Anyone that wants to be a parent should be able to become a parent, or be given the opportunities they need to become a parent, whatever their gender or sexuality. But sadly, this isn’t a view shared by everyone, nor is it necessarily a possibility for all.
This is the reality for one gay couple in New York, who have told their story to the Guardian. After meeting in law school in 2011 and announcing their wedding in the New York Times in 2016, 33 year old Corey Briskin and 37 year old Nicholas Maggipinto then naturally turned their thoughts to parenthood. Just like any other couple, they wanted “all the trappings: house, children, retirement fund etc”.
With marriage equality now commonplace in the West, they assumed parenthood equality would be too
Nicholas says that six months before their wedding, the couple saw an Instagram ad “offering free consultations with a fertility doctor who’d give them “the whole rundown” on how they could start a family”.
“We had the appointment and we were 100% on the same page – let’s move forward with this.”
This was the first time however, that the couple realised the “eye watering” cost of biological parenthood for gay men. Nicholas told the Guardian, “There’s compensation for the egg donor: no less than $8,000 (£6,600). The egg-donor agency fee: $8,000-10,000. The fertility clinic’s bill (including genetic testing, blood tests, STD screening and a psychiatric evaluation for all parties, sperm testing, egg extraction, insemination, the growing, selecting, freezing and implantation of the resulting embryos): up to $70,000”.
“And that’s if it all goes well: if no embryos are created during a cycle, or if the embryos that are don’t lead to a successful pregnancy, we would have to start again.”
Plus, that’s on top of the surrogate costs with agency fees reached $25,000 and a minimum payment to the surrogate of $60,000.
In the UK, it’s against the law for a surrogate to paid anything more than expenses. But in the US, a surrogate can receive a fee of around $60,000 plus “reimbursement for things like maternity clothing; lost wages if she misses work for doctors’ appointments or is put on bed rest; transportation; childcare for her own children or lodging”.
This all means that a gay couple in the US can expect to pay a minimum of £200,000 to have a biological child
Cory and Nicholas, despite having a decent wage and education, could ill afford it. As an assistant district attorney for the City of New York, Cory had health insurance – but was dismayed to discover that they were the “only class of people to be excluded from IVF coverage”.
“Infertility was defined as an inability to have a child through heterosexual sex or intrauterine insemination. That meant straight people and lesbians working for the City of New York would have the costs of IVF covered, but gay male couples could never be eligible.”
Cory says that this is discrimination, not an oversight
“The policy is the product of a time when there was a misconception, a stereotype, a prejudice against couples that were made up of two men – that they were not capable of raising children because there was no female figure in that relationship.”
What made the couple even more upset was that other staff members working with Cory were able to use their insurance to pay for fertility treatments
“It was hard, you want to be happy for people.”
During this time, Nicholas’ sister also gave birth to her second baby. “I was OK with not being a parent at 30, I felt that was very normal for our generation and the current work-life balance ethos. But seven years later, I’m really not happy.”
The couple filed a class action complaint against the City of New York in April, effectively suing Cory’s former employer for discrimination
Should they win, the case will make ground breaking changes to employment law, giving gay men the same access to fertility cover as everyone else.
Given the potential weight of the case, the couple have now found themselves as figureheads in the battle. And as with any high profile case such as this, they’ve also faced a deluge of abuse on online platforms, with many claiming that surrogacy is abuse and a form of “womb rental”.
But as they point out, they’re not suing over their right to surrogacy, but their right to equal employment benefits
Nicholas says, “I think a woman willing to do this is enormously generous. In the same way that I feel like I’ve been robbed of time in my life because I don’t have a child yet, I feel like the sacrifice a woman makes to be pregnant for someone else is an enormous chunk of time out of her life that she’ll never get back, and the compensation really is a token for that.”
Cory adds, “I believe that people should be able to make decisions about their lives, their bodies. This is so relevant now, with the decision from the supreme court overturning Roe v Wade.”
Whatever the outcome, we hope the couple find fairness and peace.
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Find out more about Roe v Wade here
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