My first response when hearing this CNN story was “Oh, what an incredibly sad and complicated mess.” I’ve embedded a seven
minute video, but the crib note version is this. A couple hired a surrogate to carry their embryo (donor egg) because their other three children from IVF had been born premature, and they wanted to give this child the best option of a healthy gestation. The surrogate was a single mom of two children.
Intended Parent-Surrogate Standoff
Things went swimmingly until at 21 weeks an ultrasound showed severe birth defects, and doctors gave the baby a less than 25% chance at having a “normal life”. The birth defects included serious abnormalities of the heart, brain, and numerous internal organs. The parents felt “strongly that they pursued surrogacy in order to minimize the risk of pain and suffering for their baby” and that an abortion was the most “humane option”. The surrogate believed that “all efforts should be made to ‘give the baby a chance’ and adamantly opposed termination.” In short, they were at loggerheads.
At one point the parents offered the surrogate $10,000 to terminate the pregnancy, and the surrogate countered with $15,000, which the parents refused. The surrogate later said that she regretted the counteroffer and that she would not go through with the abortion for any fee. Both sides hired lawyers.
The Surrogate Fled the State
Although the parents could not force the surrogate to have an abortion, they said that they would relinquish the baby to the state after birth. The surrogate opposed this move, and since the state where all three parties lived did not recognize her as the mother, and did not give her the right to object to placement after birth, she fled to Michigan, where she would have the power to make this decision. After birth she placed the baby with an adoptive family. The biological parents have kept in touch with the child’s progress via the adoptive family. The baby’s birth defects were more involved than the ultrasound showed, but she is still alive at 8 months despite several surgeries and many more to come. “Oh my, what a sad sad mess.”
If this isn’t evidence of the need for a brutally honest conversation between intended parents, surrogate, and surrogacy agency before conception, I don’t know what is. The surrogacy agency should have realized that this surrogate was opposed to abortion even when the fetus had significant health issues. People do change their minds, but a good counselor should have been able to see some red flags. This is a totally acceptable position for a surrogate to have, but she should not be matched with intended parents who have different beliefs.
Who Wears the White Hat?
Is the surrogate a saint, or did she try to play God? Or was it the intended parents who were playing God? Who acted with the most compassion? Or are there no villains or heroes here other than a surrogacy agency who failed to do their job and one little girl with a fighting spirit and a generous and open-hearted adoptive family?