Fertility Industry Growth Expected Despite COVID-19 Headwinds

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Fertility Industry Growth Expected Despite COVID-19 Headwinds
Despite challenging travel restrictions, one fertility clinic in the U.S. is still accepting international clients.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

There's a unique problem for the surrogacy industry amid the coronavirus pandemic: Newborn babies are stranded. 

"I couldn't imagine how his parents felt, being all the way in China," said Heather Taylor. 

Taylor, who lives in Arizona, was a surrogate for a couple in China. She gave birth to their baby boy in June, months after COVID-19 disrupted international travel. 

"They didn't see Jasper until he was six weeks old," Taylor said.  

Her story isn't uncommon. The fertility clinic she worked with in California has been looking after dozens of babies whose parents haven't been able to enter the U.S. to take custody of them. 

"We have one surrogate who’s still taking care of the baby, and the baby’s almost six months old," said Parham Zar, managing director of the Egg Donation & Surrogacy Institute. 

The clinic has been renting nearby apartments and providing care with nannies until the parents can unite with their newborns. Those accommodations have upped the price of surrogacy, which already costs tens of thousands of dollars. But it's just one of many issues. 

"Whether they can get their passports, whether they can get their visas, whether the offices that issue the visas are open in the country where they are," Zar said. 

Despite the challenges, EDSI is still accepting international clients. And the surrogacy industry is expected to remain lucrative over the next five years. But some experts are urging caution. 

"Our COVID advisory is against entering into international arrangements at this time," said Emily Galpern, program director of Surrogacy360 at the Center for Genetics and Society. 

The concern goes beyond stranded babies. Some say there's a power imbalance between the surrogates and the parents, like when it comes to signing the contract laying out stipulations of the pregnancy. 

"These issues really are reflective of many challenges and difficulties that existed prior to the pandemic," Galpern said.

In the U.S., surrogacy law varies by state. And there's no international regulation, so the surrogacy industry could be one of the few that doesn't change at all after the pandemic.