer specifically because there are stringent rules as to who can pursue surrogacy.

Should I be concerned about the Surrogate Bill of Rights?

Alexis shares that many intended parents are fearful that surrogates are given too much autonomy under the CPSA and the Surrogate Bill of Rights and that they may have less agency in how the pregnancy unfolds and in medical decisions.

However, as she explains, the Bill is no different than the law in any other state. For example, the right to terminate a pregnancy is a constitutional right in other states as well and one cannot contract around that. New York simply better codified what already exists. Intended parents are still involved in the process – you can still go to appointments, there is no difference between the experience in New York and anywhere else, except that it’s better, more secure and informed consent for all parties is ensured. This is actually a safety net – it’s something that should give comfort instead of fear.

Angela further explains how the Surrogate Bill of Rights offers protection for both the intended parents and the surrogate: “The things that these laws and the statute are putting into a mandate, versus something that everyone knows is the ethical thing but not necessarily mandatory or legally mandated, allows everyone to be more protected in the process.”

Is surrogacy in New York more expensive? What about insurance?

The CPSA requires that the gestational carrier is insured for the duration of the pregnancy and 12 months after the pregnancy. While this may seem like a great expense, there are various other considerations, like the progressive insurance laws there are in New York. For example, all employers with 100 or more employees cannot have a surrogacy exclusion in their coverage. This means that many surrogates will have their own health insurance and there will be no surrogacy exclusion. In addition, New York should have a new open market of policies soon, which will be competitive with other policies others are taking out in other states.

As Angela explains, there is one other caveat. When intended parents purchase a surrogacy policy for a carrier, that policy is only for the surrogacy pregnancy. The gestational carrier starts using it when she goes to the first obstetrician appointment. So, when looking at the cost of that policy, you have to consider more than just the premium. You have to consider all of the out of pocket costs (maximum and minimum), all copays, all percentages of what you have to pay – because there is no one else from the family and no other claims that are going against that policy.

In New York, the intended parent is not responsible for the totality of the carrier’s family monthly premium. For example, if it’s a family of 4, your attorney, together with the escrow company will put together an algorithm for what the carrier’s particular responsibility is, and the intended parents will pay just that. If you calculate that amount for two years, it could in fact be cheaper to what’s being paid in other states.

In this sense, there isn’t necessarily much difference in the financial perspective. It’s not necessarily more expensive when you juxtapose it with travel costs if you were going out of state consistently throughout the journey.

When can I start my surrogacy journey in New York?

Angela explains that there has been a current waiting period as agencies must meet rigorous criteria and submit documentation to the New York State Department of Health before they can be licensed. Surrogacy agencies cannot match intended parents and gestational carriers before they receive their licence.

New York is the first state to have licensing requirements for agencies. It requires vetting processes and financial checks. But essentially, from her perspective, the CPSA mandates what most ethical agencies are already doing, including the background checks, credit checks, STI checks, mental health, virtual home visits for carriers, etc.

The licensing process is well underway and New York intended parents will soon be able to start and complete their surrogacy journeys closer to home! In the meantime, carrier screenings are already underway, and carrier and intended parent profiles are being prepared so agencies are ready to dive into matching once they receive the final go-ahead.

 

I had precipitous labor so they couldn’t get there [on time]. I was holding the baby when they both came around the corner in the hospital room to take the child and I can remember handing the baby over to her and I literally saw years of pain and uncertainty, and like “oh my gosh this is really happening” and I saw her turn into a mother in front of my eyes.”
Angela Richardson-Mook

“I remember when they put my son on my chest the first time. Then I felt him breathe and felt him move. It was the first time I’d felt him move… And I had this moment… I didn’t feel [him move] inside me but now he’s here and that’s it and it’s only forward from here.”
Alexis Cirel, Esq.

“The [surrogacy] process as an intended parent can be viewed as daunting and unfair […] or it can be viewed as a real miracle, and your own unique story, and a story that your children are going to have that’s unique, and an opportunity to bond in a human way that a lot of people don’t have. […] It’s part of the journey. You’re the parent for the rest of their lives, this is just one step along the way.”
Alexis Cirel, Esq.

“Surrogacy in the US is about building families, and if we can do more of what the CPSA is doing to make these things more legitimate and to have these things mandated, it’s going to allow more people to see this process as an option for them.”
Angela Richardson-Mook

Thank you Alexis and Angela for sharing both your professional insights, personal stories, and passion for surrogacy in general.
Intended parents, learn more about Alcea Surrogacy at gostork.com and Warshaw Burstein LLP here. You can also check out our blog for Alexis’ inspiring story!