ICYMI: This English same-sex couple fathered twins who are half-siblings — and a Canadian surrogate helped them

A different wrinkle to birthright citizenship (see earlier How Canada became an international surrogacy destination [another form of birth tourism]) as well as U.S. example below:

With two kids under two, the Berney-Edwards household in southeast England is a busy one. There are toddlers running all over the place. One pokes his dad in the eye and laughs before accidentally hitting his sister with a toy vacuum cleaner, causing her to wail. It can be a bit chaotic.

But Graeme and Simon Berney-Edwards wouldn’t have it any other way. As gay men, there was a time when they thought they could never have any of that.

Now, however, they have their twins, the result of an arrangement involving a Canadian surrogate and Canadian surrogacy laws they feel are more progressive than those on the books in the United Kingdom.

“You see them tearing around and they’re having fun, and just for a moment, you just sort of step back and go ‘Wow, this is it. They’re here,’ ” Simon Berney-Edwards said in an interview at their home in Redhill, south of London.

“It can be very surreal,” his husband Graeme Berney-Edwards chimed in.

When they decided surrogacy was the way they would have a family, they reached out to a surrogacy organization that helped them understand their options.

That organization connected them with a clinic in Las Vegas where in vitro fertilization took place. That’s also where they learned they could have twins and each be a biological father to one child by fertilizing half of their American donor’s eggs with Simon’s sperm, the other half with Graeme’s sperm, and then implanting the embryos in the same surrogate.

It means Alexandra and Calder, now 21 months old, are twins but only half-siblings. Born just minutes apart, they have the same biological mother, but different fathers.

They quickly chose to have the birth take place in Canada rather the U.K. That was because, they say, the surrogacy laws in their country are dated, primarily as a result of the U.K. considering the surrogate, and her partner, if she has one, to be the legal parents for the first six weeks of the child’s life.

“And in that time, if the surrogate decides to change their mind, you have no recourse,” said Simon Berney-Edwards. “Basically, that’s it. Your child is gone.”

Andrew Spearman, a British fertility and surrogacy lawyer, said the U.K. laws are “archaic” and that many of his clients turn to Canada for surrogacy.

“I think it gives an element of certainty. It gives the transparency, which we can’t offer always, and it gives a very clear structure,” he said in his London office.

Spearman said while U.K. surrogates and intended parents do draw up contracts outlining their agreement, the contracts aren’t legally binding as they are in Canada.

Neither country allows surrogates to be paid, other than to cover their expenses, which Spearman said helps British parents explain the process to English courts when they return home. They still need to get a “parental order” in the U.K. that makes them legal parents and gives their children U.K. citizenship.

The Berney-Edwards say they were also drawn to the altruistic nature of Canadian surrogacy because they wanted more than a “transactional” experience.

“We wanted someone that was prepared to be part of a family throughout the children growing up,” said Graeme Berney-Edwards.

After consulting a website that has profiles of women wanting to be surrogates, they found that in Meg Stone of Hamilton, Ont. Stone said that’s also what drew her to them.

“They mentioned that they wanted twins and I’m always up for a challenge,” she said. “And they also said they wanted lifelong friendship, which was also something I wanted.”

After a couple of false alarms that saw the dads dashing off to Canada early, Alexandra and Calder were born on June 25, 2017, in Hamilton, where they stayed for the first seven weeks of their lives.

Stone, who has two of her own children, has continued to watch the twins grow from afar, swapping messages and photos and even making the trip to England for the twins’ first birthday.

Her 12-year-old son, Jeffrey Seroski-Stone, said he’s proud of his mom for helping to create a family.

“I think it’s exciting how my mom ended up helping them out by giving them children, and I think we usually have a really good time, so I consider them to be like family to me,” he said.

Stone is pregnant with twins again, helping another same-sex family have children.

“I love being a mom and why wouldn’t I want to help somebody else do that, too?” she said.

She maintains she wouldn’t want to be paid for helping others have children, but there is a debate in Canada about whether paying surrogates should be decriminalized.

The current Canadian law came into force in 2004 and prohibits paying surrogates other than to reimburse them for certain medical and maternity costs.

The federal government is reviewing the legislation, including identifying categories for reimbursement and making them more clear. A Liberal MP tabled a private member’s bill that would decriminalize payments to surrogates but opponents say it amounts to commercializing a woman’s body.

