October 1, 2022

USA: Two Gay Men Filed Legal Complaint Against New York City Arguing That Not Having Access To A Woman's Reproductive Potential Is A Form Of Discrimination Demanding City Pay For A Surrogate

The Epoch Times
written by Hannah Ng
Friday September 30, 2022

A Planned Parenthood doctor affirmed at a Sept. 29 House hearing that men can get pregnant and have babies.

The hearing at House Oversight and Reform Committee was called by Democrats to examine the effects of abortion restrictions.

In response to a question from Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director for primary and trans care at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said, “Men can have pregnancies, especially trans men.”

His answer appeared to perplex Clyde as he repeated his question while emphasizing that he was referring to biological men.

“So are you saying that a biological female who identifies as a man and therefore becomes pregnant is, quote, a man? Is that what you’re saying?” Clyde reiterated.

Kumar dodged the lawmaker’s query, contending such questions are “really missing the point” at a hearing about abortion.

He then re-affirmed his answer when grilled by Clyde, “Somebody with a uterus may have the capability of becoming pregnant, whether they’re a woman or a man,” Kumar said. “That doesn’t make a difference.”

Clyde further dismissed his statement, saying, “OK … We’re done. This isn’t complicated. Let me tell you, if a person has a uterus and is born female, they are a woman.”

“Not every person with a uterus has the ability to become pregnant,” Kumar maintained. “This is medicine.”

The Republican congressman once again rejected his response, “That is not a man, and the vast majority of the world considers that to be a woman because there are biological differences between men and women,” he stressed.

Clyde then proceeded to lecture the doctor on biology: “Clearly, any high school biology class teaches that men and women have different chromosomes. Females are XX chromosome and males are XY chromosome.”

“I can’t believe it’s necessary to say this, but men cannot get pregnant and cannot give birth regardless of how they identify themselves.”

Kumar further claimed that he had performed “likely thousands” of abortions, but Clyde questioned the reason why he was chosen to testify.

“Why in the world would Democrats have brought in a person whose title is director of trans care for an abortion hearing when only biological women can become pregnant?” asked the lawmaker.

Clyde also grilled Dr. Nisha Verma, a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, about whether a fetal heartbeat is a manufactured sound, but Verma eluded his question, calling it a complicated issue.

“Like so many things in medicine, it’s complex,” she said.

Finally, she claimed that she needed “a little bit of time” to give an answer.

At the Thursday hearing, Democrats blasted Republicans for state restrictions on access while Republicans accused Democrats of advocating for unfettered abortion.
The Guardian, UK
written by Jenny Kleeman
Saturday October 1, 2022

In New York, a gay couple fighting to make their insurers pay for fertility treatment have found themselves in the middle of a culture war. What happens when the right to parenthood involves someone else’s body?

Corey Briskin and Nicholas Maggipinto met in law school in 2011, were engaged by 2014, and had their 2016 wedding announced in the New York Times. They moved to a waterfront apartment block in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with a bright playroom for families on the ground floor.

“We got married and then we wanted all the trappings: house, children, 401K [retirement saving plan], etc,” Maggipinto, 37, tells me in their building’s shared meeting room, tapping the table in sequence with the progression of each idea.

Briskin, 30, grew up assuming he’d have children. He came out in college. “Once I had come out to myself and others, I don’t think my expectation of what my life would look like changed all that much.” With marriage equality won years ago, they expected to be able to have a conventional married life.

Six months before their wedding, a targeted ad from an organisation called Gay Parents to Be landed in Maggipinto’s Instagram feed, offering free consultations with a fertility doctor who’d give them “the whole rundown” on how they could start a family. “We had the appointment and we were 100% on the same page – let’s move forward with this,” says Maggipinto.

That’s when they first became aware of the eye-watering cost of biological parenthood for gay men. Maggipinto reels off the price list in a way that only someone who has pored over every item could. There’s compensation for the egg donor: no less than $8,000 (£6,600). The egg-donor agency fee: $8,000-10,000. The fertility clinic’s bill (including genetic testing, blood tests, STD screening and a psychiatric evaluation for all parties, sperm testing, egg extraction, insemination, the growing, selecting, freezing and implantation of the resulting embryos): up to $70,000. And that’s if it all goes well: if no embryos are created during a cycle, or if the embryos that are don’t lead to a successful pregnancy, they would have to start again.

Then there’s the cost of a surrogate (called a “gestational carrier” when they carry embryos created from another woman’s eggs). Maggipinto and Briskin were told agency fees alone could stretch to $25,000, and the surrogates themselves should be paid a minimum of $60,000 (it is illegal for surrogates to be paid in the UK, but their expenses are covered by the intended parents). “That payment doesn’t include reimbursement for things like maternity clothing; lost wages if she misses work for doctors’ appointments or is put on bed rest; transportation; childcare for her own children; [or] lodging.”

It takes 15 minutes for Maggipinto to run me through all the expenses they could incur if they tried to have a child genetically related to one of them. The bottom line? “Two hundred thousand dollars, minimum,” he says, tapping his index finger on the table with each word in disbelief.

They couldn’t afford it. Maggipinto earns a corporate lawyer’s salary but is saddled with student debt. Briskin used to work for the City of New York as an assistant district attorney, earning about $60,000 a year. His employment benefits had included generous health insurance. But when they read the policy, they discovered they were the only class of people to be excluded from IVF coverage. Infertility was defined as an inability to have a child through heterosexual sex or intrauterine insemination. That meant straight people and lesbians working for the City of New York would have the costs of IVF covered, but gay male couples could never be eligible.

This isn’t an oversight, it’s discrimination, Briskin says. “The policy is the product of a time when there was a misconception, a stereotype, a prejudice against couples that were made up of two men – that they were not capable of raising children because there was no female figure in that relationship.”

