Julie DeNeen » Purveyor of Fine Opinions

Surrogacy and Abortion – A Complicated Mess

Update 2:00pm EST (below)

This morning, I was sucked in by the front page article on CNN. The headline read, “Surrogate offered $10,000 to terminate pregnancy.” The title doesn’t really give the whole story.

It is one of the most complicated custody issues I’ve ever heard! Here are the facts:

  • The birth parents used frozen embryos and had them implanted into a surrogate
  • The baby was found to have serious medical problems
  • The birth parents asked the surrogate to get an abortion
  • The surrogate refused
  • Arguments, testing, conflict, ensued between surrogate and birth parents
  • At one point, the surrogate was tempted to ask for more money for termination – but then she backed out because her pro-life stance
  • Some people think surrogate was trying to extort money from birth parents
  • Surrogate says it was a weak moment but then she re-established her conviction of no abortion
  • Birth parents got a lawyer – demanded she get an abortion
  • She refused
  • Then birth parents said they would give up the baby at the hospital and award her to the state if she took the pregnancy to term
  • Surrogate felt backed into a corner
  • She fled to a state (Michigan) where the surrogate is considered the legal parent of the child
  • The birth parents admitted that the frozen embryos were only biologically the fathers (an anonymous egg donor had been used)
  • Surrogate found an adoptive family
  • Baby was born with lots of issues
  • Baby is being raised with an adoptive family. Birth family relinquished their rights.

Phew. I think that’s the gist.

In this age and time, we’ve created a legal nightmare for children born through these special circumstances. IVF, surrogacy, abortions- the whole thing is just a big tangled up mess when things go wrong.

I don’t agree with the parent’s decision to terminate the pregnancy, but I do think the child legally belonged to them. The surrogate entered the equation knowing she wasn’t in charge of the baby, but in charge of carrying the baby until birth. Since the law is currently written to allow abortions, I think it was the decision of the birth parents ultimately.

“But what about the surrogate’s right to her own body?” people say.

Well that is a sticky wick, but didn’t she willingly enter into an agreement with them to use her body for them in the first place? That’s why it seems strange to me that all of a sudden she would claim her “rights” to her own body when she herself is pro-life (in other words, the law makes the decision for her body, not her). She’s in favor of not allowing a woman to choose and then she goes and demands the right to choose? Hmm.

But the whole thing does beg the question: How does the law deal with a woman’s right to choose when a surrogate is carrying someone else’s child? The birth mother’s right to choose was blocked by the surrogate. The surrogate’s right to choose was threatened by the birth mother. And I won’t bother to say what pro-lifers are thinking – what about the baby’s right to life?

I find it crazy that our states have such vastly different laws regarding surrogacy. In CT, the birth parents are the legal guardians. In Michigan, the surrogate is the legal guardian?! That seems terribly risky. Any birth parents who use a surrogate don’t have legal action to take if the surrogate picks up and leaves town? I’d be shitting myself if I were a birth mother.

Then you add that one little piece of WTF? The baby was not the birth mother’s egg. It was an anonymous donor. So many weird twists in this tale.

As I read the article, it did seem that the surrogate saw her role as a “business” – having done it before and she was actively looking for a family to work with. That does beg the question – was she driven and motivated by money? Maybe.

Then you wonder if the parents were less attached to this child because she wasn’t genetically connected to the mother?

I personally believe in a baby’s right to life. In other words, I personally wouldn’t choose an abortion unless it was a guarantee that the mother would die at birth, leaving her other children motherless. IN that case, I would abort. That said, if abortion is illegal (giving women no ability to make these hard decisions for themselves), then you can’t save a mother’s life by sacrificing the child. I don’t know if I agree with that.

In this case, I don’t agree with the parents’ decision, but I wouldn’t force their hand if the law is on their side. What kind of life is it for a baby to know that the only reason she’s on the planet is because her parents were forced to care for her? I shudder to think the emotional problems of a child in that situation.

But here’s the thing I find odd – if you are pro-life, you probably read that article and are on team-surrogate. Good for her! She didn’t cave to the pressure to get an abortion. But you do realize that her insistence that she has rights to her own body is inherently a pro-choice philosophy? Give the woman carrying the child the right?

