Creating a family in another country: The risks of “reproductive tourism”

It is not uncommon for some people to seek fertility treatments outside of their home countries – a practice that has been dubbed “reproductive tourism” or “fertility tourism”. There are numerous reasons why a couple may travel to another country in an effort to create their family. For example, fertility treatments are not legally available in some countries and may be prohibited for certain individuals (e.g., gay men, lesbians, singles). In addition, the cost of fertility treatments may be significantly lower outside of one’s home country.

While creating a family in another country may be a positive choice for some individuals and couples, some experts warn that travelling abroad for fertility treatments may be risky – medically and legally. Although in some cases, patients travelling to other countries may experience a better quality of care than in their home country, experts express concerns about the quality and safety standards of some overseas fertility clinics, and the potential for incompetence and negligence in patient care. In addition, some clinics offer no psychological support to patients, and do not provide patients with adequate information about possible health risks resulting from fertility treatments (e.g. ovarian hyperstimulation). If you are considering going abroad for fertility treatments, it is important to check into the credibility and safety record of the clinic you are considering.

Even if patients receive a high quality of care while undergoing fertility treatments in another country, they may encounter legal difficulties after their children are born. For example, Chicago native Ellie Lavi travelled to Israel for fertility treatments, and eventually conceived twins using donated eggs and sperm. Since she held dual citizenship in both Israel and the US, Lavi resided in Israel and gave birth there. After applying for US citizenship for her daughters, she was shocked to discover that the State Department rejected the application on the grounds that Lavi could not prove that the eggs and sperm used to conceive her twins were donated by an American. Although legal experts suggest this is a rare case, it highlights the importance of familiarizing yourself with the relevant laws in the host country and in your home country specific to parental rights and citizenship issues, before deciding to seek fertility treatments abroad.

Read more about this issue here.

Read more about legal implications of fertility tourism here.

Read more about the costs of fertility treatment abroad here.

Read about one couple’s experience with creating a family with a surrogate mother living in another country here.

Read more about concerns regarding the surrogacy industry in India here and here.

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