the fertility advocate

Talking, writing, educating, and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years

My day yesterday, and now today has been filled with being a media resource for print and television around all things Theresa Erickson: “baby selling”, Surrogacy and egg donation.   This is not a new role for me, being a patient advocate voice is something that I have done from my days of being the executive director of RESOLVE NYC to founding and being the first executive director of The American Fertility Association.   And this is also not the first controversial story that I have tried to talk through with the press and patients- as well as connect them with appropriate additional resources.

I have to admit that this is one of the ugliest stories that I have had to deal with (and unfortunately, that is saying a lot), and it is a story that has left me with more questions than answers other than completely understanding the facts as they have been presented to usand to that end my blog yesterday was a pretty good round up of what we know.

But this is where I am left hanging:

1. How many surrogates are out there right now who are pregnant? What will happen to those babies?

2. The rumor mill says that there are some ( I have not heard numbers yet), so who is taking care of them?

3. Will these surrogates be paid and receive proper medical care?

4. Where will these babies who are unborn and innocent go? Will the children have US Citizenship? Will they be put into protective custody and become a ward of the state? How long will they need to wait until they can be adopted into loving homes?

5. How are prospective families, consumers, intended parents and surrogates able to feel safe when working with an agency if someone as “respectable” as Theresa Erickson confessed to running a baby selling ring? As a long time fertility advocate (over 20 years), from non profit experience to private one on one fertility coaching – Theresa had all the makings of a perfect referral.  She served on patient organization boards, she was highly visible – often on television. It is true that she was not on my referral list for my private one on one coaching clients because there were too many rumors about her – but not because of anything that she did. I just wasn’t comfortable. But how is a regular person seeking fertility care suppose to know about the inside talk track of a profession?  For the average patient – knowing who to trust just got scarier. Everyone wants to know the check list of how to find the perfect referral – but on paper Theresa had all the checks in place.

6. How will the parents of the children created through this “made to order” baby ring be advised as what they should share with their children? How do you tell this story to children? How will knowing that they were created with the intent to be sold effect their lives?

My biggest fear is that this is just the tip of the ice burg.  My inbox is filled with letters from prospective parents wanting referrals to safe egg donor and surrogacy agencies.  I believe in my referral network – with the professionals that I have worked with for years.  Honorable, open hearted people who show up every day to support the birth of families ethically.

I believe in the families that are built through ethical third party reproduction and IVF.  And I am left with the same questions as everybody else…. is it possible to safe guard ever against wrong doing?

 

About Pam Madsen
Talking, writing, educating and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years
5 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I linked back to you in a blog post I wrote yesterday.

    As a former surrogate, I have many of the same questions that you’ve formulated. I believe that what Erickson plead guilt to only scratches the surface of how deeply her deciept has truly run. I am afraid of what digging for the answers to the questions you have posed will reveal.

    I feel that the most damaging and long-lasting effect of this case will be that many prospective intended parents have been frightened into defaulting to feel mistrust about the professionals on whom they depend to help grow their families. Positive advocates for surrogacy like you, me, and others have been partially discredited right alongside Erickson. What is most appalling is that she seems to feel that her actions are justified, as if she’s done some wholly righteous deed. I am almost desparate to hear her side of things, to discover how she can rationalize to herself that she has done no wrong.

