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In this June 1981 file photo, convicted murderer Charles Manson is photographed during an interview with television talk show host Tom Snyder in a medical facility in Vacaville, Calif.

‘Surrogacy can be the most beautiful gift’: St. Luke's sees more patients in its program

TWIN FALLS — After having six biological children, becoming a surrogate mother was in the back of Jennifer Yost’s mind for years.

But for the Jerome woman, it wasn’t easy to take the first step.

“It took me almost six years to bring it up with my husband,” Yost said. Her husband was great about it, she said, and they talked about the idea with their children, too.

Yost wanted to participate in a gestational surrogacy — where she carried someone else’s child, but didn’t donate her own eggs. “I’m just the oven,” she said.

Nearly two years ago, she delivered a baby boy at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center — the biological child of another Idaho couple.

“Surrogacy can be the most beautiful gift you can give to someone else,” Yost said.

Surrogacy is part of the St. Luke’s Health System‘s relatively new Unique Families Program, launched in 2013. Here in the Magic Valley, it’s only the second year of the program. Yost was the first patient and she’s among eight families who’ve participated.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley is also coming up on its third international surrogacy — where a woman here is carrying a baby for parents who live in a foreign country.

The Unique Families Program encompasses surrogacy, adoptions, refugee and inmate populations, migrant families and same-sex couples. It’s designed to help families have a better experience in the hospital, said Tracy Larsen, maternal child case manager for St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center.

Medical providers refer patients to the program. A team meets with affected families between 20 and 28 weeks into the pregnancy to answer their questions and come up with a plan for delivery so there aren’t any surprises.

If possible, the meeting includes the adoptive parents or those who will take the baby once they are born.

Across the St. Luke’s Health System, the number of surrogacy admissions has grown steadily. There was a 166 percent increase just between the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years — from 30 to 80 families — but numbers dropped off slightly for the 2017 fiscal year.

One possible reason for the increase: Idaho has the least restrictive surrogacy process in the United States, Larsen said, and there aren’t any state laws on the books regulating it.

‘It’s not a

common thing’

Yost grew up in a huge family: She’s among 12 biological children and her parents also adopted four children, including two boys from Brazil.

“For me, it was always a thing I always wanted — a lot of children,” she said.

Yost said she and her sisters would talk about carrying each other’s children if one of them couldn’t become pregnant.

Yost had six healthy pregnancies, delivering her sixth at age 30. After that, her husband wanted to stop having children, she said.

Yost struggled for a long time. She didn’t feel like a child was missing from their family, but she still felt so young and able to sustain another pregnancy.

After years of thinking about surrogacy, she finally talked with her husband about it. They decided to move forward. Yost wanted to be a surrogate just once.

Once they made a decision, one key piece was missing: Finding a couple to help.

Yost said she started praying she’d find a couple to become a surrogate for. She wanted to find a woman to help who’d be like a sister.

Finding a family

One day at church, a woman was asking for prayers for her daughter-in-law, who was a surrogate and was going through health complications. Afterward, Yost talked with her about it and asked for the daughter-in-law’s phone number. They later talked on the phone.

Yost is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said there’s a lot of stigma around surrogacy. “It’s not a common thing. It’s a little bit discouraged.”

Yost didn’t know where to go next. She called an agency that helps with surrogacy to ask for information. They told her they’d turn her away as a surrogate since she’d had six biological children.

But the agency’s attorney passed her information along to a couple looking for a surrogate. Yost received an email from the couple — one she had no idea was coming — and they later talked on the phone and met in person.

The biological parents are from Idaho and are also LDS. They — along with Yost — had both been praying to find someone of their same faith.

The woman had a kidney transplant and couldn’t carry a biological child. She’d used a surrogate for the first pregnancy and one of the twins didn’t survive.

Yost said there’s no way the entire surrogacy process would have happened without a series of connections — starting at church. “All these little pieces kind of connected.”

It was meant to be, Yost said. Tears welled up in her eyes. “For me, it was really important to have a bond between the two families.”

Yost’s children visited the baby boy in the hospital shortly after he was born. He’s like a cousin to them. And Yost — who has blond, curly hair — refers to the woman whose child she carried as her “brunette sister.”

“I see it as a special thing I was able to do for her,” she said.

