Can Two Men Have a Baby? Gay Parenting Options
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 15% of same-sex couples in the United States had at least one child under the age of 18 in 2019. This is thanks in large part to the growing number of adoption and surrogacy options available to gay couples today, compared to what was available a decade ago.
In this article, we’ll be shedding light on how two men can have a baby together, the legal and financial costs associated with starting a family, and the scope for new reproductive technologies in the future.
Can two men have a baby together?
Yes, two men can have a baby. One popular option is through surrogacy where the baby is biologically related to one father and is carried to term by a surrogate mother. Other options for gay couples include adoption and foster care.
Options for two men looking to have a child
Having a biological child is a dream for many. And for gay couples, surrogacy makes that dream a reality. If you’re not familiar with the process of surrogacy, here’s an overview of key information to consider.
Types of surrogates
A gestational surrogate is a type of surrogacy arrangement where the pregnant individual carries and delivers a child for the intended parent or parents. In this scenario, the baby is not biologically related to the carrier, i.e. the surrogate mother. Instead, a fertilized egg from another biological woman is implanted into the surrogate mother via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
From a legal standpoint, gestational surrogacies are the most attractive option. This is because the surrogate mother is not biologically linked to the baby, meaning they will not have a strong legal claim to the child should they change their mind during pregnancy.
Unlike gestational surrogacies where the surrogate mother is not biologically linked to the baby, traditional surrogate mothers are. This means that in addition to carrying the baby, the surrogate mother is also the baby’s biological mother. This is made possible by impregnating the surrogate mother’s eggs through either intrauterine insemination (IUI) or IVF.
Compared to gestational surrogates, traditional surrogates tend to be less expensive. However, legally speaking, traditional surrogacies are considered to be more high-risk because the surrogate mother is also the biological mother, and could potentially have a claim to custody and/or visitation should they wish to seek that in court.
Types of egg donors
If you are looking to go the gestational surrogate route, you will need to find an egg donor. This donated egg will then be fertilized with one father’s sperm through IVF. Here’s a look at the different types of egg donors.
A “known donor” is simply an egg donor that you know personally. For example, they could be a close friend or relative. Because this type of donor is already known to you, you will not need to go through an agency or fertility clinic to find an egg. For many couples, this route can help to reduce overall surrogacy costs, especially if the donor is willing to donate their egg to you for free as an act of love or support.
Once the baby is born, it is common for known donors to remain in contact with the couple and the baby. However, they will not act as a parent. Known donors are typically only recommended in situations where all parties involved already have a strong foundation of trust.
An “anonymous donor” is just that – anonymous. This means that you will not know them personally, and you will not receive any identifying information about them. Anonymous egg donors are often coordinated by the surrogacy agency or clinic at an additional cost. Once the baby is born, you will have no contact with the biological mother.
A “semi-open donor” is a type of arrangement where only some information is shared between the egg donor and the intended parents. Both parties are not in direct contact with each other, however, they can share limited information, updates, and photos via an intermediary (such as a lawyer or the agency/clinic). If both parties agree, they can choose to open up the arrangement further in the future as the child ages.
Instead of speaking through an intermediary like in a semi-open donor relationship, both parties in an “open donor” arrangement can communicate with each other directly. In this scenario, it is common for the parties to meet each other in person at some point before or after birth. However, individual arrangements and communication patterns can vary.
Due to the legal complexities of surrogacy, we recommend working with a surrogate agency that can guide you through the legal process. They can put you in contact with an experienced attorney, and they will know exactly what you need to prepare ahead of time to ensure the legal process goes smoothly.
According to American Surrogacy, there are three key elements of the surrogate legal process:
- The surrogacy contracts: This is an outline of the financial and social responsibilities of each party.
- The pre-birth order: This is the first step towards establishing the intended parents as the legal parents.
- The adoption/post-birth process: this involves the full adoption paperwork after the child is born.
The costs of surrogacy can depend on factors like the type of surrogate you are using, where they are located, what type of egg donor you have, and whether or not the surrogate mother will have to undergo IVF.
One surrogacy expert, William Houghton, estimates total surrogacy costs in the United States to be approximately $120,000 with IVF and $98,000 without IVF. However, these figures can vary depending on location.
Remember, as intended parents using the help of a surrogate, you will be responsible for all agency fees, legal fees, and medical costs. Not only that, but you must also fairly compensate your surrogate mother.
Another option for hopeful couples is adoption. Here’s a look at potential pathways along with the legal and cost considerations.
According to the Children’s Bureau, there are five different pathways for adoption:
- Public domestic adoption
- Private domestic adoption
- Independent domestic adoption
- Intercountry adoption with a Hague Convention country
- Intercountry adoption with a Non-Hague Convention country
Each pathway has its own pros, cons, and restrictions. For more information, we recommend reading the Children’s Bureau fact sheet Exploring the Pathways to Adoption.
Just like surrogacy, the legal nature of adoption is complex and the laws can vary from state to state and country to country. That’s why we always recommend working with a licensed adoption agency in your area that can guide you through the process.
Some of the most common legal processes that you will have to undergo in the United States include:
- Undergoing a home study
- Creating an adoption plan
- Filing a petition for adoption once the baby is born
- Finalizing the adoption
American Adoptions estimates that the average cost of a private adoption in the United States is around $70,000. This encompasses all adoption agency fees, legal fees, medical costs, and potential living costs of the birth mother.
However, bear in mind that this cost is contingent on where you reside and where you are adopting from. To get a better feel for the costs and processes associated with adoption in your area, the Child Information Gateway resource on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website is a great place to start.
Foster care is another potential avenue for two men looking to start a family. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were approximately 424,000 children in foster care on any given day in 2019.
To become a foster parent you must first be licensed. The licensing requirements can vary from state to state, however, the general process typically involves:
- Background checks
- Home safety checks
- Family assessment
Once you are licensed, you can be called upon to foster a child at any moment in time. The difficult part about being a foster parent is that you will not know how long a child will be with you – it could be one week or several years! In some situations, foster care can lead to adoption, though this is not guaranteed.
What’s the future of two-father biological children?
Technology has come a long way since the first surrogacy birth in 1985. However, it is still not possible for a gay couple to have a child using DNA from both fathers.
This may change in the future, with the experimental process of IVG (in vitro gametogenesis) continuing to be studied in mice. This process allows scientists to reprogram adult cells to become both sperm and egg cells, ushering in the potential to create an embryo from two males. Whether or not this will be a possibility for couples in the future is yet to be determined.