Gestational carriers, also known as gestational surrogates, carry children for couples.
Women with a damaged or absent uterus or who cannot carry a pregnancy for other reasons, can consider gestational carriers to help in their family building. This can include patients who were born without a uterus or who have had a hysterectomy or patients who have a misshapen uterus and resulting infertility or repeat pregnancy loss.
A gestational carrier may also be needed if a pregnancy could put the mother’s life in danger. These patients have a medical contraindication to pregnancy, such as severe heart disease, severe diabetes mellitus, or breast cancer, to name a few.
Gestational surrogacy happens when a woman is impregnated with an embryo derived from the sperm and egg from another couple (the intended parents). This embryo is transferred to the gestational carrier who carries the baby to term for the intended parents.
To achieve pregnancy using a gestational carrier, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is required. All the steps of a regular IVF treatment cycle are performed except the embryos are transferred into the gestational carrier. Once pregnant, the gestational carrier carries the fetus throughout the pregnancy and delivers the child for the intended parents. Despite the fact that she carries and delivers the baby, a gestational carrier has no genetic link to the fetus she is carrying.
Current Louisiana law limits family building that must include the help of a gestational carrier.
Louisiana Surrogacy Bill HB 1102, which took effect in August 2016, changed considerably a Louisiana couple’s ability to include gestational carriers in their family building plan. This law sets up a legal framework for surrogate/gestational carrier arrangements to protect both the carrier and the intended parents. However, the language of the law can be problematic for couples who need either donor egg or donor sperm as the bill specifically requires that the embryo used in surrogacy come from the egg and sperm of the intended parents. Thus, if a woman is both unable to produce a healthy egg and carry a child, Louisiana law prohibits her from using a gestational carrier. Additionally, if donor sperm is needed in the equation and the woman is unable to carry a child, a gestational carrier cannot be used.
Worded as such, this law also precludes nontraditional intended parents, especially gay men looking to build a family. It defines the intended parents as a “man and a woman,” preventing same-sex couples from using surrogacy to become parents.