Intermediaries handle different aspects of international commercial surrogacy arrangements. They include fertility clinics and physicians, agencies or brokers, as well as businesses related to travel, tourism, law, and immigration.
Agencies (or brokers) play a central role in the growth of international commercial surrogacy, primarily because intended parents may not be able to spend extended time in the countries in which the surrogates with whom they’re working live.
Agencies are a gateway for people considering surrogacy. They offer the first point of contact and information for intended parents as they navigate a complex and unfamiliar practice. As arrangements progress, agencies are usually solely responsible for on-the-ground coordination on behalf of intended parents. This includes:
- Working with local recruiters to find women willing to work as surrogates.
- Arranging treatment with local fertility clinics (to provide services including IVF, embryo transfer, and birth).
- Identifying lawyers to iron out the legalities of hiring surrogates and determining parental rights.
- Coordinating travel and tourism for intended parents.
Some agencies provide a “concierge-style” service. The promise of these services is understandably appealing to intended parents because it offers to cover every aspect of an arrangement, from the time they enter into a surrogacy agreement to the point they leave the country with their child.
Whose Needs Are Met?
Many intermediaries genuinely want to help intended parents create a family and go to great lengths to protect the interests of their clients. Others prioritize their own financial interests over those of their clients, often making fraudulent claims and providing inaccurate information. Far too many intermediaries ignore the needs of surrogates, beyond those that directly affect her ability to deliver a child. This neglect is apparent in, for example, unsound and unethical practices related to pregnancy and birth and unfair compensation schedules.
The vast majority of information on international commercial surrogacy is developed and promoted by intermediaries. This information is often incomplete or misleading because it is designed to reassure intended parents and discourage questions about problematic practices.
Because intermediaries focus on intended parents and children, gestational mothers are often invisible within the surrogacy relationship. Agencies almost never provide any information to intended parents about the women they recruit, from their experiences before the surrogacy relationship to the payment and care they receive within one. And, because intermediaries often limit direct contact and relationships between intended parents and gestational mothers, it is difficult for intended parents to get a full and accurate picture of what is at stake.
See Surrogacy360’s tool Principles and Standards for Engaging in International Commercial Surrogacy to learn how to more fully engage with intermediaries in shaping surrogacy contracts that safeguard the health and rights of all parties involved.