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The Cost Of Biological Children for Lesbian Couples

There were many legal developments for LGBTQ+ individuals in this country in recent months but marriage equality is only the beginning step for members of the LGBTQ+ community who wish to have a family. While some people choose to adopt, which has its own unique challenges for LGBTQ+ petitioners, many wish to experience what most heterosexual parents take for granted: the prospect of raising one’s biological children. For many heterosexual couples, the expenses of raising children come from the costs of feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating their babies. But for lesbian couples, just to get pregnant and protect the non-biological parent’s rights can be cost-prohibitive. If a couple chooses adoption, it has tremendous costs as well.[1]

Friends of mine, a married lesbian couple, are just beginning the process of trying to get pregnant. They both want to carry a child at some point but have chosen one to “go first.” They recently met with a doctor to talk about everything they must do to get pregnant. They must get blood work done, have their gynecological records sent to the office, and undergo a psychological evaluation. Surprisingly, both women were required to get blood work done and obtain doctor’s records even though just one is trying to get pregnant right now. This seems like a waste of resources unless there is some odd circumstance in which information contained in the blood work or records of the woman not planning to get pregnant would prevent the one hoping to get pregnant from doing so. For my friends, these costs will be covered by insurance but that is not true for everyone.

This particular couple is planning to use an unknown donor.  Once they make the choice, it’s time to pay for the sperm, about $500. Other couples choose to use a known donor, a friend or acquaintance. It’s less costly and less time consuming. However, this choice has complicated consequences regarding parental rights of the donor down the road.  Once the sperm is purchased, couples may choose to do at home insemination at little cost or insemination by a doctor.  Costs of artificial insemination can quickly add up to several thousand dollars if it requires more than one cycle, averaging $200-$300 per cycle, to conceive.  Artificial insemination is the least expensive and invasive procedure but can cost over $1,000 for the first cycle depending on costs of drugs and monitoring.  Melissa B. Jacoby, Show Me the Money: Making Markets in Forbidden Exchange: The Debt Financing of Parenthood, 72 Law & Contemp. Prob. 147, 149 (2009).  For women who have difficulty conceiving or who want to use the non-gestational mother’s egg, they may turn to in vitro fertilization, further ratcheting up the cost to at least ten times the cost of artificial insemination.  Valarie Blake, It’s an ART Not a Science: State-Mandated Insurance Coverage of Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Legal Implications for Gay and Unmarried Persons, 12 Minn. J.L. Sci. & Tech. 651, 659 (2011).

Lesbian couples also have to protect the parental rights of the woman who doesn’t carry the child.  In places like Maryland and DC, where same sex marriage is legal, the spouse of a woman who gives birth, whether male or female, is deemed the parent of the baby.  But what happens when they go somewhere else – say, Virginia?  There are many places in this country without marriage equality.  The presumption of the spouse’s parenthood disappears and with it, her rights.  To protect against this, it is often advisable to seek a second-parent adoption by the non-biological parent.  With second parent adoption, a non-legal parent can become a legal parent to a child without requiring the current legal parent to relinquish her parental rights.  Jason N.W. Plowman, When Second-Parent Adoption is the Second-Best Option: The Case for Legislative Reform as the Next Best Option for Same-Sex Couples in the Face of Continued Marriage Inequality, 11 SCHOLAR 57, 60 (2008).  Second parent adoption is available in DC and Maryland but not Virginia.  Leslie Joan Harris, The New “Illegitimacy”: Revisiting Why Parentage Should Not Depend on Marriage: Voluntary Acknowledgments of Parentage for Same-Sex Couples, 20 Am. U.J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 467, 471-72 (2012).  With an adoption decree, no matter where same-sex families go, they have a court order stating she is the parent of their child, and even courts in states that do not recognize same-sex relationships have honored those orders, citing the Full Faith & Credit clause of the US Constitution.  However, court orders cost money and second parent adoptions can cost up to $5,000 or more.  “The Cost to Call You ‘Mommy.’”

While not the focus of this post, the costs for gay men to have their own biological children are also very high.  Further, their options are limited to adoption or surrogacy.  Surrogacy is not only extremely expensive but is illegal in some jurisdictions, particularly in DC. [2]  D.C. Code § 16-402.

These are only a few of the potential costs of having a family.  With so much money required before the baby is even conceived, having biological children with the full legal protections afforded both the children and the partners of the biological parents is a luxury that many members  of the LGBTQ+ community cannot afford.

[1] Depending on a variety of factors, adoption costs can reach as high as $40,000. “The Costs of Adopting.”

[2] Costs for surrogacy include costs of IVF, legal costs, fees for the surrogate and range from $25,000 to $75,000. Michelle Ford, Gestational Surrogacy is Not Adultery: Fighting Agaisnt Religious Opposition to Procreate, 10 Barry L. Rev. 81, 85 (2008).

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