The Right to Choose?

Crystal Kelley, 29, was struggling financially and looking for a way out of her situation. Knowing the pain of being unable to bring a child to term (she suffered from multiple miscarriages before giving birth to her own 2 children) decided to pursue surrogacy as an option. She liked the idea of being able to help another couple bring a child into the world. After searching, she was paired up with a couple that had three children and were trying for a third.

The couple agreed to pay Kelly a reported amount of $2,222 a month for her surrogacy services. At the time that they decided to enter into an agreement with Ms. Kelley they already had an embryo from a previous IVF treatment. This embryo was implanted inside Ms. Kelley in October and pregnancy was confirmed 10 days later.

Everything was going along fine until a February ultrasound revealed fetal abnormalities. Doctors believed that the child would be born with a cleft palate, a brain cyst, as well as serious congenital defects. In addition, they were unable to locate the baby’s spleen or stomach. Given the range of defects, they informed Kelley and the intended parents that the baby had only a 25% chance of living a normal life.

The intended parents, having given birth to three premature children (two of whom have ongoing medical conditions) felt strongly that the most humane option was to terminate the pregnancy rather than allowing the child to be born and suffer.

However, Ms. Kelley, who is reported to be very religious and against abortion, refused to go through with the procedure. Despite the fact that her contract included an abortion clause, which required for her to terminate the pregnancy in the case of severe fetus abnormality, Ms. Kelley insisted that it was not her right to “play God” with the baby’s life.

At this point, the intended parents offered to pay Ms. Kelley $10,000 to terminate the pregnancy before the 24-week legal limit for a termination passed and there was nothing more that could be done. Ms. Kelley countered, asking for them to increase the offer to $15,000 in what she describes as “a moment of weakness”.

The attorney’ for the intended parent informed her of their intent to sue her for the amount they had already paid her ($8,000 plus hospital fees) if she did not terminate the pregnancy. The parents the changed their minds, saying that if she gave birth to the child, they would exercise the legal custody over the child and give it up for adoption in their state of Connecticut.

At this point, Ms. Kelley decided to relocate to Michigan, where legal guardianship was awarded to the birth mother rather than the genetic parents. Meanwhile, the legal battles continued as the intended parents fought for custody. It was revealed, however, that the intended mother was not the genetic mother of the child, since they had used an egg donor. After the child was born, it was agreed that the father would give up his parental rights as long as he was able to remain in contact with the child’s adoptive parents – a couple who specifically wanted to adopt a special needs child.

Unfortunately, the baby girl was born with medical issues that were far more serious than the ultrasounds indicated. She has a defect called holoprosencephaly in which the brain does not have distinct hemispheres as well as a defect called heterotaxy in which several of her internal organs are in the wrong place. In addition to these conditions, she also suffers from hear and ear deformities, a cleft lip and cleft palate, and a myriad of heart defects. She has already had several serious surgeries and is slated to undergo even more. It is reported that if she does survive, there is a 50% chance that she won’t be able to walk or talk.

Given the whole story, what would you have done in this situation if you were Ms. Kelley? The intended parents? Please comment below.

Black Market Surrogacy

Surrogacy is an arrangement by which a woman (the surrogate) carries and delivers a baby for a person or couple (the intended parents) that (for whatever reason) is unable to do so on their own. Surrogacy is the topic of much debate across the globe, with some countries allowing it and others banning it either partially or fully.

Current Chinese legislation bans doctors from delivering children carried by surrogates. This is in accordance with a legislation concerning assisted reproductive technology that was passed by their Ministry of Health in 2001. This same legislation also forbids the trading of such human DNA as gametes, zygotes, and embryos.

However, it is evident that many in China are proceeding with surrogate relationships despite this legislative action. In fact, there is a thriving surrogacy black market that continues to grows. 2011 statistics show that, in Shanghai the number of babies born each year due to IVF treatments was higher than 20,000. However, since hospitals are unable to satisfy the demand, many infertile couples turn to surrogacy to make their dreams of parenthood come true. In fact , this demand has only served to cause the surrogacy market to grow exponentially.

In explaining why surrogacy is illegal, China Law Society member, Di Guozeng stated that it is essentially boring someone’s organ (the womb) to give birth and making a profit from it. The illegality comes in using organs for trade.

On one side of the argument, it is believe that surrogacy complicates things. They cite possible situations in which the surrogate mother has health problems that arise due to the pregnancy but is not compensated fairly, ones where the intended parents decide that they no longer want the child, leaving the surrogate to raise the child, as well as situations where the surrogate suddenly decides she does not want to part with the child. They also feel as though it forces legislatures to redefine the term “parent” as there are so many different people involved in bringing the child into the world and raising him or her.

