Before you attempt fertility treatment, you should always consult with an assisted reproductive technology attorney. An increasing number of people use assisted reproductive technology (ART) to give birth to a child. Their reasons are diverse. Americans are waiting longer to have children, making natural pregnancy more difficult. Health issues can prevent a traditional pregnancy. And, same-sex couples frequently use ART as a means to have children. However, ART carries its own legal challenges. Learn more about how James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates protects their clients who use assisted reproductive technology below.
What Is Assisted Reproductive Technology?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define assisted reproductive technology (ART) as fertility treatments that involve the handling of both sperm and eggs. ART covers a wide variety of methods that help a person have a child, including:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): Eggs and sperm are both collected. The eggs and sperm are introduced into a culture dish in a laboratory. If fertilization occurs, the embryos are either transferred into a uterus or preserved for later implantation.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection: A single sperm is injected into each egg. If embryos develop, they are either implanted in a uterus or cryogenically frozen.
- Surrogacy: A gestational carrier or surrogate carries a couple’s embryo.
Other fertility technology involves intrauterine insemination (IUI), the freezing of sperm, eggs, or the use of donor eggs, sperm, or embryos.
Legal Issues Involving Reproductive Technology
Numerous legal issues can develop when you use assisted reproductive technology. They might involve:
- Disputes about who “owns” unused eggs, sperm, or embryos after a relationship ends,
- The parental and custody rights of same-sex or unmarried partners,
- Child custody issues with a surrogate or other donor,
- Contract disputes with a surrogate or gestational carrier concerning unexpected medical bills, birth defects, failure to disclose known health or genetic issues, or other issues, and
- Contract disputes or negligence claims against fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies.
Moreover, ART is a rapidly developing field. As technology changes, new legal issues and disputes will inevitably arise.
Maryland Does Not Have Comprehensive Assisted Reproduction Laws
While Baltimore is a popular location for ART treatments, due to its high concentration of fertility clinics, Maryland law does not have comprehensive assisted reproduction laws. Maryland law does, however, recognize that when a married woman undergoes IVF, her husband is deemed the legal father. Problematically, however, Md. Code, Estates & Trusts §1-206(b) specifically addresses the rights of a married husband, and not those of a same-sex spouse or unmarried, committed partner. In these cases, the couple should discuss their options, such as second-parent adoption or a birth order with a reproductive technology attorney.
Legislators have proposed bills that clarify the state’s stance on surrogacy and other ART processes, but these attempts have been unsuccessful thus far. If you have questions about the current state of Maryland’s assisted reproduction laws, contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates for more information.
ART Laws Vary From State to State
Additionally, ART laws vary dramatically from state to state. (Currently, federal law does not address family law issues arising out of reproductive technology.) If you are considering an out-of-state donor, surrogate, or ART procedure, you should proceed with caution. For example, some states forbid surrogacy and will not enforce a surrogacy agreement. An experienced reproductive technology attorney can help you understand the potential legal risks involved with out-of-state procedures, donors, and surrogates.
How Can a Reproductive Technology Attorney Protect Your Rights?
Due to the piecemeal nature of Maryland’s ART laws, you should consult with a reproductive technology attorney before attempting any type of reproductive process. An attorney can help you:
- Negotiate and draft comprehensive surrogacy agreements that protect your rights as an intended parent or surrogate,
- File a petition for a birth order in surrogacy matters (determining the child’s legal parentage and allowing the intended parents’ names to be placed on the child’s birth certificate),
- Create antenuptial or other contracts concerning your rights to frozen embryos, sperm, and eggs,
- Update you on the newest developments in assisted reproductive technology law, and
- Provide detailed legal advice and information about ART.
While many prospective parents use clinics and agencies that coordinate and assist with ART, these agencies typically do not provide legal services or advice. In contrast, a reproductive technology attorney is on your side and will review all of the agency’s proposed contracts and agreements to ensure they are in your best interest.
Consult With an Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorney Today
While Maryland’s ART laws do not fully address our modern reality, an assisted reproduction technology attorney can help you address this uncertainty. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we help parents with a wide variety of ART and family law issues. We will help you navigate the exciting (and sometimes stressful) process of assisted reproduction and ensure that you and your child’s rights are fully protected.