Assisted Reproductive Technologies in Pennsylvania

With more and more families using Assisted Reproductive technologies (ART) to have children (also called alternative reproduction), the answer to the question “who is the parent?” is becoming more complicated.  Pennsylvania recognizes ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), sperm and egg donation and surrogacy, as legal means for individuals to create and grow their families.  However, the rights of all individuals (intended parents, surrogate, donor, etc.) is not governed by statute.  Rather, Pennsylvania law governing ART comes from a small body of case law that is fact specific to the immediate issues presented to the court.  These cases demonstrate the importance of clearly evidencing each parties’ intentions regarding their respective rights to the future child.   

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Surrogacy is a common third party reproduction method in which a woman carries and delivers a child that she will not raise.  There are two types of surrogacy.  Traditional surrogacy refers to the arrangement whereby a woman agrees to conceive and carry a child to term for intended parents who will ultimately adopt the child.  Gestational surrogacy refers to carriers who have not contributed their own genetic material, but have undergone a transfer of an embryo.  Just like traditional surrogacy, the gestational surrogate then carries the child to term for the intended parents.  Given the potentially diverging and conflicting interests of the parents and the carrier, it is crucial that any surrogacy agreement be documented and reviewed by counsel.

In other instances, families do not need a surrogate carrier, but require assistance in the form of eggs (ovum), sperm or embryos.  In some circumstances a friend or family member may act as an egg or sperm donor.  Donor contracts are critical in determining the rights and obligations of all parties involved in the process to any future child.  Failure to have a well-drafted contract in this regard can have serious implications on future custody and support matters. 

Individuals considering providing married couples and/or individuals with their genetic materials, whether by sperm or egg donation, acting as surrogates or gestational carriers, and those looking to benefit from such contributions should have an understanding of the fundamentals of Pennsylvania Law in this area, including the following:

  • Donor/Surrogacy contracts are legally enforceable in Pennsylvania. 
  • While anonymous donors do not have any parental rights, it is still important to have a clear contract in place (before genetic materials are donated) to avoid any potential future misunderstandings. 
  • What is listed on child’s birth certificate does not necessarily reflect the parties’ intentions of who will be the child’s parent or parents.  
  • To avoid uncertainties (such as birth certificate issues), pre-birth orders help establish parental status before birth.  A pre-birth order is a Court order that permits the child’s intended parents or parent to be named on the original birth certificate.  Such orders also ensure that the baby can be released to the intended parent(s) at the hospital, as well as provide intended parents with legal rights and obligations, including the ability to make medical decisions on the child’s behalf and help resolve issues relating to health insurance coverage.   
  • Adoption may be necessary for spouses of intended parents, or individuals who are not delivering the child but who intend to create a parent-child relationship.

Work with Experiences Philadelphia Lawyers

The law relating to Assisted Reproductive Technologies is new, complex and evolving.  Ensuring that you have a written contract outlining the intention of all involved and specific language protecting the intended parents helps prevent future uncertainties and disputes.  The attorneys at Sadek and Cooper are experienced at handling these complex questions and are here to protect your interests at the outset as you navigate these issues.  Call us today at 215-545-0008 to schedule a free consultation.   

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