The preparation

Yost went through extensive counseling in order to become a surrogate. She and the intended parents also had to outline decisions on many topics via a contract.

That included what they’d do under a number of possible scenarios, such as if the baby had a disability, if it was a multiple child pregnancy or if something went wrong during the delivery.

There were lots of medications and shots, too. And “weird comments” and questions followed about her decision, Yost said: Was her family short on money? Is that why they were pursuing surrogacy?

Yost said money wasn’t a factor and surrogate families have to demonstrate they’re doing well financially.

A surrogate mother, though, can charge fees of as much as $35,000 to $40,000, according to the Surrogacy America center’s website.

When Yost and her husband started their own agricultural business and were shopping for new health insurance, they called around to make sure surrogacy was covered under their plan.

When she received medical bills throughout her pregnancy, she sent them to the intended parents.

Yost started the process of becoming a surrogate at age 37. She was 39 when the baby was born.

It took four embryo transfers through the Idaho Center for Reproductive Medicine before a pregnancy was sustained. She became pregnant each time, but had miscarriages. Yost said she had never experienced that before. Throughout the process, “my husband never once faltered,” she said, and her children were praying for her.

Yost may have been the surrogate, but the process was a group effort, she said. “My husband was my support. My family was amazing.”

During the pregnancy, Yost would talk with the intended mother on the phone and send videos of the baby kicking. She often heard questions around the community about whether she’d have trouble giving the baby away. But for Yost: “There was never any question of who he belonged to,” she said.

‘I don’t regret

it at all’

Yost’s health took a turn for the worse toward the end of the pregnancy. She was induced at 36 weeks and had a natural delivery.

Both of the intended parents were in the room with her during the labor and delivery. Yost said she wanted them to experience the joy of childbirth — especially, since they had a traumatic experience with their first birth.

But her health was in jeopardy. Her lungs filled with fluid and her heart rate dropped to 39 beats per minute. She didn’t realize it at the time, but a crash cart was outside her hospital room in case her heart stopped beating.

Meanwhile, her husband hadn’t gotten a hospital-issued wrist band to allow him to come and go from the labor and delivery suite. That caused even more stress.

Throughout all of it, Yost said she was focused completely on the baby. And thankfully, after delivering the baby, her health improved significantly.

But for a month or so, she and her husband were processing what had happened — and the impact of her life-and-death scare.

To this day, Yost and her family stay in contact with the biological parents of the baby boy. They’re like extended family.

Yost said she wouldn’t go through surrogacy again. She wouldn’t want to put her husband through that. And it was never the plan to be a surrogate more than once.

But despite the trials, Yost said: “I don’t regret it at all.”

US declares NKorea a terror sponsor; new sanctions expected (copy)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Monday the U.S. is putting North Korea’s “murderous regime” on America’s terrorism blacklist, despite questions about Pyongyang’s support for international attacks beyond the assassination of its leader’s half brother in February.

Trump said the designation as a state sponsor of terror was long overdue, and he promised a new wave of sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure campaign” over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons that could soon pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland.

North Korea will join Iran, Sudan and Syria on the blacklist. The North had been designated for two decades until 2008 when it was removed in a bid to salvage international talks aimed at halting its nuclear efforts. The talks collapsed soon after and haven’t been revived since.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the designation was a “very symbolic move” with limited practical effects although it could close a “few loopholes” in a tough sanctions regime that was starting to bite in Pyongyang. He said anecdotal evidence and intelligence suggests the North is suffering fuel shortages, with queues at gas station, and its revenues are down.

Still, Tillerson also acknowledged a two-month pause in the North’s rapid tempo of nuclear and missile tests and said there still was hope for diplomacy. With tougher sanctions in the offing, he warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “This is only going to get worse until you’re ready to come and talk.”

The designation is likely to exacerbate sour relations between Washington and Pyongyang that have turned uglier with name-calling between Trump and Kim. There was strong bipartisan support for the move in Congress, which had passed legislation in August requiring the State Department to make a determination on the issue.

“In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil,” Trump said as he announced the designation at a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

The action had been debated for months inside the administration, with some officials at the State Department arguing that North Korea did not meet the legal standard to be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism.

U.S. officials involved in the internal deliberations said there was no debate over whether the slaying of Kim’s half brother Kim Jong Nam was a terrorist act. Malaysian authorities have said he was killed by two women who smeared suspected VX nerve agent onto his face at Kuala Lumpur airport Feb. 13.

