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.

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