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Why the Cost of Surrogacy is So Expensive for LGBTQ+ Couples

Anni Irish  |  April 30, 2024

We spoke to medical and legal experts to understand the cost for LGBTQ+ couples and what to think about when it comes to this process.

Starting a family is a huge commitment of both time and money. And when it comes to family planning when using a surrogate, there are even more things to keep in mind, including legal and medical costs. For many LBGTQ+ couples who pursue this path, surrogacy represents a substantial investment of time and money. We spoke to experts in the medical and legal fields to find out why the cost of surrogacy is so high for LGBTQ+ couples, and what three major things you keep in mind about the cost of surrogacy:

Do your research

The surrogacy picture in the U.S. is complicated. Surrogacy isn’t actually legal in every state, and there is no federal law regulating it, which is why experts say to start with a legal professional who can guide you on the laws in your state

For example, there are certain “surrogacy friendly” states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington where the process is easier and more clear cut for prospective parents. There are also states that are not friendly to surrogacy, including Michigan and New York that do not grant pre-birth orders, which is an essential part of the process for would-be parents. In other states, surrogacy is possible, but the process may have a few additional hurdles.

Talk to a professional

Speaking with a lawyer who specializes in family law can help give you a realistic idea of what to expect when it comes to legal issues. They can also help you put a plan in place that includes a timeline and expected costs. 

“Speaking with an attorney early on may also help inform their decisions when it comes to choosing the right clinic, or signing on with an agency, as an attorney who is experienced in this field be able to tell intended parents what things may be standard practice, or what might seem like a red flag, and which companies are LGBTQ+ competent/friendly. Your attorney has a duty to be candid with you and to look out for your interests, so they are a great resource to have on your team from the beginning,” says Phoebe S. Sadler, Esq a lawyer with the International Fertility Law Group Inc.

LGBTQ+ couples who have children through surrogacy often face a number of legal obstacles. One common challenge is getting both parents legally recognized as the parents of children born through surrogacy, Sadler says. (Getting both names listed on the birth certificate can also be difficult.) For this, parents must speak with an attorney to ensure they understand legal steps necessary in their state. 

Sadler also points out that in some states it may be more difficult to match an LGBTQ+ couple with a surrogate. And, to complicate the picture further, some surrogacy agencies are not as friendly to LGBTQ+ couples. Finding both a state and an agency that respects you and wants to help you fulfill your parenting dreams is incredibly important — just as important as finding the right surrogate to carry your child. You can read more about surrogacy for LGBTQ+ parents here. 

Have a budget and plan ahead

The cost of surrogacy can be substantial. On average, the total cost for everything including medical and legal fees can average between $100-150k. In states where surrogates are in high demand, like California, the costs may be even higher. As a result, it’s incredibly important to budget for this expense as you would any other major life event.

Experts recommend starting early, and putting the money aside into a separate account via automatic withdrawals. (If you can’t see it, you can’t spend it!) Being able to move forward with your surrogacy journey knowing that you are financially ready can be an incredible stress-reliever. The process can be fraught enough without also having to worry about money.

Understanding The Breakdown Of Surrogacy Fees & Other Out-Of-Pocket Expenses 

There are many out of pocket expenses associated with surrogacy that insurance does not pay for. These costs may increase depending on the route a couple chooses to go with the process. For example,  using an IVF facility usually runs between $30,000 and $50,000 if you need an egg donor and embryos. If you already have embryos, the IVF costs will run between $7,000 and $15,000, according to Anthony Brown, Manager of Client Services at Circle Surrogacy. (Brown is also a lawyer and became a parent through surrogacy himself.) 

Brown also noted when you work with an agency such as Circle Surrogacy, there are a few categories to keep in mind when it comes to the breakdown of costs:

Agency fee: This will cover costs associated with locating and screening your surrogate. That includes background checks, medical file review, social and psychological testing and accounting costs. Depending on the nature and services of the agency, you may also see medical billing costs in this category.

Costs that are associated with the surrogate: These are made up primarily of her compensation package. In full-service agencies, this category may also include her travel to and from the IVF clinic for screening and procedures, local monitoring of the pregnancy, social support during the pregnancy and, in some cases, complications included in the pregnancy. 

Health insurance: Some surrogates may be able to use their own insurance while others may not. A comprehensive insurance package will also include life insurance, complications insurance and a plan for disputed claims against the surrogate’s insurance. Also, having a back-up plan in place is crucial if the surrogate should lose her insurance during the pregnancy.

Travel & incidentals: You’ll also need to account for your own travel to and from your surrogate’s home state. Plus, you should plan for incidental costs, like gifts for the surrogate and her family.

Legal fees: As you might expect, there is a lot of paperwork associated with surrogacy. All sides of the equation (you, the surrogate, and possibly your partner) will need attorneys and contracts drawn up stating the exact parameters of the arrangement. If you’re working with a surrogate in a different state, things can get even more complicated. As such, the legal fees associated with surrogacy can get pricey. 

Understanding Your Rights With Health Insurance & Fertility Services 

Health insurance companies may not cover specific procedures and medications that are needed for surrogacy. All too often, that affects LGBTQ+ couples’ ability go on an affordable fertility journey. 

“The biggest cost difference we see is in the insurance industry’s failure to include our family building needs under the definition of covered fertility services. Gay and Lesbian intended parents must often shoulder the entire cost of the IVF portion of the journey,” said Brown. “Also, for gay men in particular, because we will need an egg donor to assist in embryo creation, these services often run between $20,000 and $30,000.”

While there can be many challenges when becoming a parent via surrogacy, remember your larger goal of having a family. While the process won’t be easy, try to remind yourself that everyone’s journey is unique. Plus, becoming a parent can be an incredibly rewarding thing. 


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