Surrogacy in Mexico
The appeal for finding a surrogate in Mexico is obvious.
In the United States, surrogacy costs anywhere from $70,000 to over $200,000. In Mexico, it could be one-third to half that amount. That, coupled with the 2021 Mexican Supreme Court decision declaring surrogacy a protected medical procedure, makes it seem like Mexico could be a great place for foreigners to grow their families through surrogacy.
While that seems promising, a Supreme Court ruling does NOT mean a clear law supporting surrogacy, and without strict regulations, both surrogates and intended parents are exposed to serious risks of exploitation.
For this reason, the US Embassy starkly warns US citizens of pursuing surrogacy in Mexico and generally advises against such a practice.
This article explores the legality of surrogacy in Mexico, reviews investigative reports, examines hurdles and steps U.S. citizens pursuing surrogacy in Mexico must go through, and discusses other potential options for growing one’s family through surrogacy. Let’s begin!
Is Surrogacy in Mexico Legal?
As with most things involving surrogacy, it’s complicated.
There are no federal laws supporting or prohibiting surrogacy in Mexico. This leaves much regarding surrogacy to individual states and an unregulated industry.
Historically, most surrogacy cases involving foreign nationals took place in the state of Tobasco. That changed when, in 2016, the state put a ban on Surrogacy for foreigners, effectively shutting down the international demand for Mexican surrogates.
That changed again when, in 2021, Mexico’s supreme court overturned the prohibition against surrogacy by Tobasco. This ruling decreed surrogacy a protected medical procedure for single, as well as homo and heterosexual married couples, including foreigners.
It is important to remember, however, that a court’s ruling does NOT mean that any federal or state laws/regulations regarding surrogacy exist. And despite the Supreme Court’s decree, many Mexican states have been slow to implement the mandate, and others still have continued legislating prohibitions of surrogacy for foreign nationals.
Without clear laws and regulations, both impoverished women turning to surrogacy to support their family and intended parents remain exposed to serious risks of exploitation.
Overview of Challenges Intended Parents Pursuing Surrogacy Face in Mexico
The US Embassy and Consulate in Mexico outlines a number of challenges faced by those pursuing surrogacy in Mexico, highlighting the lack of legal framework, non-enforcement of gestational carrier agreements, legal and administrative roadblocks, delayed court hearings, and citizen issues.
Lack of Legal Framework:
One of the foremost challenges is the absence of a legal framework safeguarding foreigners and same-sex couples engaging in surrogacy. This gap exposes intended parents to potential legal complications.
Non-enforcement of Surrogacy Agreements:
Mexican courts’ non-enforcement of surrogacy agreements adds another layer of complexity. Intended parents may find themselves in legal limbo, facing uncertainties regarding parental rights.
Administrative and Legal Impediments:
U.S. citizen parents encounter administrative and legal obstacles when documenting surrogacy-born children. Navigating through bureaucratic processes becomes a time-consuming and potentially expensive task.
Delays in Court Decisions:
The legal landscape in Mexico contributes to potential delays in court decisions on parental rights and custody. Weeks to months may pass before a resolution is reached, causing emotional strain for the parents.
Citizenship Does Not Guarantee Custody:
It’s crucial to understand that citizenship alone does not automatically confer custody. Parental rights are subject to Mexican law, highlighting the need for a comprehensive understanding of the legal context.
Warnings Issued by the US Embassy and Consulates
Due to the lack of legal framework and other issues intended parents might face, the US Embassy issues a number of warnings to keep an eye out for.
Warning Against Guaranteed Legality:
Intended parents should exercise caution when agencies or clinics make guarantees about the legality of surrogacy in Mexico without adequately explaining the inherent risks involved. Transparency is key to making informed decisions.
Issues with “VIP” Packages:
“VIP” packages offering expedited appointments, tailored delivery dates, and birth documents omitting the gestational mother are common, but are likely outside the boundaries of Mexican law and may lead to complications.
Rare Possibility of Gestational Mother’s Rights:
Despite contractual agreements, there’s a possibility of the gestational mother enforcing parental rights. Intended parents should be aware of the legal nuances surrounding surrogacy in Mexico.
Understanding Mexican Law:
An emphasis on understanding Mexican law, particularly its recognition of the gestational mother on the birth certificate, is essential. Legal clarity is crucial for navigating the surrogacy journey successfully.
Criminal Prosecution Risks:
Attempting to circumvent local laws may lead to criminal prosecution. Intended parents must operate within the legal framework to protect their interests and those of the surrogate and child.
The US Embassy recommends having a deep understanding of how citizenship is obtained for children born through assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy abroad. Learn more here.
Cautionary Tales Reported by Vice Investigative Journalists
In support of the embassy’s warning against surrogacy in Mexico, the skilled investigative reporters of Vice uncovered a number of horror stories in their piece on surrogacy back in 2022.
The journalists shined a light on what exactly the lack of regulation and oversight means for surrogacy in Mexico. Vice’s journalism documented numerous stories of exploitation, including surrogates who received far less money than promised, intended parents being cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars, foreigners being stranded in Mexico without a passport for their baby, low standards and poor screening of surrogates, and surrogates being forced into risky procedures like c-section for the parent’s convenience.
The Vice article also articulated the standing of the US Embassy, which, in an interview with Vice, reinforced the fact that Mexican courts “may fail to enforce surrogacy agreements” and that “Mexican authorities have made arrests stemming from surrogacy cases.”
Vice notes that many surrogacy journeys in Mexico end happily, but a frightening amount of horror stories have also emerged, including incidentals like:
Steps for U.S. Citizens Bringing Surrogacy Babies from Mexico according to the US Embassy:
No matter where you pursue surrogacy, it’s important for you to understand the process. If you’re determined to undergo surrogacy in Mexico, it’s important to follow some additional steps outlined by the US Embassy and Consulate.
Step 1: Complete eCRBA Application Online at MyTravelGov
Early contact with the U.S. Embassy for guidance is crucial. Creating a MyTravelGov account and submitting the eCRBA application online streamlines the process.
Step 2: Schedule an Appointment at the Embassy or Consulate
Contacting the embassy after obtaining the Mexican birth certificate is the next step. Providing specific information about the surrogacy situation is essential for a smooth process.
Step 3: Attend a Citizenship Interview
Arriving early and undergoing security screening precede the citizenship interview. The two-hour visit requires preparation, including information about genetically related parents and supplemental documentation.
Step 4: Decision
The consular officer provides the decision at the end of the interview. Instructions are given for cases with insufficient evidence or DNA suggestions. Approved Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) and passports take four to six weeks for delivery to Mexico or the U.S. An option for courier service is available for those residing in the United States.
The Bottom Line on Surrogacy in Mexico
Navigating surrogacy in Mexico demands careful consideration, legal awareness, and adherence to the proper procedures. U.S. citizens can successfully overcome these hurdles, though it is not for the faint of heart and not without risk to for the intended parents, the baby, or the woman acting as the surrogate.