After a seven-year battle, a Johannesburg gay couple can finally look forward to holding their own child in their arms.
In a judgment in the Johannesburg High Court, Judge Seun Moshidi granted Harry and Kevin Johnson (not their real names) an order confirming a surrogacy agreement between them and a 32-year-old woman who has undertaken to carry a child for them.
He also granted an order that the mother-of-five from Roodepoort relinquish her parental rights and responsibilities once the child is born.
This is in line with the new Children’s Act that came into effect in April 2010. The order has to be granted before embryos are transferred to the surrogate.
Now that the court order has been granted, the couple hopes to have at least one child by this time in 2011.
For more than seven years, the Johnsons battled homophobia while looking for a woman to carry their child.
The couple, who live in an upmarket Johannesburg northern suburb, wanted a child that was biologically theirs and this ruled out adoption. They opted for surrogacy.
Harry said: “It has been quite hard. We first tried in 2003 and went to a fertility clinic, but they did not like the fact that we were gay.”
While waiting in the clinic’s reception area, the couple was made to feel uncomfortable as staff members took turns to peek at them.
“We were probably the first gay couple there. Every single member of staff came and peeked,” said Harry, adding that a friend who had been willing to carry the child for them had since relocated.
Now the Johnsons are close to realising their dream of starting a family.
“What we are hoping for is triplets – then we don’t have to go through this all over again,” said Harry.
Eggs will be harvested from Kevin’s sister in February and Harry’s gametes will be used for fertilisation before the embryos are implanted into the surrogate at about the same time.
“We want a child that is genetically related to both of us and we believe we will be able to provide a child with a loving, caring and stable home environment filled with stimulation, a good education and moral values,” they said.
While the new act protects the Johnsons from possible exploitation by the surrogate, the couple is a little apprehensive about it as it would make things more difficult for couples hoping to go the same route.
Following the passing of the act, surrogacy agencies such as the one the couple initially worked through to get the Roodepoort woman – had to close down, while others converted to being only donor fertility agencies.
This was due to a clause in the act that seeks to discourage “wombs for rent”, a practice that saw commissioning parents paying surrogacy mothers large sums of cash to carry their babies.
“There aren’t many people who would be willing to do it free,” said Kevin, adding that people seeking surrogacy mothers through agencies used to pay up to R50 000 to get the process going.
But while they have undertaken to not pay the mother for carrying their child, the couple made an undertaking in court papers to pay all medical expenses incurred as a result of the pregnancy; physical and psychological screening; post-partum examinations for a month after the birth of the child; hospitalisation; pharmaceutical expenses; laboratory and pathology costs; as well as therapy.
An insurance life cover has been taken out on the woman, which would pay her family should something go wrong during the pregnancy or at birth.
The woman would not be living with them during the pregnancy, the couple said, but they would accompany her to all the scans and for all medical checkups.
Harry is even putting together Mozart’s music in an iPod to ensure that the woman played the music for the unborn baby.
“I want her to listen to Mozart while she’s pregnant because it improves brain function,” he said. – The Star