"The importance of fully understanding the short and long term impact of surrogacy on the well-being of those involved is recognized in MHB's Framework for Ethical Surrogacy," says Michelle Pine, former MHB Board Member, and chair of MHB's Surrogates Advisory Committee which was actively involved in the drafting of the Framework in 2016. One of the primary principles MHB included in the Framework states that, "Additional medical and social science research is necessary to better understand the motivations, experiences and outcomes of surrogates and egg donors so as to guide best practices across all professional disciplines." Michelle, herself a two-time surrogate, added that "luckily, four years later, there seems to be an explosion of studies in the field.”
The idea for the library was born during Advocacy and Research Forums MHB holds at several of its conferences around the world. "Many of us felt strongly that surrogacy can be practiced ethically, and much of what we recommend was based on what we already knew from medical and social science research, in particular regarding the well-being of all the parties involved in the surrogacy journey," says MHB Executive Director Ron Poole-Dayan, "Some of us had our own notes and databases, but there was no public repository where all of the relevant studies could be accessed."
MHB collaborates with researchers worldwide to encourage and support research to contribute to the understanding of surrogacy and gay parenting.
The studies already available consist of research in the sociology, anthropology, psychology and medical fields, and cover subjects such as: gestational surrogate’s medical and mental health; parenthood – a comparison of gay men, lesbian women, and heterosexual men and women; relationships with, support of, and attitudes toward surrogates; psychological outcomes and adjustment of the children conceived using surrogacy, egg or sperm donation; the impact of surrogacy on surrogates' families; and single parenting.
MHB’s library of academic studies and reviews has been assembled for the most part by the International Surrogacy Research Group, led by Dr. Nicola Carone of the University of Pavia, Italy. Dr. Carone says, “The MHB Surrogacy and Gay Parenting Research Library is unique, since it makes empirical evidence accessible to everyone who is interested in the topic. As researchers, we prioritize that our research informs and has practical implications for policymakers, health practitioners, families, and the general audience. This is part of our goal, but it becomes paramount when relating to an emotionally charged field such as that of surrogacy and LGBTQ parenting. In this vein, the Research Library represents a promising step in this direction."
Also assisting in the effort to keep the library filled with the most recent and important research are: Dr. Henny Bos (University of Amsterdam); Dr. Ellen Lorenceau (University Paris Diderot, CRPMS); Dr. Luis Moya-Albiol (Universitat de València); Dr. Loes van Rijn-van Gelderen (University of Amsterdam); and Dr. Mary Riddle (Pennsylvania State University).
Dr. Riddle and others are already using these studies and reviews to make cases for reform, to explain issues, and refute misconceptions relating to surrogates and gay parenting. However, Dr. Riddle says more research is always needed, especially in the U.S. where funding is limited.
"Controversies have and continue to be raised about gay parenting and surrogacy, many involve assertion regarding supposed adverse mental health outcomes," says the psychologist Dr. Silvia Schneider Fox. Dr. Schneider Fox is an MHB Board Member with many years of experience in the field, and acts as the board liaison for academic research. Dr. Schneider Fox says, "MHB’s goal is for the library to provide easily accessible evidence to inform practitioners in the field, community advocates, policy makers, academicians and, most importantly, prospective parents and women who consider becoming surrogates or egg donors."
The interactive library allows people to browse a list with a short summary elaborating on the academic title, or to search based categories, tags, authors, or any key words. Users can click on each summary to read the academic abstract, a summary of methods, results and conclusions, the full article and journal information (including the Digital Object Identifier), and a link to the full text.
Future enhancements MHB hopes to introduce soon will include summaries written in plain language (alongside the more academic abstracts), and answers to frequently asked questions that will lead the readers to the relevant studies for that topic. MHB is also working on a separate library to include summaries and references of position papers and opinion articles from major social organizations, ethicists, and professional associations.
Along with the Research Library, MHB offers a video library of clips from our conferences and other programs relevant to gay parenting via surrogacy. Also available on MHB’s site, a library of articles addressing major medical, legal, financial, and mental aspects of the surrogacy process written primarily by members of the MHB Advisory Board.
The Research Library is always open to new additions of studies that explain issues surrounding surrogates and LGBTQ parenting. MHB will consider suggestions for additional studies or articles for its coming library of position paper.