The family of former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) has been reveling in the joy of three new granddaughters after his eldest daughter, Lien Hui-hsin (連惠心), sought to end 17 years of infertility with her husband, Chen Hung-yuan (陳弘元), through surrogates in the US.
Lien Chan’s office spokesperson, Ting Yuan-chao (丁遠超), confirmed on Friday the new arrivals to the family, without elaborating further.
Chen and 45-year-old Lien Hui-hsin reportedly sought medical treatment during their years of infertility at several institutions, including Taipei-based Chung Shan Hospital.
With the treatments yielding no results and amid the country’s pending decriminalization of surrogate motherhood, the couple reportedly sought hope from surrogacy agencies in the US, sources said.
Sources said that embryo transfers into the two US surrogate mothers Lien Hui-hsin found were successful, with one giving birth to a baby girl and the other giving birth to twin girls last month.
The three babies are named Chen Han-chang (陳含璋), Chen Ko-chen (陳可真) and Chen Yi-ming (陳以明).
Acquaintances of the Lien family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the three girls have returned to Taiwan with Lien Hui-hsin and that they learned about the good news only after receiving baby-shower glutinous rice from the family on Friday.
“Between 30,000 and 40,000 barren women are in need of surrogate motherhood in Taiwan. With surrogacy not yet legal in the country, those from affluent backgrounds will turn to surrogacy agencies in California, and those with less financial resources to institutions in Southeast Asian countries,” said Tsai Feng-po (蔡鋒博), proprietor of the Changhua-based Poyuan In Vitro Fertilization Center.
Tsai said that while California has legalized surrogate motherhood, as well as egg and sperm donations, women wishing to become surrogates have to pass a stringent screening process and a mental evaluation by psychiatrists to ascertain that they are not motivated by money.
“On average, only one out of 100 surrogate hopefuls are qualified in the end,” Tsai added.
Gestational surrogacy through an established legitimate US agency usually costs about US$200,000, including fees for legal services, in vitro fertilization (IVF), nutritional supplements and services for the surrogate mother, Tsai said, adding that a surrogate generally receives between NT$1 million (US$34,200) and NT$1.5 million per pregnancy.
In a relatively patriarchal society like Taiwan, US surrogacy services may appear more appealing to infertile couples because, despite the country advising against gender selection, the practice is not officially banned and can still be carried out.
“Embryo sex selection is a viable option for couples opting for surrogate motherhood, because the majority of gestational surrogacy is conducted via IVF and the US government has yet to prohibit the practice,” Tsai said.
“Doctors can select the gender either after the embryo has divided to form an eight-cell embryo three days after the fertilization, or wait until the embryo develops into a blastocyst on day five, before implanting it into the uterus,” Tsai said.
However, Tsai said that seeking surrogate motherhood in the US has its drawbacks, citing two Taiwanese who came home disappointed after one of them suffered setbacks due to language barriers and the other ended up with an uncooperative surrogate who suffered massive bleeding after refusing to take necessary medication.
In Taiwan, the issue of surrogate motherhood has long been contentious.
However, amid growing calls for its legalization, the conclusion of a citizens’ conference meeting commissioned by the Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion on Sept. 29 resolved many of the issues, pending approval of the long-stalled surrogacy act in the legislature.
The meeting reached a consensus that two scenarios of gestational surrogacy should be allowed: cases in which barren couples provide both the sperm and egg and cases in which infertile couples provide either the sperm or the egg, with the other provided by an anonymous donor.
The meeting also reached a consensus that surrogate motherhood should be an unpaid service, with the payment of necessary medical costs and nutritional supplements being the exceptions.
Additional Reporting by Lin Hsiang-mei