Here’s another troubling story (and credit for spotting it goes to The Spin Doctor) about surrogacy gone awry. And as with an earlier case I wrote about, this is from the world of Do-It-Yourself surrogacy.
Cathleen Hachey, a 20 year old living in Bathurst, Canada (I think it’s in New Brunswick) agreed to be a surrogate mother for a British couple she met on-line. It seems that the individuals involved did all the arrangements themselves and even the insemination was DIY, done at Hachey’s home. Hachey became pregnant with twins. Twenty-seven weeks into her pregnancy the intending parents texted her to say that they were splitting up and didn’t actually want the babies after all.
Honestly, it is hard to know where to begin. Someone recently called me “provincial and old-fashioned” here and I think I’m about to embrace that characterization.
Being on either end of a surrogacy arrangement is an immense act of trust. It doesn’t really matter what the law says because it shouldn’t ever come down to enforcing the law. The woman who becomes pregnant engages in this huge undertaking for other people, and the other people undertake in return to recieve and care for the child. It’s not impossible that you could set this up with someone you met over the internet, but at a minimum, after you’ve met people over the internet you ‘d really need to get to know them, wouldn’t you? It looks to me like the people involved here went from first meeting in person directly to home insemination.
I just wrote in a comment somewhere (which now of course I cannot find) about how good fertility clinics have protocols in place that involve very careful checking, double-checking and even triple-checking. It’s perfectly clear that the consequences of errors in the fertility world can be awful. In the same way, responsible surrogacy centers do careful screening and counselling. Not everyone is suited to surrogacy and people do not always screen themselves out.
The thing is, when you go the DIY route you do save a lot of money, but you also miss all the safeguards that experienced professionals have developed over time. And in doing that, you court disaster. Which is, I’m afraid, what happened here. But of course, there’s no stopping this. There’s only figuring out what to do afterwards.
One other small point and one question. The point first: There’s a disagreement between Andrew Vorzimer (The Spin Doctor) and Sherry Levitan (the Toronto lawyer quoted in the article) about the relative frequency of various forms of trouble in surrogacy arrangements. Levitan says the scenario here (where the IPs change their mind) is rare–less common than where the surrogate mother changes her mind. Vorzimer disagrees. The only statistics I’ve seen on this support Vorzimer. Perhaps this it is important to know the answer here, but I’m not sure we do yet. Certainly the overwhelming concern of those thinking of using surrogacy is that the surrogate will change her mind, but it’s pretty obvious why that might be the case. I do wonder whether the pattern here might be the more typical one.
And if there’ a knowledgable Canadian reader out there–here’s a question you could perhaps answer. Is the man who was previously an intending parent the legal father of this child? It’s his sperm. Does Canadian law impose parental rights/obligations on him on this basis? I’m just wondering, as it sounds like the UK couple simply walked away from the whole operation. Could he be liable for child support? (Come to think of it, you could have him as an intended parent as well.)