Briskin was working alongside colleagues who were happily availing themselves of the benefits he wasn’t entitled to. One of his co-workers – an older, single woman – became a mother using donor sperm, IVF and surrogacy. “It was hard,” he tells me quietly. “You want to be happy for people.” Their frustration at not being able to have their own children turned to anguish. “My sister – who is more than six years younger than me – just gave birth to her second baby,” Maggipinto says, twisting his wedding ring. “I was OK with not being a parent at 30, I felt that was very normal for our generation and the current work-life balance ethos. But seven years later, I’m really not happy.”

In April, Briskin and Maggipinto filed a class action complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the City of New York, suing Briskin’s former employers for unlawful workplace discrimination. If they win, employers and health insurers across the US will be under pressure to change their policies to give gay men the same access to fertility benefits as anyone else. But their case has become much bigger than one couple’s drive to start a family: they have become figureheads in the battle for fertility rights for all gay men.

Maggipinto and Briskin braced themselves for some kind of backlash when news of their claim broke. But there was a deluge: on Instagram and Facebook, in audio messages and in their work email inboxes, on Reddit and beneath news articles. Wherever you could post public comments, there was condemnation.

A much-liked response to one piece about their story read: “Not having a uterus because you are male, does not make you ‘infertile’ – it makes you MALE. No one – and I do mean no one – has the right to rent another human’s body and womb to use as an incubator. That is not a human right.”

The international response was even more scathing.

“There was one article in a German outlet that was about how surrogacy is a form of slavery. We were being portrayed as people who were enslaving gestational carriers,” Briskin tells me, wide-eyed.

Most critics were wilfully missing the point of their case: it’s about access to IVF, and equal rights to employment benefits, not their right to surrogacy. But in bringing a fertility equality claim that took eventual surrogacy for granted, they had unwittingly stumbled into the line of fire of one of the great culture wars of our age: whether anyone – but gay men in particular – should be able to pay to use a woman’s body.

dvances in reproductive technology mean that pretty much anyone can become a parent so long as they can get hold of the requisite gametes and access to fertility treatment, but people with male bodies face specific challenges: someone has to do the gestating. In the years since same-sex marriage has been legalised across the western world, demand for surrogacy has soared. In England and Wales, the number of parents using a surrogate has quadrupled over the past 10 years, but it is always controversial: high-profile gay men from Brian Dowling to Tom Daley have been accused of exploitation, “womb rental” and even “child abuse” when they go public about creating their families with a surrogate.

Surrogacy always comes with serious legal and ethical challenges, whether it is traditional (using the surrogate’s eggs) or gestational; altruistic or commercial; gay or straight. Surrogates have been asked to abort babies against their will when intended parents split up, when too many embryos implant successfully, or when the baby they are carrying is found to have birth defects.

Commercial surrogacy is banned in almost all of Europe, leading some to seek it abroad. After India and Thailand closed their doors to fertility tourists in 2015, Ukraine became the go-to destination; when war broke out in February, thousands of women pregnant with other people’s children were in turmoil while the panicked intended parents tried to work out how to get them and their precious cargo out of the country. In 2020, hundreds of surrogate babies were left stranded in Kyiv because of Covid travel restrictions. Surrogacy is legal to some degree in almost every US state. American women have died in recent years during surrogate pregnancies and deliveries, while egg donors have been left infertile and seriously ill after their eggs were harvested.

So why not adopt?

Briskin and Maggipinto pause before answering this. “I have never been opposed to adopting, [or] even to having a foster child to see where that leads,” Maggipinto says, eventually. “But as a couple we’ve come to a decision that having a child that’s biologically connected to us is important.”

“I’m not wringing my hands here,” Briskin says. “It really feels like such an affront to be asked this question. I find it deeply offensive. Nobody asks the person who’s having children naturally why they did it instead of adopting. I help others in other ways – but that’s just not how I’d choose to do it.”

“Private adoption is overwhelmed with religious-affiliated organisations,” adds Maggipinto.

“Who would exclude us.”

“By definition.”

They never claimed any right to surrogacy, Maggipinto says. “I think a woman willing to do this is enormously generous. In the same way that I feel like I’ve been robbed of time in my life because I don’t have a child yet, I feel like the sacrifice a woman makes to be pregnant for someone else is an enormous chunk of time out of her life that she’ll never get back, and the compensation really is a token for that.”

“I am pro-autonomy,” Briskin says. “I believe that people should be able to make decisions about their lives, their bodies. This is so relevant now, with the decision from the supreme court [overturning Roe v Wade]. For me, it goes into the same category as sex work: there’s this puritanical belief that sex workers are being forced to sell themselves. There are many, many sex workers who do not view their line of work that way.”

Of course, there are many women who are forced to sell themselves, I say – those who are trafficked and exploited. Briskin knows this well: he was a sex crimes prosecutor. “Those who are being trafficked are not being compensated for their sex work; any compensation is going into the hands of their pimp,” he replies. “That is not the case for a willing surrogate.”

There’s a stark contrast between American and Ukrainian surrogates, Maggipinto says. “Here you have to be a woman who has already had children, who is over a certain age, who can prove that she is independently financially capable of sustaining herself without her surrogate compensation. You effectively cannot be a poor surrogate.” He is referring to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s guidelines, but with no official regulation in the US, there’s no compulsion for anyone to follow them.

When it comes to the fear that gay surrogacy erases mothers, Maggipinto is defiant. “Our family will be a motherless family,” he says, tapping his finger on the table again, “I won’t tiptoe around that.” But the creation of that family doesn’t depend on the exploitation of women. “We’re not using a woman’s body. We are accepting a woman’s generosity to use her own body in a way that she agrees with.”

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