One the other side of the argument, people feel as though perhaps it would be best to make surrogacy legal, but have legislations in place to limit commercial (for profit) surrogacy in which the surrogate is not compensated beyond fees associated with pregnancy, labor, and delivery. In that way, those people who are unable to bear children are afforded the opportunity to do so.

What do you think? Do you feel that surrogacy, in general, should be legalized? If so, do you feel there should be any limitations set? If not, why? Please comment below.

What’s Hot – Sofia Vergara Expecting Baby via Surrogacy

Actress Sofia Vergara of Modern Family fame has something huge in common with her character, Gloria – they are both expecting an addition to their family. Vergara and her fiancé, Nick Loeb have recently reported that they are using a surrogate mother to bring a child into this world. It is reported, though not confirmed that a close friend of Vergara’s will be serving as the surrogate and that the child will biologically be Vergara’s and Loeb’s, but will be carried by the surrogate.

Vergara is already the mother to 21 year old Manolo, her son from a previous marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Joe Gonzalez. Vergara has wanted to have another child for a while and it is believed that she has opted for surrogacy as a way to fulfill this desire without having to completely halt her skyrocketing career.

It is reported that Vergara felt uncomfortable with the idea of hiring a stranger to carry her child, so she, instead, decided to ask one of her closest (and healthiest) friends to do the honors. The couple and their surrogate recently had a health scare in which the life of the unborn baby was feared for. The surrogate mother reportedly felt pains and, out of fear of miscarrying, decided that a trip to the emergency room was necessary. However, after several hours, it was found that both the surrogate mother and they baby were fine.

Vergara and Loeb are not the first celebrities to opt for surrogacy. Read on to learn about other celebrities who have had their own surrogacy journey.

Giuliana and Bill Rancic
After struggling to become pregnant, suffering a miscarriage, being diagnosed with breast cancer, and undergoing a double mastectomy, Giuliana Rancic (along with her husband, Bill) decided to pursue surrogacy to make their dreams of parenthood come true. In August of 2012, the happy couple welcomed their son Edward Duke into the world.

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban
Already the mother to two adopted children (Isabella and Connor) as well as a birth daughter (Rose), Kidman and her second husband decided to pursue surrogacy. In 2010, they welcomed their daughter Faith into the world who (though carried by a surrogate) is biologically theirs.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick
After giving birth to their first child, James, Parker decided to pursue surrogacy. The result – twin girls name Loretta and Tabitha who are both biologically theirs.

Neil Patrick Haris and David Burtka
This acting couple chose to use an anonymous egg donor as well as a separate surrogate to bring their fraternal twins, Gideon and Harper, into the world. Although it has not been confirmed, it is reported that one of the children is biologically Harris’s while the other is biologically Burtka’s.

Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman
Banks and her husband tried to conceive naturally for years to no avail. After IVF treatments failed, they turned to surrogacy. Now they have not one, but two sons. Felix was born in 2011 and his brother, Magnus was born less than 2 year later.

Elton John and David Furnish
After being rejected for adopting a Ukrainian boy (due to legislation against same-sex adoption) John and his partner turned to surrogacy—twice. Using the same surrogate mother, they are now the proud parents of two sons – Zachary and Elijah. Zachary is believed to be biologically Furnish’s.

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance
After 7 years of trying to conceive, this couple turned to surrogacy to make their parenting dreams a reality. They are now the proud parents of their biological twins, Slater and Bronwyn.

Ricky Martin
After working with orphanages, Ricky Martin decided that he wanted to be a father. Though he is open to adoption in the future, he opted to pursue surrogacy and is now the father to twins Matteo and Valentino.

Joan Lunden and Jeff Konigsberg
Former ‘Good Morning America host’ has three birth children from a previous marriage.  However, after going through several unsuccessful IVF treatments with her current husband, they decided to pursue surrogacy – twice. Both times they used the same surrogate mother. Both times they had twins – Kate and Max in 2003, followed by Kimberly and Jack in 2005. All four are biologically Konigsberg’s.

Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower De Niro
De Niro and his wife (aged 68 and 56) turned to surrogacy to add to their family. In addition to their 13 year old son, Elliot, and 4 children from De Niro’s previous marriage, they are now proud parents of a daughter. And this is not De Niro’s first experience with surrogacy. Two of his children from his previous marriage were also conceived and carried by a surrogate.