Stone disagrees with the idea that a surrogate be given the chance to change her mind, as is set out in the current U.K. law.

“I never felt like they were mine to give away,” she said. “They were [with] me to watch and nurture until Simon and Graeme were able to.”

The Berney-Edwards say when it comes to surrogacy law, Canada has it right, but that doesn’t mean it was easy or cheap.

They won’t put a figure on it, but experts say they would have spent tens of thousands of dollars on Stone’s expenses, agency and legal fees, not to mention three trips back and forth to Canada.

“But it was worth it,” said Simon.

“Every single penny, cent, was worth it,” said Graeme.

Although none of their biological parents is Canadian, Alexandra and Calder are Canadian citizens because they were born in the country, and their fathers say it’s an important part of their heritage.

They look forward to the day they can explain to their children how they came into the world, how badly they were wanted and how much love was around them.

In fact, they’ve already started to do just that.

As the children begin to get ready for bed, the entire family sits on the living room floor sharing a story.

Simon reads aloud, “Before I settle down to sleep, I’ll blow a kiss goodnight, to make sure all of Canada will have sweet dreams tonight.”

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/u-k-canada-same-sex-surrogacy-twins-half-siblings-1.5069654

In 2016, a married gay couple in Canada became parents of twins using a surrogate mother. One father is a U.S. citizen, the other an Israeli citizen. The two fathers made a decision to contribute one embryo each to the surrogate mother so the twins would be biologically related to each of them. However, that turned out to be a determinative factor when the parents went to the U.S. Consulate in Toronto to register the twins for U.S. citizenship. Only one of the twins, Aidan, who was biologically related to his U.S. citizen father, was granted a U.S. passport. The family was devastated by this decision. When the Dvash-Banks family decided to move to California, the other twin, Ethan, had to enter as a visitor on a B visa. His B visa eventually expired, leaving him “undocumented.” [both are Canadian given  birthright citizenship]

With regard to children born in wedlock, section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that a “child born outside of the United States . . . acquires citizenship at birth if at the time of birth one parent is a foreign national and the other parent is a U.S. citizen; and the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the United States for at least 5 years, including at least 2 years after 14 years of age.” Section 309, which applies to children born out of wedlock, requires, among other things, that “blood relationship between the child and the father is established by clear and convincing evidence.” The State Department, in its published policy, apparently reads the “blood relationship” clause into section 301 and would not budge on that policy for the Dvash-Bankses.

The Dvash-Bankses challenged the Department of State’s (DOS) decision with regard to Ethan in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. In response to a motion for summary judgement, Judge John F. Walter declared that Ethan was a U.S. citizen and ordered DOS to issue him a U.S. passport as soon as possible. The order applied only to Ethan and did not prevent DOS from applying its “blood relationship” policy to other families. In post-summary judgement proceedings, the Dvash-Bankses argued, “The State Department’s refusal to approve [Ethan’s] applications . . . and its persistence in litigating this action full-bore to summary judgement, was manifestly unreasonable and not substantially justified.” The Judge awarded $1.3 in attorney’s fees and costs to the couple.

Ethan’s fathers believe that a straight couple who had used assistive reproductive technology would never have been asked to submit to a DNA test, as they were required to do by DOS. In a similar case, a lesbian couple of one U.S. citizen and one Italian citizen whose children were born in London brought a claim in the federal district court in D.C. – using the same lawyers who represented the Dvash-Banks family.

Source: Birthright Citizenship for Child of Same Sex Couple

South Florida Sees a Boom in Russian ‘Birth Tourism’

Another birth tourism centre and clientele:

Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States to give birth so that their child can acquire all the privileges of American citizenship.

They pay anywhere from $20,000 to sometimes more than $50,000 to brokers who arrange their travel documents, accommodations and hospital stays, often in Florida.

While the cost is high, their children will be rewarded with opportunities and travel advantages not available to their Russian countrymen. The parents themselves may benefit someday as well.

And the decidedly un-Russian climate in South Florida and the posh treatment they receive in the maternity wards — unlike dismal clinics back home — can ease the financial sting and make the practice seem more like an extended vacation.

The Russians are part of a wave of “birth tourists” that includes sizable numbers of women from China and Nigeria.

