Fertility company seeking surrogates to meet growing demand
'We just want to bring awareness to the huge need for surrogacy in Canada,' Parksville consultant says
It's a posting that stands out on the UsedVictoria online classified site amid the used iPhones and apartment rentals.
The ad invites women to consider becoming surrogates and carry pregnancies for would-be parents who are unable to conceive.
Swanberg said her business, which assists would-be parents, surrogates and egg donors, has increased fivefold since legal proceedings against her concluded three years ago.
"We just want to bring awareness to the huge need for surrogacy in Canada," said Leia Swanberg, the CEO of Parksville-based Canadian Fertility Consulting, told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.
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While surrogacy is legal, it is against the law to take money for arranging surrogacy, to pay a surrogate or receive payment for carrying a pregnancy.
In the case against her, Swanberg pleaded guilty to regulatory breaches for inadequate expense records.
The case shone a spotlight on the surrogacy industry, though Swanberg said it did little to clarify Canada's vague surrogacy laws.
It also coincided with moves in other countries to shut down surrogacy services for foreign and same-sex clients.
One quarter of clients non-Canadians
Her company helps would-be parents find a suitable surrogate and arranges introductions, but the matching service is free.
Now she said, one-quarter of her clients come from outside Canada.
"If in a couple of weeks they decide to come back and take us up on our offer of helping services, from there we'll introduce them to fertility clinics, the lawyer, the psychologist," Swanberg said.
"We will help them manage a trust account based on Canada's current law of no payments to surrogates, rather reimbursements of pregnancy-related expenses."
Surrogate expenses of $20,000 considered reasonable
She said a general rule in the industry is that expense allowances for surrogate mothers can be up to about $20,000.
Swanberg has carried two surrogate pregnancies herself as well as bearing five children of her own.
But there are always more people seeking surrogacy services than women available to provide them.
Swanberg said part of the problem is the near-secrecy surrounding infertility and a lack of awareness of the opportunities for surrogates.
That opportunity dawned on Angela Williams of Langford, B.C. when a friend revealed that she was a surrogate
"I thought it was amazing and beautiful," Williams said.
Williams and her husband had two daughters of their own, now aged 10 and six.
'Something kind of crazy and extraordinary'
After they decided their family was complete, Williams was sad to realize she would not experience another pregnancy.
"I had always just envisioned myself doing something kind of crazy and extraordinary," she said. "And surrogacy sure seemed to meet that criteria."
To hear Leia Swanberg's interview on CBC Radio One's On the Island click on the audio labelled 'Fertility company seeking surrogates for growing demand'
To hear Angela Willams' interview go to 'A surrogate's story: Angela Williams talks about carrying pregnancies for two couples'