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Fatherhood by a New Formula

Using an Egg Donor And a Gestational Surrogate, Some Gay Men Are Becoming Dads -- and Charting New Legal and Ethical Territory

By Sandra G. Boodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2005; Page HE01

It's a feeling the wealthy Washington entrepreneur likens to "stepping off into thin air," a gut-churning, middle-of-the-night realization that his life-changing choice is based on "some really big leaps of faith."

But most of the time, the single gay executive said, becoming a father using his sperm and eggs donated by a 24-year-old woman he met once in a downtown Starbucks to create embryos that were implanted in the uterus of a 22-year-old surrogate mother he barely knows, absolutely seems like the right thing to do.

New dads Michael Thorne-Begland (left) and Tracy Thorne-Begland hold their 4-month-old twins -- daughter Logan (left) and son Chance. The twins were carried to term by a surrogate in a pregnancy that was the product of sperm from one of the partners and eggs donated by the sister of the other.

It was, he said, the culmination of increasingly urgent soul-searching that accelerated as he hurtled toward 50.

"I've always loved children and I thought, 'What am I waiting for?' I want somebody to love me and I want somebody to love," said Scott, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that his last name not be published because he was concerned about the reaction of some business associates.

After the demise of a long-term relationship, Scott decided that he had the means and the motivation to become a single father. He rejected adoption because he wanted his own biological child. Instead Scott embarked on a two-year process, fraught with uncertainty, that will cost him $100,000 by the time he takes the baby, due in late June, home from the hospital.

Scott found his donor and surrogate through Creative Family Connections, a three-year-old law firm with offices in Tysons Corner and Bethesda. The firm often serves as a broker for would-be parents, finding both egg donors and surrogates and handling the associated legal work.

"We believe that everyone can build a family, and that's what we try to help people do," said the firm's founder, Diane S. Hinson. A Harvard Law School graduate, Hinson stopped practicing communications law to start the firm, a move she said was prompted by personal experience. Several years ago when she was single, Hinson adopted a baby, which she calls "the best thing I ever did."

For the past nine years, she said, many gay men who wanted to father children have gone to Growing Generations of Los Angeles, the country's oldest and largest agency that provides egg donors and surrogates exclusively for gay clients.

"I thought it was crazy for people to have to go to the West Coast to create a family and that there was a niche here," she said. While a few other lawyers in the Washington area recruit surrogates for clients, Hinson said, she knows of none who recruit egg donors as well.

Although sociologists agree that the number of gay parents has increased in the past decade -- a phenomenon dubbed the "gayby boom" -- no one knows by how much. Charlotte J. Patterson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who has written about the issue, estimates that about 1 million American children have a gay parent, but adds "the truth is that no one knows."

Some medical ethicists say that while the desire of gay men to father children is understandable, the technology required to create such children raises a host of thorny issues society has been slow to address. Few states, they note, have passed laws governing the practice of surrogacy or egg donation.

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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