By Veronica Whitney, Vail Daily, CO, May 7, 2005

Depending on how fast a couple can get pregnant, using a so-called “gestational carrier” can be as expensive as adoption, said Kim Willoughby, an attorney from Denver who specializes in alternative reproductive law.

“People are getting very comfortable with the idea of alternative reproductive methods,” said Willoughby, who helped Laura Lee Verlinde of Gypsum become a gestational carrier, which means she carried the biological baby of another couple.

“This isn’t inexpensive,” Willoughby said. “It’s a matter of how long the fertilization process takes.”

Laura Lee Verlinde, with her husband, Ray, and her two children, Grant, 9, and Adam, 12, in front of their house in Gypsum, acted as a “gestational carrier” for a couple from New York. Preston Utley/Vail Daily

Melissa Brisman, an attorney from New Jersey, who also helped the couple whose baby Verlinde carried, said using a carrier allows couples to have their own child.

“It’s an emotional journey that takes a year and a half, but for many people this is a much better alternative than adoption,” said Brisman, who had her three children with a gestational carrier. “They have better control over the prenatal care and there’s less likelihood that the birth mother will keep the baby. The downside? It can be expensive.”

A carrier can cost between $30,000 and $60,000 – including legal and medical fees, and the surrogate mother’s costs – while adoption costs around $30,000.

Willoughby said she deals with such pregnancies each month, and they’re all different.

“There’s a lot of things that go into a contract between a couple and a gestational carrier. There’s no standard contract,” she said. “There’s a lot of negotiations in terms of how much the surrogate will get paid if a pregnancy is achieved or if it isn’t.”

A carrier is usually paid between $10,000 to $20,000 to bring a pregnancy to term, Willoughby said. Contracts can also include money for clothing, food, daycare, cleaning service, and travel costs.

“Sometimes people include in the contract what the surrogate mother can eat, drink, when she can travel or have sex,” Willoughby said.

Carriers can be found through an agency and online, Willoughby said. “An agency is expensive but they do some weeding out,” she said.

Lawyers also helps prepare birth certificates. “In the second trimester we get a court order that says the intended parents are the legal parents of the child. Once the baby is born, the intended parents’ names are put on the birth certificate,” Willoughby said.

In all, having a baby using a carrier is very successful, Brisman said. “Of my clients, between 50 and 70 percent have a child,” she said.  

Willoughby said she doesn’t see cases in which the carrier doesn’t give up the baby. Nor has she met a surrogate mother who gives birth only for the money.

“These are women who enjoy being pregnant,” she said. “Sometimes they want more money for day care and cleaning, and compensation if they’re out of work. They’re not asking for extravagant things.

“They want to make sure they’re not losing out because they’re pregnant,” she added. “These women are putting their lives in the line.”