President Donald Trump has spoken out against the provision in the U.S. Constitution that allows “birthright citizenship” and has vowed to end it, although legal experts are divided on whether he can actually do that.

Although there have been scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion, coming to the U.S. to give birth is fundamentally legal. Russians interviewed by The Associated Press said they were honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even showed signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.

There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.

The Russian contingent is clearly large. Anton Yachmenev of the Miami Care company that arranges such trips, told the AP that about 150 Russian families a year use his service, and that there are about 30 such companies just in the area.

South Florida is popular among Russians not only for its tropical weather but also because of the large Russian-speaking population. Sunny Isles Beach, a city just north of Miami, is even nicknamed “Little Moscow.”

“With $30,000, we would not be able to buy an apartment for our child or do anything, really. But we could give her freedom. That’s actually really cool,” said Olga Zemlyanaya, who gave birth to a daughter in December and was staying in South Florida until her child got a U.S. passport.

An American passport confers many advantages. Once the child turns 21, he or she can apply for “green card” immigration status for the parents.

A U.S. passport also gives the holder more travel opportunities than a Russian one; Americans can make short-term trips to more than 180 countries without a visa, while Russians can go visa-free only to about 80.

Traveling to the U.S. on a Russian passport often requires a laborious interview process for a visa. Just getting an appointment for the interview can take months.

Some Russians fear that travel opportunities could diminish as tensions grow between Moscow and the West, or that Russia might even revert to stricter Soviet-era rules for leaving the country.

“Seeing the conflict growing makes people want to take precautions because the country might well close its borders. And if that happens, one would at least have a passport of a different country and be able to leave,” said Ilya Zhegulev, a journalist for the Latvia-based Russian website Meduza that is sharply critical of the Kremlin.

Last year, Zhegulev sold two cars to finance a trip to California for him and his wife so she could give birth to their son.

Trump denounced birthright citizenship before the U.S. midterm election, amid ramped up rhetoric on his hard-line immigration policies. The president generally focuses his ire on the U.S.-Mexico border. But last fall he mentioned he was considering executive action to revoke citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil. No executive action has been taken.

The American Civil Liberties Union, other legal groups and even former House Speaker Paul Ryan, typically a supporter of Trump’s proposals, said the practice couldn’t be ended with an order.

But others, like the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for less immigration, said the practice is harmful.

“We should definitely do everything we can to end it, because it makes a mockery of citizenship,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an outspoken Russian lawmaker, said the country can’t forbid women from giving birth abroad, and many of them also travel to Germany and Israel.

“Trump is doing everything right, because this law is used as a ploy. People who have nothing to do with the U.S. use it to become citizens,” Zhirinovsky said.

Floridians have shown no problem with the influx of expectant mothers from Russia.

Yachmenev, the agency manager, says he believes it’s good for the state because it brings in sizable revenue.

Svetlana Mokerova and her husband went all out, renting an apartment with a sweeping view. She relished the tropical vibe, filling her Instagram account with selfies backed by palm trees and ocean vistas.

“We did not have a very clear understanding about all the benefits” of a U.S. passport, she said.

“We just knew that it was something awesome,” added Mokerova, who gave birth to a daughter after she was interviewed.

Zemlyanaya said that even her two nights in the hospital were a treat, like “a stay in a good hotel.”

In contrast to the few amenities of a Russian clinic, she said she was impressed when an American nurse gave her choices from a menu for her meals.

“And then when she said they had chocolate cake for dessert, I realized I was in paradise,” Zemlyanaya added.

She even enjoyed how nurses referred to patients as “mommies,” as opposed to “rozhenitsa,” or “birth-giver” — the “unpleasant words they use in Russian birth clinics.”

Zemlyanaya said she was able to work remotely during her stay via the internet, as were the husbands of other women, keeping their income flowing. Yachmenev said his agency doesn’t allow any of the costs to be paid by insurance.

Most of the families his agency serves have monthly incomes of about 300,000 rubles ($4,500) — middling by U.S. standards but nearly 10 times the average Russian salary.

Yachmenev said he expects that birth tourism among Russians will only grow.

Business declined in 2015 when the ruble lost about half its value, but “now we are coming back to the good numbers of 2013-14,” he said.

Source: South Florida Sees a Boom in Russian ‘Birth Tourism’