Gay Men And Lesbians Utilizing Infertility Clinics to Have Babies


by Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer | Sunday, May 6, 2007

Jeff Eichenfield glances at the news Sunday morning. Chro...Infertility clinics in the Bay Area and other regions with large gay populations are actively promoting biological parenthood for gay men and lesbians, hoping to expand the market for reproductive technologies once aimed almost exclusively at infertile heterosexuals.

The methods can be expensive and fraught with difficulties, and the families that result may or may not be legally recognized -- or even socially accepted -- in less gay-friendly places in and outside of California.

Despite the risks, biological parenthood is increasingly seen in gay communities as an attractive alternative to adopting -- or remaining childless.

"For some people, having a biological connection to their children is important," said Judy Appell, a lesbian parent of two children and executive director of Our Family Coalition, a San Francisco gay-parenthood group. "More doors are opening to us through medical advancements, so more and more people are willing to try new ways to create our families."

Options range from simple intrauterine insemination for women, which may cost a few hundred dollars, to use of paid egg donors and gestational surrogates for gay men, who may have to pay $150,000 in medical and legal services to have a child.

Statistics are hard to come by, in part because of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage and the hostility in some parts of the country to the idea of gay men and lesbians raising families. But experts in the field say there's no doubt that at least 5 percent of clients at many clinics are homosexual.

"In the last decade, it's dramatically increased," said Gail Taylor, president and founder of Growing Generations in Los Angeles, which offers surrogacy services. "Once people know the opportunity is out there, absolutely the desire keeps growing."

Jeff Eichenfield, 46, a gay man from San Francisco, said he's perceived a lot of isolation and unhappiness in the gay community partly because of limited opportunities to have families. That changed for him in October when his son, Nate, was born using a surrogate.

"I've talked to a lot of gay men, and they say, 'How many trips can you take? How many restaurants? How many new cars?' " Eichenfield said. "I want people to see there's a whole other side to gay life. Gay life is changing."

Taylor's organization has been involved in the birth of about 500 babies in the past 11 years, she said, mostly to gay men using a gestational surrogate -- a women paid to carry an implanted embryo produced from a donor egg fertilized with the client's sperm. In California, two men's names can go on the birth certificate regardless of where they live, without any need for adoption, through what's known as a prebirth paternity judgment.

In vitro fertilization technology today offers gay people more options to participate directly in the biological adventure of childbirth than once thought possible, creating along the way some novel family relationships.

Ronda Hanson, 47, and her partner, Darleen DeRosa, 36, of Moss Beach in San Mateo County decided to use the younger woman's eggs, which were fertilized in vitro. They obtained sperm from an anonymous donor through a sperm bank. The resulting embryos were transferred into Hanson, who after three failed pregnancies delivered a boy, Lorenzo Hanson DeRosa, on July 12, 2006.

"I am the birth mother, but not the biological mother," Hanson said. "It was a way for us to feel that we were really sharing this baby, much the same as a straight couple would. To whatever extent we could do this together, we did."

Both men in a relationship can contribute sperm to fertilize donor eggs. A resulting embryo from each man can be implanted in a surrogate, sometimes at the same time, in order to produce fraternal twins, each child with a different biological father.

Dr. G. David Adamson, director of a Bay Area medical group called Fertility Associates of Northern California and president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the leading in vitro industry group, said the boom in biological parenthood is driven not so much by technology as by gradually changing societal attitudes.

"There's increasing acceptance of nontraditional families, meaning either single women or men or couples of women and men having a life together and sometimes wanting to have children together," he said. "So there's unquestionably been an increased utilization of these more sophisticated technologies and less traditional approaches to creating families."

This recently prompted the American Fertility Association, a national patient-advocacy group in New York, to create its first referral list of providers eager to expand their gay and lesbian clientele. "It's another reflection of the gay community growing up," said Pamela Madsen, the group's founder.

Meanwhile, an ethics panel sponsored by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is urging providers not to discriminate on account of someone's sexual orientation. Experts said they could find no medical or ethical reasons to deny services on that basis.

