In an extensive look into the unsavory practices of Planet Hospital, an article last week in The New York Times (see end of this article) described the plight of Chris Pommier and Jonah Winn-Lenetsky, a gay couple that lost tens of thousands of dollars to the medical tourism agency.
One of 40 or so other couples, Chris and Jonah paid the Cancún, Mexico-based agency for surrogacy services they never received. The New York Times article detailed the financial debacle and how the fertility clinic housing their samples cut ties with Planet Hospital mid-process, saying they weren’t receiving payment.
The article omitted, however, to mention the role homophobia played in the already muddied process. In Cancún, the couple entered their new fertility clinic to see a woman they recognized in the waiting room. They’d only seen her photo, but they immediately knew who she was: their egg donor. The donor spotted them, too. “And that’s where everything breaks down,” says Chris. The process was intended to be anonymous. But, as the men found out, over the next few days the donor called around frantically to confirm her suspicions: that she was donating to a gay couple. Chris discovered their identities had accidentally been revealed to her in an email from one of the agencies involved. “Turns out, she was incredibly homophobic and would never, never, never, never donate to a gay couple,” says Chris. Instead of donating her egg, the would-be donor got on a plane to return home. “It was just a disaster. We didn’t even get to the point of possibly finding out if we could get pregnant.” (Chris' story could not be independently verified.)
The couple is now seeking surrogacy in the United States while trying to recoup their lost money through a GoFundMe campaign.
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Gays With Kids asked Chris to share what he and Jonah, through their own experiences, have learned about surrogacy.
"I would definitely recommend that people get online and start talking to other people who have become dads or moms. But particularly if you’re a gay man looking to start a family, talk to other gay dads. You’re going to need support – emotional support. Even if it’s not as traumatic and crazy as our experience, there’s always going to be something."
"I would have pursued it up until just recently. There has been a lot of success in India for a long time. For many years, India was sort of the go-to-place for surrogacy. But then they closed their doors to gay people and singles. A lot of people used to go to Thailand. In May of this year, there was a military coup. Just about three or four days ago, the military was, like, ‘Oh, hey, what’s all this surrogacy stuff going on here? We don’t want gay people coming here and getting babies.’ So, it looks like Thailand is no longer going to be available. I feel like the global climate is not open to international surrogacy right now." (see link to more information on surrogacy in Thailand at the end of this article.)
"Jonah and I are lucky. It seems like we’ve got a good schedule of freaking out. It seems like when one of us is freaking out, the other one is not freaking out. Thank god. That said, we have arguments about money, we have had arguments about what the next steps are going to be -- you know, maybe we should just adopt. We have really strong feelings about all of those things."
"I think I’m more open to adoption than Jonah. I want a family. My friends are having kids. They were having kids a couple of years ago. I just want to catch up. But I think we really just want what so many others want: we want to have our own biological kids. We just have to pay for it. We’re committed to having -- really giving ourselves the chance to have kids that are genetically related to us."
Sharing Their Story
"It’s embarrassing. It is, because I feel like we made some stupid mistakes. I’ve found that as our story is getting out more; really the vast majority who comment [on the New York Times story], the people who matter in my life, have been incredibly supportive. And the more I reach out to the gay dads in my community, the more love and help and support I get."
Advice to Others
"You’re going to need more patience and more perseverance than you think you’re going to need. Whatever much patience you think you’re going to need, just multiply that by a hundred. Be patient, go slow, and if it doesn’t feel right, change it."
(The New York Times article on the practices of Planet Hospital can be found here. For more information on surrogacy in Thailand, click here. To learn more about the couple's GoFundMe campaign, click here.)