No matter your race, gender or sexual identity, the dream of becoming a parent seems universal. But for many, it’s a desire that can start a long and complex journey that may seem overwhelming or unattainable. Infertility affects 12% of opposite-sex couples, and for those who want to have children without a partner or for gay couples, fertility treatment creates an opportunity to start or grow a biological family. For the majority of same-sex male couples, the help of a ​gestational surrogate​ may also be needed to achieve this dream.

Over many decades, federal and state laws have made it hard for people in need of alternative methods to build their families, such as fertility treatment and surrogacy, to become parents, and Washington is no different. Although these laws are aimed to protect everyone involved, often times it can feel like yet another obstacle for LGBTQ+ people to overcome.

Anyone who was watching the news in the mid-’80s might remember a national scandal surrounding a surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead, who changed her mind and fought to keep the baby she was carrying for an infertile couple. This incident, known as the “Baby M” case, went to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and although the judge ultimately awarded custody to the intended parents based on “a best interest of the child analysis,” the general U.S. public, largely unfamiliar with the technology behind gestational surrogacy at the time, deemed it a scandal, which helped to solidify a negative perspective of surrogacy. It’s important to note that Mary Beth Whitehead was a traditional surrogate, which means her eggs were used for the pregnancy, making her the biological mother of the child.

The vast majority of fertility treatments in the U.S. that need a surrogate utilize gestational surrogacy, the process in which the embryo is created via in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the eggs of the intended parents or a donor’s, and then transferring them to the surrogate. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is not biologically related to the child they’re carrying. Many states still render surrogacy and donor agreements unenforceable.

In these earlier decisions, the general worry was that children born from these agreements would be treated as commodities, but research over the last 30 years has shown that children born through surrogacy are “extremely desired children and are being raised by highly committed and loving parents,” according to the New York Task Force on Life and the Law. Now, the damage surrogacy bans have done to the cause of reproductive freedom is being undone in Washington state—and soon will be in New York, and likely in more and more states to come.

In a historic decision by Washington state legislators, Governor Jay Inslee signed the updated Uniform Parentage Act (UPA 2017) into law on January 1, 2019. The new version of these laws focuses on gestational surrogacy and allows for enforceable surrogacy and donor agreements, adds important protections for LGBTQ+ intended parents, and ends a previous prohibition on compensated surrogacy. This is an exciting and important moment for the LGBTQ+ community and for anyone who needs surrogacy to become a parent.

Now with these updated laws, Washington has become an extremely desirable destination for LGBTQ+ intended parents and other people from all over the world seeking fertility treatment. A surrogacy-friendly legal environment is essential for a safe surrogacy journey, and now it’s safer than ever in the Pacific Northwest. “This is an exciting time in reproductive medicine here in the Pacific Northwest,” says Dr. Jamie Massie, board-certified OBGYN and Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist at the ORM Fertility Bellevue clinic. “We’re proud to offer ​world-class fertility treatment for the LGBTQ community​ and for anyone outside of this region who are hoping to expand their families.”

ORM Fertility​ is a world-class fertility center passionately committed to helping people grow their families. ORM Fertility is committed to achieving the highest success rates and provides a customized, compassionate patient experience. Unrivaled expertise and outstanding results make ORM Fertility one of the most sought-after fertility centers in the world. Learn more about ORM Fertility & services.