Lawyers said there had to be more than one incident, and there was disagreement over whether the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, who died of injuries suffered in North Korean custody, constituted terrorism.

Tillerson said Kim Jong Nam’s assassination was a “significant event” for the determination, but when asked about other assassinations, he said, “I don’t have anything I can share with you specifically.”

In making the announcement, Trump did refer to Warmbier “and the countless others so brutally affected” by North Korean oppression.

He said more sanctions would be imposed on North Korea and “related persons” that the Treasury Department would begin to announce today — part of rolling effort to deprive Pyongyang of funds for its nuclear and missile programs and leave it internationally isolated.

“It will be the highest level of sanctions by the time it’s finished over a two-week period,” Trump said.

North Korea already is subject to an array of tough U.S. and U.N. sanctions restricting trade, foreign assistance, defense sales and exports of sensitive technology.

The State Department said last week that Sudan, which is on the terror list itself, had agreed to cut all military and trade ties to North Korea. As the North has faced isolation from Western countries, it has increasingly sought relationships in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia in search of badly needed finances.

Possible new sanctions steps could be to impose restrictions on Chinese banks that serve as North Korea’s conduit to the international system. However, such a move would irk Beijing, whose help Trump is counting on to put an economic squeeze on Pyongyang.

North Korea was on the terrorism blacklist for two decades after the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner killed 115 people. It was also accused of a 1983 bombing assassination attempt against then-South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan in Myanmar. The president survived, but 21 others were killed. The North has not been publicly implicated in a terror attack of that scale since.

House legislation introduced this year had urged the State Department to review a list of purported acts by North Korea, including assassinations of dissidents and weapons sales to militant groups including Hamas and Hezbollah. It requested a determination as to whether such acts constitute support for international terrorism.

The legislation also cited the 2015 computer hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the FBI blamed on North Korea. Hackers threatened movie theaters that screened “The Interview,” a comedy parodying the North’s leader, Kim.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A Thanksgiving brown-bag pipe organ concert will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the Rupert United Methodist Church, 605 H St. Freewill donation.

Trump promises Americans 'huge tax cut' for Christmas (copy)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday promised a tax overhaul by Christmas, even as a nonpartisan tax analysis group said the Senate package would leave half of taxpayers facing higher levies by 2027.

Speaking before a Cabinet meeting, Trump said, “We’re going to give the American people a huge tax cut for Christmas — hopefully that will be a great, big, beautiful Christmas present.”

Trump spoke as the Tax Policy Center said that while all income groups would see tax reductions, on average, under the Senate bill in 2019, 9 percent of taxpayers would pay higher taxes that year than under current law.

By 2027, that proportion would grow to 50 percent, largely because the legislation’s personal tax cuts expire in 2026, which Republicans did to curb budget deficits the bill would create.

The policy center, a joint operation of the liberal-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, found that low-earners generally would get smaller tax breaks than higher-income people.

In 2019, those making less than $25,000 would get an average $50 tax reduction, or 0.3 percent of their after-tax income. Middle-income earners would get average cuts of $850, while people making at least $746,000 would get average cuts of $34,000, or 2.2 percent of income.

The center also said the Senate proposal would generate enough economic growth to produce additional revenue of $169 billion over a decade. That’s far short of closing the near $1.5 trillion in red ink that Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated the bill would produce over that period.

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance panel, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, said the study showed that “middle-class Americans will ultimately see a tax hike under Republicans’ plan while corporate sponsors line their own pockets with multi-trillion-dollar giveaways.”

Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cited a separate study by the Tax Foundation. That conservative-leaning group has said the Senate bill would produce higher wages, nearly 1 million new jobs and enough economic growth to generate nearly $1.3 trillion in federal revenue.

“The Tax Foundation has laid out in unambiguous terms how critical the Senate tax bill is to hard-working families and job creators,” Ferrier said.

The House approved a tax measure Thursday slicing corporate and personal taxes by $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. That evening, the Senate Finance Committee approved a similar plan, which like the House version devotes the bulk of its reductions to corporations and other businesses.

The Senate bill would repeal a requirement that Americans have health insurance or pay a fine. The provision is not in the version of the tax overhaul passed last week by the House.

