continued Halm drafted his own contracts for the surrogate and egg donor who helped create Malina. "I developed a commitment," he says. "I wanted to make sure that I helped guide other gay men through this process."
That's when he discovered Gail Taylor, a lesbian mother and surrogacy expert who in 1996 had started Growing Generations for fellow lesbians wanting kids.
"I found out about her, we met, and we just thought [my joining] was a natural fit," he says. "Now we're the only surrogacy agency in the world that exclusively serves the gay and lesbian community. It was a landmark event for my life. Because all of a sudden I was now professionally involved in this cause, which to me has always been a very personal one. Creating a family became a more public event."
That was one of the first big questions for Halm and Taylor's new partnership: whether to seek attention from the media or to stay discreet.
"We had to do a lot of soul-searching," he says.
But it soon became clear they had to take the public road. "We decided that we wanted to be role models for a lot of gay men and women who think they cannot create families because they are gay. We want to change their minds and have them see the possibility that they can raise families. Especially a lot of gay and lesbian adolescents who are out there and feel like, 'Okay, I have to give up on creating a family.' "
One small but significant legal shift occurred recently in L.A. Two months ago a Beverly Hills lawyer, Andrew A. Vorzimer, persuaded a court to list two gay men on the birth certificate of a baby girl conceived through artificial insemination. The decision is being considered a legal precedent.
Halm realizes that taking the high-profile road runs the risk of a backlash. Many opponents say offering money for surrogacy exploits financially unstable women. Others find the idea of paying to create babies smacks of buying commodities.
"You're exposing kids to an unhealthy environment," Steve Schwalm, a senior policy analyst for the Family Research Council, told the New York Times recently.
Halm doesn't buy it. "There've been 40 studies over the last 20 years which have shown unequivocally that children of gay and lesbian parents are healthy, well-adjusted children," he says. "I don't think my sexual orientation is going to have any bearing on [my children's] sexual orientation. Most gay people I know had straight parents."
One fact is undisputed: right now this is a game for the rich. How much to grow one baby? Growing Generations' price list says $41,350, and that's minimum charges for a traditional use of a surrogate mother who uses her own eggs. The fee includes tests for such diseases as hepatitis and aids. A sum of $240 is even set aside for "criminal history inquiry fees" to check out the surrogate and egg donor.
The "third-party reproduction," or "gestational surrogacy program," costs more: $52,150. This uses eggs other than the surrogate mother's. It's a popular choice. If you're a gay male, and it's your partner who's giving the sperm, and you want some of your family's genes in the child, your sister may agree to donate the egg. The surrogate just offers a womb to grow the embryo.
Many think this is the beginning of an explosion in this business. Certainly Halm says his company is already busy. "This year we plan to help about 50 prospective parents create families. Most are from outside of California, from around the country as well as internationally. In many countries [surrogate] services are not available, so we have clients from Europe as well as Australia."
San Diego is turning into a maternity ward for the program. "We have clients and we have a lot of our surrogate mothers and egg donors residing in San Diego County."
* * *
It's mid-afternoon. The Japanese film crew turns up at Alvarado Hospital. Dr. David B. Smotrich welcomes them and rustles them down to the lab where "the miracle" happens.
In the lab, Dr. Julie Carver-Ward shows how baby Luc was created. She sits in front of her $50,000 micro-manipulator, a kind of giant microscope. She jiggles a joystick in her left hand. It moves a tube that held Luc's donor-mom's egg "200 microns across" by suction. In her mouth Carver-Ward cradles a second tube, which leads to a long fine needle. When Luc was created, the syringe held the sperm, she says. Looking through the magnifying eyepieces, she pierced the egg with the needle and simply "blew the sperm in."
This time around has been different for Halm and Simard. For Luc's conception, they were able to scan dozens of potential mothers' profiles, which told them everything from eye color to reasons for donating their eggs.
Smotrich, a reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in fertility problems, surrogacy, and in vitro fertilization, has offered his services to Growing Generations. Smotrich was a welcome change. "We needed a doctor in San Diego because both our egg donor and Elizabeth resided here," says Halm. "We had found a couple of doctors here who were either not willing to work with gay couples or put restrictions [on us as gay men], which I thought were discriminatory." Halm says one doctor insisted on a six-month quarantine period for the sperm of gay men to cover the possibility of dormant HIV. "Heterosexuals also contract HIV," he points out.
Halm and Simard are Smotrich's first gay male couple, but it's not a problem. "My opinion about homosexuality is not important. Any morality issues should be raised with ethicists and rabbis and priests. What is important is that children have loving parents."
What about the children? Some ask how fair it is to place the children at the sharp end of this social experiment. What do gay parents tell their kids about the role of their mother? How will the children explain to their friends why they have two fathers?