What’s Hot – Landmark Surrogacy Case in Ireland

A landmark decision was reached in Ireland that is sure to have a rippling effect for others. Sometime in January, a case was brought before the court concerning the rights of genetic mother’s whose children were born via surrogacy. In this case, the genetic mother of a child born via surrogacy, went to court to be listed as the child’s mother on the birth certificate. According to reports, she is the genetic mother of twins who were carried by a surrogate. The surrogate, who was in fact her sister, carried the twins following In-Vitro Fertilization treatments with embryo’s using the woman’s eggs and her husband’s sperm. The twins have lived with their genetic parents since birth.

In 2010, the genetic parents took the steps to have their children’s birth certificates corrected. Their goal was to have the genetic mother legally recognized as such on their children’s birth certificate. However, they were met with resistance. The genetic mother petitioned the chief registrar of births, deaths, and marriages to have her sister’s name taken off the birth certificate and replaced with her own so that she could be legally recognized as the children’s mother. However, the registrar – Kieran Feely—denied this request. He had been told by his predecessor how to deal with surrogacy issues and that the outcome was always that the person who is listed as the birth mother on the birth certificate is the one who officially gave birth to the child. He persisted with this decision despite being presented with DNA evidence and a letter from a clinic, confirming the children’s genetic mother was not the same person who had given birth to them.

Feely felt as though he had no legal basis to change the information on the birth certificates basing it on the principle of “Mater certa simper est” which essentially means that motherhood is certain. He argued that bringing genetics into play would simply cause confusion and possibly create a financial burden. When confronted with the rationale that perhaps maternity (in the cases of surrogacy) should be treated much the same as paternity – something that has to be proven. His response was that maternity is a fact, whereas paternity is a presumption. The mother, however, persisted in her pursuit by taking the case to the High Court in Dublin.

The Government held that the Irish Constitution outlines a definition of the birth mother and that this definition cannot be altered, citing the same principle the motherhood is always certain. Justice Henry Abbott, the overseer of the case, disagreed and cited that the definition only applies to the child while it was still in the womb. His ruling was that the genetic mother was entitled to be listed as the birth mother on the twins’ birth certificates

The genetic mother is reportedly very happy with the outcome of this landmark case. This case now gives hope to at least 200 other mothers in Ireland who utilized a surrogate to bring their genetic children into the world. It is hoped by many that this case will shed some much needed light on this issue and force legislative action to be taken on a grander scale to secure the rights of genetic mothers.

However, this may not be the last that we hear of this case as the Government has 21 days to appeal this decision and it is believed that most likely will do so.


What’s Hot: SurroGenesis Update

A case that has been going on since 2009 has recently been moving forward. 37 year old California resident, Tonya Collins has officially pled guilty to 4 counts of wiring fraud, resulting in the embezzlement of $2 million dollars from clients of her surrogacy agency, SurroGenesis. She managed to elude the law for nearly 3 years before being arrested in April of 2012. She was then charged with7 counts of wire fraud, 4 counts of wire fraud, 9 counts of bank fraud, and 10 counts of money laundering. The two companies that are at the center of this scandal are SurroGenesis and the Michael Charles Independent Financial Holdings Group.

SurroGenesis was a surrogacy clinic and an egg donation agency. The aim of the agency was to help people who could not have children of their own to become parents through a surrogate arrangement.

The Michael Charles Independent Financial Holdings Group was believed to be an independent personal property escrow company. Clients of SurroGenesis were referred to the Holdings Group by Collins and were led to believe that the money that they paid would be held by the Financial Holdings Group and that the funds would be used to pay for fees associated with the surrogacy process (i.e. compensation, medical fees, etc.). What they did not know was that the Financial Holdings Group was merely a front and that Collins was the owner and operator.

The prosecution says that Collins invented fake employee identities in an effort to underscore the image that the Financial Holdings Group was an independent, fully staffed company. Between the years of 2006 and 2009, it is purported that Collins embezzled $2 million from her clients – essentially using the two business accounts as though they were her own private bank accounts. It is said that Collins used that money to pay for things such as a new home, cars, jewelry, and vacations. Meanwhile the surrogate mothers were not being compensated for their services and their surrogacy-related fees were not covered.

Victims of Collins’s actions (both the surrogates and the intended parents) feel as though they were preyed upon by Collins- emotionally and financially. Surely the past nearly 4 years since the crimes took place have been ones of turmoil the many families that have been affected. Perhaps this new turn of events will get them closer to finding some form of closure.

Collins has officially pled guilty to 4 of the 30 charges. If she is convicted, she will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

She returns to court for sentencing on May 13th.