Striking the health care provision might satisfy some GOP moderates who oppose repealing the language, but also would blow a hole in the senators’ tax cut plan, leaving them $338 billion short of their revenue goal over the next 10 years.

Trump did not directly address the issue Monday. He said that the administration would focus on health care, infrastructure and welfare “soon after taxes.”

Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is open to scrapping the provision, which would repeal a key component of the health care law enacted by President Barack Obama. Trump had pressed for the provision to be added to the bill, partly to show progress on the GOP goal of undoing the health care law following Congress’ failed attempts to repeal it earlier this year.

“If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we’re OK with taking it out,” he added.

Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote the White House needs, said Sunday the tax advantage that some middle-income consumers would reap under the tax bill could be wiped out by repealing the mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

Collins is among several GOP senators who say they’ve not decided how to vote on the bill. Republicans hold a slim 52-48 Senate majority.

Mulvaney and Collins were interviewed on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Collins also appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”


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Seattle Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin misses catching a pass as Atlanta Falcons’ Deion Jones (45) defends in the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Seattle.

Little volunteers financial assets

BOISE — Lt. Gov. Brad Little on Monday released details about his financial assets, becoming the latest high-profile Idaho gubernatorial candidate to voluntarily share income information in a state that doesn’t require such transparency.

Little’s campaign provided the financial documents to The Associated Press, but without a comment from the candidate. Little’s campaign manager Zach Hauge did not immediately respond to questions about why Little chose to hand over the information and if he would continue doing so if elected.

Idaho is one of just two states that does not require elected officeholders to disclose any of their personal financial information. This allows elected officials to vote on public matters without disclosing whether the outcome might benefit their bottom line.

Yet the topic has become a key talking point for Idaho’s 2018 gubernatorial race after first-time political candidate Tommy Ahlquist voluntarily released information on his income, property holdings and business associations. Ahlquist said he owns 25 businesses and has 27 investments worth more than $5,000, but did not detail how much each asset is worth and did not include any of his possible debts.

Little on Monday went a step further than Ahlquist by using the federal disclosure requirements, which includes much more detailed information on types of income, value ranges of each asset and liabilities.

According to the documents provided by the campaign, Little listed assets valued at between about $12 million and $24 million in 2016. The specific value of Little’s assets couldn’t be determined because the report only noted the assets in ranges, not exact amounts. He didn’t report any debt.

Little has never disclosed his personal assets in his 16 years serving as an elected official in Idaho but he is the grandson of the “sheep king of Idaho,” Andy Little, who came to Emmett in 1884 and built an empire with 100,000 sheep.

That family business was listed Little’s largest asset — Little Enterprises LLLP —worth as much as $10 million followed by other privately-held family businesses worth as much as $5 million. In total, Little reported investments in more than 60 different companies, including Micron, Kraft Heinz, General Mills, General Electric and Walmart.

In 2007, Little was one of seven Republican state senators to vote down a proposal that would have created a financial disclosure requirement for all statewide elected officials in Idaho, according to minutes from the Senate State Affairs Committee. The bill had been backed by Democratic lawmakers, who normally face opposition from the dominant GOP lawmakers in the Idaho Statehouse.

Hauge did not respond to questions about why Little voted against the bill and chose to disclose Monday.

Meanwhile, campaign manager David Johnston said Ahlquist welcomed Little taking the political newcomer’s lead when it came to financial disclosure.

“Brad is on the record in the past being against financial disclosure so we are glad Tommy could help change his mind,” Johnston said in a prepared statement. “Our two career politician opponents have been in office for a combined 27 years and neither have supported state financial disclosure nor have they ever voluntarily disclosed. We are glad that a political outsider like Tommy Ahlquist can lead politicians to do the right thing.”

In addition to $56,505 from his lieutenant governor salary, Little collected an additional $21,895 in earned income from his business holdings.

The documents also list holdings for Little’s wife, Teresa, worth as much as $965,000 that include her family’s livestock and oil and gas holdings, as well as a handful of out of state investments.

With Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announcing he won’t seek a fourth term, the race is expected to be Idaho’s most competitive of 2018. So far, the major GOP candidates are Little, Ahlquist and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador — who has been required to disclose his assets and liabilities since being elected to the U.S. House in 2010.