BOISE, Idaho — Starting a family can be tough for some people. They can spend years trying to get pregnant, using fertility treatments, or trying to adopt. It's not only hard financially, but there's also an emotional burden and that's why many people have turned to surrogacy in their time of need and some are coming to the Treasure Valley to do it.
In fact, Boise is being coined as the unofficial capital of surrogacy by some of these people.
“There are other states that are really busy like California, but intending parents are attracted to Boise," CEO of Host of Possibilities Surrogacy Agency Nicole Williamson said.” “We have a lot of healthy parents, the cost is lower which doesn’t affect the quality, we have a lot of genuine women who care about others who want to help.”
Surrogacy in Boise gained national attention, after director Beth Aala recently shined a spotlight on it, in her documentary, "Made in Boise."
Williamson was featured in the documentary and she’s also been a surrogate four times.
“I love being pregnant and so it was a way for me to continue being pregnant but not have to keep the baby and raise it,” she explained.
Right now, the surrogacy agency has about 100 surrogates pregnant, according to Williamson, with 20 to 30 parents waiting to be matched.
In Boise, there are seven surrogacy agencies, which Williamson says is a large number for such a small area.
In order to use a surrogate, the parents must have a medical need, which could mean they've been through multiple rounds of In-Vitro Fertilization, they've experienced a miscarriage, or they're same-sex couples who biologically can't carry a baby. The intending parents make their embryos at a clinic with egg and sperm donors or their own biological materials and then implant it into the surrogate.
“There's nothing biological, they (the surrogates) are literally just a host for the baby,” Williamson said.
The surrogacy process can cost intending parents between $100,000 and $150,000 depending on the situation. Surrogates are paid between $28,000 to $38,000.
According to the Association of Reproductive Medicine, surrogates must be under the age of 44 and someone who has had a full-term pregnancy without any complication, they must also undergo a psych evaluation and be financially stable.
While many of the surrogates are based in Boise, the intending parents are from all over the world.
“We have a lot of clients just in general from Washington state, but we do have a really large number from Israel, Spain, London, where it isn’t legal for them to compensate surrogates. Traditional couples, they can adopt, but in some of those countries, same-sex couples can’t adopt, they can’t use a surrogate so this is kind of their only option,” Williamson said.
Idan Davidi and Idan Hayout traveled to Boise from Israel to witness the birth of their baby, Ella.
“Our dream brought us to Boise,” Hayout said. “We’re in Love.”
Ella was born in October 2019, the couple recently returned to Israel.
“You can’t explain this feeling until you get your child in your arms,” Davidi said.
Over the years, both surrogacy agencies, as well as hospitals have seen the number of their surrogacy cases grow.
St. Lukes Medical Center in Boise handles about 4,300 births a year and across the Treasure Valley, it sees about 100 surrogacy cases, according to Carol Forsberg, the program manager for the Unique Families Program at St. Luke’s.
“I think the laws in Idaho lend to the availability, but I really think it is the community of Boise and the women here,” Forsberg said. “I know at the Boise campus there are a number of nurses who surrogate and have been a number of times.”
Families across the world are now growing roots in the City of Trees.
“You go from complete strangers to extended family in all of like a year, it's pretty amazing,” Williamson said.
When it comes to surrogacy, New York and Michigan are the only states where it not legal.