by Zara Rawoof
The U.S. faces a unique situation of having outdated healthcare restrictions in the modern world. A majority of the country does not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, but an outcry of disapproval from medical professionals and citizens is seemingly not enough to alter the unwavering decision from the country’s most powerful judicial system. When the decision was announced this past June, the country’s largely pro-choice community expressed their grief, horror, and anger over the overruling. Pro-choice communities protested through torrents of online posts and hashtags, amplifying the voices of terrified women globally. But since the initial uproar this summer, Americans have remained considerably quieter. The issue seemed to fade in importance, no longer illuminated with red, flashing lights. Even if your Instagram timeline became quieter, abortion bans still restrict women in 13 states from access to basic health care.
Trailblazers like Evie Jeang remind the public of how these laws change lives. Jeang is an expert in all things surrogacy, and has seen how the Supreme Court’s decision has affected families trying to conceive. An attorney in California and New York, Jeang’s legal background expanded into a career focused on family and surrogacy law. She founded Ideal Legal Group, specializing in family, custody, and labor. Jeang’s expertise also led to the creation of Surrogacy Concierge, an agency that eases the stress of the process by pairing families with their surrogates. Evie Jeang’s Taiwanese background motivated her to create a service inclusive of all cultures and identities. But much of the work she was doing was turned on its head with the recent decision of Roe v. Wade. “A lot of people would start looking for surrogates in Texas because everything’s cheaper,” Jeang tells us, “As Roe v. Wade has been overturned, now none of my clients will even consider surrogacy in Texas because it’s too scary.” The attorney recalls that as the state’s trigger laws were put in place, the contract between both parties in the surrogacy process became essential to protect the carrier’s wellbeing. With Texas regulations criminalizing assistance to abortion in any aspect, Jeang’s clients are staying safe in America’s more liberal states.
It may not feel like it now, but the U.S. still remains severely less conservative in comparison to the strict laws of other countries. Jeang has many international clients who are unmarried or in a same-sex relationship, which prevents them from pursuing surrogacy in their home countries. Many parts of Asia and Europe still do not recognize non-married and homosexual marriages as legally binding, making artificial conception impossible. Jeang remembers how these international families were impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. “People who had already finished the [surrogacy] process, waiting for the baby to be born, couldn’t even see their baby,” Jeang explains, “It's the same situation in Ukraine with Russia’s conflict. Ukraine was responsible for a lot of European couples’ surrogacies and the nurses ended up staying to take care of these newborns.”
Between the hit from COVID-19 and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Jeang was aghast at how surrogacy was changing. “[COVID-19] Was my first shock because a lot of people couldn’t come into the United States, especially if they were from China. Then it was followed by Roe v. Wade, and I had two major things affecting my industry just three years apart. It’s not even five or ten,” Jeang says. But the rapid evolution that the world was faced with softened the blow of Roe v. Wade’s overturning. “These things just tell you that nothing is expected,” the attorney explains, “Before COVID-19, you would have never thought that those two events would happen, or so quickly. In such a short time, we’re making history.”
Evie Jeang faces these challenges head-on. “Politics have changed my business. They’ve changed people’s rights, and whether or not their dreams come true,” she says, “But I think there’s always a loophole. If people are committed to having children, it’s going to work out in some way or another. I’m just glad California respected the process of surrogacy.”
With Ideal Legal Group and Surrogacy Concierge already helping out families, Jeang is launching an app called Hera to provide additional information throughout the untraditional childbearing adventure. “The whole process of surrogacy probably takes about twelve people,” Jeang explains, “And this is the reason why we came up with Hera. Imagine all the things popping into your head through this journey. ‘I have to go here, I have to hire an attorney, I have to go to therapy, I have to go to the clinic’, and you have this bubble in your head. Hera centralizes [the process] so everything is in one straight line and leads you step-by-step.” Hera even eliminates the need for a third-party agency, instead allowing clients to search for surrogates on their own time.
Jeang is committed to forming families stems from her own experiences. Growing up as an immigrant inspired her to pursue a career in law, dedicated to fighting for what she felt was right. Jeang began practicing family law after remembering what it was like “playing the messenger” between her parents during their divorce. “It’s one thing when you don’t get along with your partner, but what they often forget is the impact it has with the children,” Jeang says. She may have been established in her career, but Jeang was feeling pressure to get married and start a family soon. “I feel like a lot of the time women pick their partner not because it’s the right choice, but because their biological clock is ticking or society is telling them to get married. A lot of the time women settle, but you never want to. I always say that when you have to make a choice out of fear, it’s never the best choice,” she says. The attorney made the decision to freeze her eggs at the age of 28, giving her more time to plan a family. But Jeang says that women often decide to go through with egg freezing too late, when they are unfit for pregnancy. This is something she experienced.
“It’s like buying life insurance,” is how Jeang’s close friend explained the process to her. Jeang went through with egg freezing after seeing her friend diagnosed with Breast Cancer do the same. When Jeang realized she could conquer parenthood without a partner, she decided that it was time to “go for it”. But Jeang was not reacting well to the hormone therapy, and eventually learned that she had a grapefruit-sized tumor in her uterus. It became clear that carrying a child to full term would be putting her life on the line, and Jeang opted for a surrogate to conceive her now 7-year-old son. “That’s why I’m doing something I’m passionate about. I personally experienced this. No woman has to lose their dream of becoming a mother.”
As if Evie Jeang’s multiple businesses, podcasts, and occasional lectures weren’t doing enough to help families understand their options, she has recently embarked on a journey as an author. Her children’s book How Much We Love You navigates Jeang’s personal journey with IVF in a palatable manner. “I wanted to help children to understand that just because their family formed in an untraditional way, they aren’t worth any less than others,” she says, “People are afraid of the unknown. But if we can make children feel worthy and help them with self-confidence, we can avoid bullying and tragedy.”
Jeang remembers driving her son to school as a toddler when he first asked about where he came from. “That was the moment where I was like, do I tell him the truth or do I come up with some beautiful fairy tale story that our parents tell us?” she recalls. Jeang opted for the truth, telling her son all about the “grapefruit” inside her stomach that took up too much space and the “sweet angel” who acted as her surrogate. Jeang remembers anticipating her toddler’s response, wondering if the truth was too overwhelming. But after he agreed that he would be too big to fit in her stomach, Jeang decided to spare other parents the same nervousness she felt. Through telling her story, Jeang has taught her child to be proud of where he came from.
Evie Jeang has a second book coming out next year, focused on the family unit of LGBTQIA+ parents. It was inspired by the people in her and her son’s life who also challenge the traditional norms of what a family looks like. “It’s all about love. Family is how you define it, and that’s why I came up with the book series,” Jeang emphasizes.
Understanding your rights has always been important. But for women, these recent decisions made by the government should be a wake up call. It’s time to understand your options on either end of the spectrum, whether that means having a foolproof contraceptive plan or conceiving through methods like IVF. Experts like Evie Jeang are few and far between. The CEO makes dreams come true, whether it’s creating a family or leaving a marriage. Her dedication to helping clients is unwavering, leaving no time for false promises. “All of this has nothing to do with helping a doctor gain more patients,” Jeang says, “This is for you. This is for women to have some kind of security and to know that this is something that they can always go to if they decide to have a child, or if they don't find ‘the one’. What does finding ‘the one’ even mean? I think that's another Disney-type romantic story. I mean, if there was just one soulmate, I wouldn’t be a family law attorney, right?”