Gay men or lesbians represent as much as 10 percent of the clientele for Dr. Susan Willman, medical director at Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, an in vitro practice in Orinda that recently announced it was beginning a special outreach effort to boost its homosexual clientele.

"Sexual orientation doesn't change the drive to become a parent," Willman said. "We felt this has been kind of an underserved market."

All clients typically undergo counseling before an in vitro or other assisted-reproduction method is employed. Some special issues may arise for gay or lesbian clients, but most of the stresses are the same regardless of the parent's orientation.

"We have the same issues and concerns with a gay couple as a straight couple, or a single person," Adamson said. "Our only interest is to try to create a family for each patient in front of us."

Dr. Nanette Gartrell, a San Francisco psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at UCSF, has been conducting the nation's largest continuing study of lesbian families for 21 years. Seventy-nine families are participating.

Interviews with the children, done when they were 10 and again at 17 years old, showed that more than half had directly experienced homophobia, but "they didn't show any difference when compared to national norms in terms of psychological adjustment," Gartrell said.

"These mothers are educating these children about all forms of discrimination, not just against their own group," she said. "These kids in our study already are so sophisticated at the age of 10 about across-the-board issues of diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance. It's so inspiring to think about them as part of the next thing that has to happen in this society for us to move forward."

But there's also lingering controversy about gay men and lesbians raising children, and vocal opposition in some parts of the country. Some clinics are said to be reluctant to provide services to anyone but stable married couples, and a lawsuit is pending before the state Supreme Court, brought by a Southern California woman who says she was denied treatment because she was homosexual.

Groups such as the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian organization in Scottsdale, Ariz., prominent in the fight against same-sex marriage, consider gay parenthood part of a larger campaign to undermine traditional family structures.

"Radical homosexual activists readily acknowledge that the redefinition of marriage is just a tool in their greater agenda to reorder society," Alan Sears, president of the group, and co-author Craig Osten argued in a 2003 book "The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today." "While they will not admit it, children are mere pawns to be used as they strive for total acceptance of their behavior."

Still, even in some of the more conservative communities of California, people in same-sex households report little or no controversy as they mingle with other parents at day care centers or playgrounds, even if there are frequent questions about a child's family or laboratory-assisted origins.

"For us, people have been totally accepting from the beginning," said Shannon Moreland, 27, who is raising twins in Stockton with her partner, Lena Garcia. "There's been no negativity. And we're thankful for that."

This article appeared on page A-1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Comment from webservant of

We're living in sick times of same-sex marriage and deceivers who twist around the truth of God's Word to allow homosexuality. Romans 1:25 foretold that gays would pervert the Words of God. One of the most evil movies produced in recent years is PRAYERS FOR BOBBY, about a teenage boy who is struggling with his sexual gender. Upon hearing that her son thinks he is a homosexual, the mother (played by Sigourney Weaver) starts talking about his new life in the Holy Spirit, and she tries to force religion upon him. it doesn't work and Bobby commits suicide. The movie is evil and doctrinally flawed in numerous ways.

First, you don't have a new life in the Holy Spirit unless you've been born-again (Romans 8:9; John 3:5). The movie doesn't even mention this fact. A person may decide to have a new life (turn over a new leaf), but this is not Biblical salvation. You don't get the Holy Spirit just because you want Him. The Spirit of God comes to indwell a person, when they acknowledge their sinnership (including the sin of homosexuality) and trusts upon the name of Jesus Christ Who died, was buried and rose again. Salvation is having your sins forgiven in Christ Jesus. Jesus paid for our sins with His precious blood (1st John 1:7). John 1:12-13 teaches that salvation is a supernatural miracle of God in response to one's faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Salvation is relying upon Jesus' work of redemption as payment for your sins. Do you receive the gospel as payment for your sins?

The movie propagates the idea that homosexuality is biological and the person who is gay cannot help it. This is totally contrary to the Scriptures and is a malicious attack upon the Words of God. Sin is a choice. No one is born a homosexual. If gays were born biologically gay, then God made a mistake because they cannot sexually reproduce. The truth is that homosexuality is a sin, a choice, and no one is born “that way.”  END

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