  2. Unfortunately, this is horrible news for the industry; however, as an insider to the ART industry and parent of twins that I had through the legal assistance of Theresa Erickson and other professionals; persons with half an idea of what happened here need to also consider that this may just be that a few greedy people used a generous and caring individual that was at the forefront of this industry to work under to hide their devious plans.
    One thing to think about is that she too has a story and unfortunately cannot share it due to the pending sentencing, but the truth about the involvement shall be told in time as she stated in the lone statement made thus far by Mrs. Erickson.
    Many that jump on the band wagon and go out on a witch hunt for a person that has helped create thousands of families over the years may want to wait to judge her. Has anyone thought that this whole situation may be a case of her taking the plea to protect those thousands of legitimate families that were created from having their personal lives dragged out into the public forum? I know I would be highly upset to have my private life dragged through the public eye and have judgmental people ridiculing my wife and I for using not only a sperm donor and egg donor, but for using a surrogate too; all years after my family was created. Yes, we were in an arrangement based out of San Diego with all parties (egg donor, sperm donor and surrogate) all through different agencies/companies that were local along with the fertility Dr. I am sure many would want to ridicule me as well since neither my wife nor I are genetically related to our children, yet we love them more than life itself and don’t care that the DNA doesn’t match ours. My children know who their parents are and know they are the center of our lives and are very much loved. Oh, and by the way, the final amount spent in achieving my family was not around $100k. We spent well over $150K and gave up keeping track there. When doing the math, Surrogate, Egg Donor, Sperm Donor, Insurance for our surrogate, IVF Fees (the most expensive part of the whole arrangement), agency fees (for merely matching you with your egg donor, surrogate and sperm donor) and attorney fees, it’s easy to surpass $100K. My only thought on this is where is this profit to make it worth it for an attorney that had a thriving firm with hundreds of clients a year that would pay her for the legal side which is by far the cheapest part of the whole arrangement (yet also the most important)?
    As far as the other codefendants, it is my understanding that one was a serial surrogate that was not physically capable of being a surrogate any longer due to her own reproductive health issues and turned into a “coordinator” that bounced around with residences inside and outside the US while the other (who was also a well known attorney in the ART field) was also a major part of the arrangements and from what it sounds like from individuals closely related was a key person and instrumental in the early stages of these questionable arrangements.
    Also, they say one of the whistle blowers was a competitor… hmmm kind of odd that a competitor would do so something like this without their own personal interests involved since everyone is saying Theresa was the top attorney in the field and known for such around the world. I’m sure they only had the best intentions in mind and in no way thought about how they may benefit from trying to take down the top attorney in the country.
    So far the story in the media has changed multiple times from when they first got wind of it Tuesday afternoon. The FBI and AG have only made limited statements without giving any details of the plea agreement and only list the charges and potential maximum penalties. As anyone with limited legal knowledge may know… charges are basically a list of elements and criteria that must be met before charging a person with a crime. No one said she was indicted. She merely pled guilty and it is typical that there should have been a statement of facts in support of the plea. To not be indicted or have her office raided, she must have been very forthcoming with the FBI and was very cooperative as to her role (if any in the scheme).
    I am looking forward to hearing the full story and not contributing to the hysteria that the internet message boards and blogs are doing to fuel the fire that the media has set. All of these people that are uninvolved or not knowing the industry and/or facts involved are achieving by voicing their opinions are what is making everything worse for everyone else that do business in the ART industry and those families that were built through the amazing work of an ENTIRE team of professionals that make such a thing possible.
    The media loves to report on juicy topics and tend to stretch a 2 line statement into a 2 page story of unverified statements or ideas. I believe this is what’s happening here. Just stop for a second and look at how much new information is coming out since Tuesday? None… except people looking for face time on camera or to create mass hysteria with their OMG’s and I knew she was shady without even knowing the true person/ professional that has helped so many. I must say this as well to all the people writing without any purpose than to just gossip… bloggers do not have the greatest credibility either since they just type whatever they feel or believe and in most cases don’t go out and obtain the facts before posting something that could be damaging to the industry they are so-called “trying to protect.”

  3. When a very ‘public’ representative of an industry betrays the very people he or she is meant to serve it brings about a lot of fear and uncertainty. It also reflects poorly on the other professionals in the field who are very trustworthy and who are working hard to create a safe avenue for infertile people to build their families.

    I agree with you that most of those who work in this field are “honorable, open hearted people who show up every day to support the birth of families ethically.” In fact, many in this field have had their own personal experience with infertility and they understand first-hand what it is like to desperately want a child.

    This is truly a terrible situation, and I hope that prospective parents and surrogates will be able to separate the isolated acts of the few from the commitment of the many in this field who would never harm a parent, surrogate or child. I pray the recent events will not deter anyone from pursuing their dream of becoming a parent through surrogacy or egg donation.

    Thank you, Pam, for asking these very tough questions and thank you for being such a fierce advocate for infertile families.

  4. This situation has stimulated a lot of great discussion and has opened up the way for many things to be asked that were taboo before- which is the only good I see from the situation. I am really looking forward to hearing her side of the story.

    • Dear Liz R,
      I think we all are very interested in hearing what Theresa has to say.
      Thank you for commenting.
      Pamela

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