The full-day event at Chicago's Center on Halstead kicked off with workshops and panels that compare the destinations where gay men can find surrogates to help them become parents, and provide guidance on how to plan a surrogacy journey. Special attention was given to the new opportunities brought about by the new Illinois bill (HB3709) that will take effect on January 1, 2022. The bill is the first in the nation to update the state’s existing infertility insurance law to be fully inclusive of same-sex couples and single parents. It does so by using the LGBTQ-equitable definition of "infertility” that MHB has been advocating for, along with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Organization, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The new definition refers to infertility as not just to a “disease" or “condition,” but also a status. In particular, the bill states that infertility can be characterized by "a person's inability to reproduce either as a single individual or with a partner without medical intervention.” Therefore, starting 2022, eligible gay men may be able to save thousands of dollars on their surrogacy journey.

This advocacy work is part of MHB's primary goal to broaden access to affordable parenting options for gay men. Several conference sessions in the Chicago conference were dedicated to ways in which prospective parents can budget smartly, take advantage of financial assistance and member discounts by MHB, and discover opportunities to receive coverage of surrogacy related medical costs as part of their employee benefits.

The Midwest Surrogacy Conference & Expo is just one of many events the nonprofit organization MHB holds annually in a number of cities across the U.S. and internationally. These events include peer guidance, expert advice, information about financing and grants, inspirational testimonies from surrogates and fathers, and an opportunity to meet dozens of reputable surrogacy providers.

However, for the first 18 months of the pandemic MHB was largely unable to hold such events, and instead used specialized virtual conference technology to offer guidance to the best of their abilities. This fall the organization introduced a robust COVID-safety model that includes on-site rapid testing and safe catering protocols, which allowed it to renew in-person events, starting with the New York conference on September 18-19.  "Our goal is to ensure the health and safety of all participants, while allowing optimal engagement and the immersive experience our conferences are known for,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, MHB’s Executive Director.