Military Wives Turn to Surrogacy: Labor of Love or Financial Boost?

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"It certainly is a slippery slope to start and it invades all kinds of privacy rights to ask about what women are doing with their bodies," Brisman said.

While some might argue that government-funded surrogacy is a use of taxpayer dollars that ought to be questioned, Brisman says the actual costs are not worth the battle.

"Your average pregnancy paid out by Tricare isn't a heck of a lot of money," Brisman said. "So investigating all of that, first you have to say, 'Is it worth it? Is it right?'"

Freelance journalists Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann spent two years investigating the practice of surrogacy by military wives.

Partnering with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, Nosheen and Schellmann's findings appear in the November issue of Glamour magazine.

"We found out that there is basically no regulation," said Schellmann. "We were like, "This is the Wild West. There are no [federal] laws regulating this industry at all, and almost anything is possible."

Surrogacy is not regulated and in several states, including New York, it's illegal for money to change hands for a surrogacy.

"It's probably not in Tricare's best interest to be using their resources to track down these surrogate mothers," said Nosheen. "The question, I think, will become more important if more and more women are doing this...If we start seeing this number go up from 15 to 20 percent to maybe 50 percent or something higher, then we may have Tricare saying, 'Wait a minute, we can't fund this.'"

Military Community Split on Surrogacy

Opinions in the military world vary. Some bloggers on military websites are not supportive of military wives being surrogates if it means using government healthcare.

On MilitarySOS.com, an online support network for military spouses and family members, a blogger wrote: "Taxpayers are footing the bill for medical care for military beneficiaries. They should not be expected to pay to care for someone who isn't a military beneficiary."

Nosheen and Schellmann also have a warning for surrogates.

"A lot of women who are signing up to be surrogates and using their Tricare policy...have no idea that Tricare actually has a policy...that says 'We can come after you and recoup the money for the pregnancy, if we find out you are doing a surrogate pregnancy,'" Nosheen said.

To avoid any insurance problems, Heather, a four-time gestational surrogate, had the intended parents pay out-of-pocket costs.

One of those parents is Taryn, who found Heather after several in-vitro fertilizations and a failed pregnancy.

Taryn paid Heather $25,000 to carry and deliver a baby. She also picked up about $10,000 of Heather's medical bills. In 2005, Taryn was there in the delivery room for her son's birth.

"It was just unbelievable, and he came out, and he just started screaming and I was happy to hear that cry...I looked at him and it was like looking at myself in a mirror."

Today, thanks to surrogacy, Taryn has two sons, ages four and two. She cannot imagine life any other way.

"It just was everything I dreamed of, everything I wished for. I see no down-side to surrogacy. I would not have my family if it wasn't for Heather," she said.

As for Heather, being a surrogate is an experience she treasures.

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