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Robin von Halle founded Alternative Reproductive Resources, (ARR) in 1992 when her own quest for a therapy for infertility led to a deep exploration of the then-fledgling field of oocyte (egg) donation and its various implications.
Ultimately, von Halle and her husband, who’d had no difficulties conceiving their first son, adopted their second one when the opportunity presented itself during their investigation of options.
Yet von Halle’s research made her realize that this emerging field was ripe for the establishment of agencies that would serve as a caring ally for would-be parents, a protective resource for donors, and a knowledgeable partner to medical professionals. It was that positioning which guided the launch of ARR and has dictated its success ever since.
ARR was the first such “matchmaker” in Chicago and one of the first in the United States. What von Halle brought to the business was her education (a bachelor’s degree in psychology and mental health technology) and her hands-on experience giving people one-on-one attention as a crisis line volunteer and as a business trainer.
“That one-on-one time is my forte, in talking with clients or with donors,” she says. “It means that I know the personalities and needs. I don’t leave prospective parents to their own devices – ‘look at my database and pick someone.’” This sort of decision really merits more personalized guidance and attention.”
The business has change substantially in the last 15 years, von Halle recalls. “It was all very new and very hush-hush back then. Inevitably, infertile couples would have to drag their unhappy sisters to the medical consultations because anonymous donors weren’t the norm back. It was a situation rife with both physical and psychological stressors for everyone involved.”
What really paved the way for this sort of business to thrive early on was the development of more formal screening protocols for donors. “It wasn’t just an issue of whether the egg donor was of a certain age, IQ, a blue-eyed blonde or of a certain ethnicity,” she says. “More critical was the need to dig in to her health history to ensure conditions would be optimal for harvesting healthy eggs.
In addition to matching prospective parents with egg donors, ARR moved into gestational surrogacy in 2001. In 2005, Illinois state laws changed, and Illinois became one of the most surrogate-friendly states in the nation. Egg donation is an accepted procedure for women who cannot produce a viable egg, but can otherwise carry an embryo to term. Gestational surrogacy involves women carrying an embryo most often from an egg produced by the biological mother (who can’t carry to term) and fertilized in vitro by the biological father.
“It’s a fascinating and incredibly rewarding business,” says von Halle. “I’m as proud of the relationships we’ve formed with many families as the standards we’ve set for the industry as it continues to evolve. It’s all sure to work in our favor as we move toward the next 15 years!”
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