Ultimately pro-life means a woman doesn’t get the right to choose. Someone else does. She is not in control of whether that baby lives or dies. The law is.

This surrogate used the pro-choice ideology to save the baby.

Mind warping yet?

“BUT – if abortions were illegal, then neither the birth parents or the surrogate would have any say so.”

True. And neither would the mother of eight who’s having her ninth and going to die if she doesn’t abort the baby to get her chemo treatments.

We’d have a law that protects babies from premature death, and we’d also have lots of abandoned children in the foster care system, growing up without loving parents, and dealing with abandonment issues for life. We’d have other children without mothers because the woman died in childbirth.

We’d have medical issues with mothers and babies who got illegal abortions that went terribly wrong.

I’m not saying I support abortion. In 99% of cases, I do not. But what I am saying is –  a law can only do so much. When a society doesn’t value unborn life, how does a law fix that? It doesn’t. Does making abortions illegal stop the moral issues and decline in our world?

Our problem is so much more profound.

I’m not convinced for one minute that making abortion illegal would help solve these problems. I think it would solve some and then create a ton more.

I used to think that adoption was the savior of unwanted pregnancies. In many cases, adoption is an incredible gift to a child and to the family. But I also know it comes with a cost. A cost to the child, the birth parents, adoptive parents, everyone. It’s not as simple or rosy in reality as it is in theory.

The bottom line is that children are not valued in this world the way they should be. Parenting is not seen as the epitome of success, but rather a menial mundane job that you do because you have to. Families are having fewer and fewer kids- maybe because of money, time, sacrifice, and the fact that our culture doesn’t value big families the way it used to. We’ve got big problems on our hands as a nation, and I’m not holding my breath that policy will change any of it.

In the case of this woman, I think she should stop acting as a surrogate. It sounds like she needs to think through her choice more carefully before she says, “Here’s my body I’m giving you for a sum of money but then I will take back that offer when you make a decision I don’t like.” I’m glad the little one is growing and thriving in a family that wants her. She’s quite cute. I imagine that the birth parents have tremendous guilt, regret, remorse, etc. for the mess they found themselves in.

I feel terribly for all parties involved.

Life is so complicated.

Update:

Well about 10 minutes after I posted this article – BBC contacted me and had me join the conversation with the surrogate and a few others! The program is called BBC World Have Your Say and I just finished the broadcast.

I have to say, my opinion gets stronger and stronger as I dive into this story more. I  know what it’s like to do a news story and not be pleased with the “angle” or perspective. Crystal (the surrogate) said that CNN took an angle that she wasn’t 100% comfortable with when I asked her why there were conflicting details with her interview verses the article. That said, I have suspicions that her version is a bit rosier than reality.

I never got the chance to ask her about the details of the child. The CNN article points out that the problems are more severe than first thought. Crystal made it sound like the baby was doing just fine.

I have questions about the money. About the fact that she didn’t have the extra tests done. The insurance problems. The lack of counseling.

Then the birth parents. The pro-life camp probably wants to burn their house down for suggesting termination. But these people have three children. They  wanted to give their embryos a chance at life. We’re not talking about parents who recklessly get pregnant and use an abortion as birth control. The decision to terminate the pregnancy was probably an excruciating one, yet since they are the people financially and emotionally responsible for the life they brought into this world, isn’t it their decision to make (legally anyway)?

I guess the bottom line is this: If you are a woman who wants full control over her body, don’t sign up for surrogacy.

I think Crystal (self-admittedly) was incredibly naive when she entered into this relationship – choosing to stand on her moral principles when she felt like their decision wasn’t the right one.

But what if the role was reversed? What if the birth parents wanted their child (with medical problems) but the surrogate thought that was a bad call. What if the surrogate decided to trump the parents and get an abortion?

What’s the point of a contract if the surrogate can overrule it? Sign on the dotted line, unless of course you decide to terminate the pregnancy because you think the intended parents are idiots.

Can you imagine the outrage?

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  • Sherry Smith Baker - Unfortunately, I don’t think the surrogate could have even imagined this situation. Surrogate or not, as we both know, a child growing inside of us brings out the momma bear. She used whatever legal maneuvers necessary to protect the child she was carding. Right or wrong – it was a heart matter.ReplyCancel

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