There’s a white box full of love and loss.
“All of our ultrasound scans,” said Lisa Rehja. Handprints of when we lost jellybean at 20 weeks,” said Lisa Rahja.
That sits in 6-month-old Easton’s nursery.
“We decided it was fitting that Easton is our rainbow that they’ll sit right here and look over him,” said Rahja.
Since Adam and Lisa Rahja started dating in 2012 they knew they wanted to be parents.
“We both wanted to have three kids or so,” said Rahja.
What they didn’t know was the journey it would take to get there.
“We’ve had nine losses. I’ve had seven miscarriages, one ectopic and one stillborn,” said Rahja.
In between the losses Adam and Lisa both went through several rounds of testing along with Intrauterine Insemination and In Vitro Fertilization.
“We have nothing that’s an indicator that we should have an issue. Everything is saying you’re perfectly healthy and should have a healthy child,” said Rahja.
The testing was expensive and cost them more than $200,000 but it was also taking a toll on their mental and physical health.
“With all that we went through we were starting to disbelieve we were ever going to be parents,” said Rahja.
Adam and Lisa weren’t giving up they weighed out their options between fostering, adoption and even surrogacy.
“We wanted to prove that there must be something wrong with me. We are creating these very healthy embryos that we want to give life to and that’s why we chose surrogacy,” said Rahja.
That’s when things began to look up their family friend Kimberly wanted to be their surrogate.
“Having a trusted uterus carrying was relieving because I knew if I would carry it would be a 90% chance of a miscarriage,” said Rahja.
Adam and Lisa were involved through the whole process.
“I was at every screening appointment, almost every doctor appointment, ultrasound. We were hear throughout the whole journey. To be there for the whole birth and be by her side made the whole experience complete,” said Rahja.
On August 18th at 8:02 p.m. Easton Daniel Rahaj was born.
“Disbelief and overjoyed I still honestly can’t believe it. I can’t believe he’s here with us. I’m so thankful for Kimberly,” said Rahja.
Every journey is different when it comes to a surrogate pregnancy whether it’s the legal side or financial compensation.
Currently only Michigan and New York have strict laws in place for surrogacy but in South Dakota, there’s a piece of legislation that might be the end of that option for parenthood.
“I was irate. This should be an option for all deserving families,” said Rahja
Hearing about House Bill 1096 which could potentially change the future of surrogacy in South Dakota lit a fire inside Lisa Rahja.
“I made a phone call to Emilee the next day who was our attorney. I told her I would like to work together as a team to make sure we oppose this bill,” said Rahja.
Emilee Gehling is one out of the four lawyers in South Dakota that practices surrogacy law and she’s the co-owner of the only surrogacy agency in the state Dakota Surrogacy.
“It would make all surrogacy in which anything of value that’s provided to the surrogate void and unenforceable. It also makes it a crime to be a broker or an agency in general,” said Dakota Surrogacy co-owner, Emilee Gehling.
The bill was introduced by Representative John Hansen and Gehling said the proponents of the bill have expressed concern for surrogates to be coerced into something against their will.
“He’s pro-life and worried that since pregnancy is involved a termination could be involved. It’s frustrating because we look at it as surrogacy is pro-life. We’re creating life,” said Gehling.
Gehling said to be a surrogate it’s not an easy task there’s a list of requirements you and your significant other have to fulfill.
“We had a psych evaluation. We both had medical exams. I had a tummy exam. The counselor sat down with us to make sure we were in it for the right reason. What we were going to do for the money that we were paid. Just making sure we were on the same page as a married couple. To make sure he’s not pushing me along or I’m not pushing him,” said Stephanie Witte, a South Dakota surrogate.
Every case is different when it comes to money.
The Rahja’s surrogate did not receive an initial compensation but after the egg retrieval, embryo testing, medical screenings plus the doctor’s appointments, clothing, medication, and other items the totaled to around $60,000 to $70,000.
“We paid for her attorney fees, all the medical bills, her insurance, any medications,” said Rahja.
A group of women started a coalition to lobby and fight against the bill and they’ve testified at the first hearing in the house.
There currently isn’t any law in the state related to surrogacy. They’re willing to negotiate with lawmakers to ensure a safe and fair regulation of surrogacy.
“Surrogacy needs to be an option for any person who wants to become a parent. We need to provide these types of resources. If they want to be paid allow it. We need to ensure the safety of my child she is going to be carrying with her for 24 hours a day for 40 weeks. To ensure we have the proper regulations to ensure only the best-qualified women become surrogates. By doing that we’re going to have the safety we need,” said Rahja.
The bill has already been passed by the South Dakota House. This Wednesday it will be heard by the Senate’s Health and Human Services committee.
Timeline of HB 1096:
1/27/2020 – HB 1096 was introduced and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee
1/29/2020 – HB 1096 was heard in the House Judiciary Committee and two amendments were added. Two amendments were added. HB 1096 passed out of committee 11-1.
2/24/2020 – HB 1096 was debated on the House of Representative’s floor. Amendment was moved to change the bill to a summer study. Joint Rule 5-17 was evoked to stop all debate for two Legislative Days.
2/06/2020 – HB 1096 was debated on the House for 90 minutes. The summer study amendment was tabled. Another amendment was passed adding a summer study to the original bill. An amendment to delay implementation of the ban did not pass. The amended bill passed out of the House of Representatives 46-20.
2/07/2020 – HB 1096 was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and will be scheduled to be heard on 2/26/2020.
The coalition will be testifying February 26th for HB 1096.
by Abbey Taylor – February 24th 2020 – Siouxland News