The Struggles of Surrogacy Mid Covid

Travel restrictions continue to separate newborns from their adoptive families abroad

With restrictions making it difficult, if not impossible, to travel across continents, industries that have previously been satiated with international clientele are beginning to see the more serious effects of restrictions imposed on those visiting the U.S. 

It’s a given that by now, smaller tourism reliant industries, such as local travel agencies, may have to face the music and slow down business for the foreseeable future, but some industries can’t afford to slow down. For the thousands of American families who suffer from an array of complications ranging from uterine issues to cancer, and same-sex couples with limited options, surrogacy institutes are their best bet.

El Vaquero had the opportunity to speak to Parham Zar, the managing director and CEO of The Egg Donor and Surrogacy Institute in Los Angeles, on the issues he’s been facing within his own institute, and how intended parents from abroad are being affected by the pandemic.

The ever-changing restrictions on travelers from outside the U.S. have presented a unique and unprecedented challenge for Zar and his team, who were transparent in explaining that the majority of their client base of intended parents come from countries where surrogacy is difficult and oftentimes outright illegal. Of course, whenever dealing with any birth, a level of uncertainty is always constant, especially surrounding the due date. Although Zar has previously encountered situations that required adoptive parents to travel to the U.S. for the birth of their child unexpectedly, nothing compares to the power Covid-19 has shown when it comes to separating families. 

So what will happen to these newborn children until their adoptive families are able to travel to them? In an interview with ABC7 News, Zar’s organization has implemented the help of a well-trained team of nannies to help care for the newborns until arrangements can be made to unite them with their respective families. Concerns over bonding issues with surrogate mothers and nannies are minimized through the training faculty receives. And since these nannies are closer to midwives than to medical nurses, they are much more experienced in caring for newborn babies and surrogate mothers, minimizing any psychological damage to both. 

Zar emphasizes that the priority of his institute is to see to the well being of all parties involved, stressing the importance of the surrogate mother and his commitment to their health. He also mentioned how emotionally draining and difficult the surrogate process can be, especially after the birth when it’s time to part ways with the child. 

 EDSI handles more than surrogacy. According to Zar, only a couple of years ago his institute was focusing primarily on egg donations, accounting for around 80% of his business. But recently around 2015, they’ve seen a boom in surrogacy interest, boosting business to a running speed, only to hit the brick wall that is Covid-19. 

For families who may be struggling to conceive on their own, oftentimes the only option available is the most difficult to warm up to … and to afford. Towards the end of his conversation with El Vaquero, Zar touched on the financial aspect of the services EDSI provides and admits to the harsh reality that for most aspiring couples looking to start a family, surrogacy may not always be a viable option. 

According to West Coast Surrogacy Incorporated, the cost of the entire surrogacy process in the United States, from fees and paperwork to hospital bills, ranges anywhere from $90,000-$130,000. Given the location of EDSI in Beverly Hills, their prices are on the higher end of the spectrum as Zar noted, showing how dedicated aspiring parents must be to commit to the process entirely. 

When dealing with the many issues that could potentially go wrong while caring for a newborn, it’s reasonable to assume that any other business like EDSI would want to separate themselves from any complications that may arise while caring for these separated infants, distancing themselves from liability claims. Zar made it abundantly clear that this wasn’t the case in his situation, which explains the use of nanny caretakers and his frequent Zoom calls to intended parents to give valuable updates. When asked if he would have changed the way EDSI had handled these issues in hindsight, Zar replied that he wouldn’t change any of their responses just for the sake of protecting themselves. “We can’t hide behind the veil of liability…” Zar said, “It would be unethical.”  After arriving in the U.S. in hopes of recovering their child and leaving together as a family, one Chinese couple working with EDSI was sent back to their country before they even had the chance, Zar recalls. Now, EDSI is working to figure out a way of uniting the family, formulating several possible ideas on how to make it happen. One of which being the transport of the child with a nanny to China directly in hopes of delivering the newborn to the couple personally. The potential risks of this particular endeavor are not lost on Zar and his team.  “The first thing that goes through my mind is those issues of liability,” he said. “But what can we do? We have to do what we have to do.”

Although the newborns under the care of EDSI have faced many unforeseen complications in the past few months, the institute explains that it has been successful in its efforts to deliver children to their adoptive parents so far. EDSI and other companies like it say the cannot afford to slow down operations, as couples have been in the preparation stages for months before the pandemic began. 

With a large number of surrogate mothers already in the middle stages of pregnancy, EDSI contends that it must continue on as close to normal as possible to help nurture these children, until they can become part of a loving family. “Beyond that [medical procedure] we’re dealing with humans,” Zar noted.  “And the humanity of everyone involved. It’s important to me and to us that we take care of their needs like we would take care of our own family.” 


Eian Gil can be reached at [email protected].