There’s a surrogacy story I’ve been meaning to get to. Here’s one version. It’s long and detailed, but worth taking the time to read. It’s a painful story of a surrogacy arrangement that went very far off the tracks.
Crystal Kelley agreed to be a surrogate. It looks to me like she worked with an agency called Surrogacy International–more about the agency in a moment. The agency paired her with a couple that already had three kids but also had a couple of frozen embryos leftover.
Kelley became pregnant with one of the frozen embryos but the fetus did not develop normally. The intended parents (IPs–they are not named) wanted Kelley to abort the child but Kelley didn’t want to do that. The IPs parents offered her extra money if she had an abortion, but she refused. At that point (apparently) the intended parents threatened to sue her for breach of contract.
Eventually Kelley gave birth to the child. Not in Connecticut, where she lived and (I think) where the contract was made, but in Michigan. And why Michigan? In Connecticut the IPs would have been the legal parents (at least, it seemed that way, and this is the case because of their genetic connection to the child.) The IPS apparently planned to take custody of the child (something they’d be entitled to do as legal parents) and then surrender the child to the state (something they were allowed to do under a Baby Moses style law.)
By contrast, if the birth occurred in Michigan, Kelley would be the legal parent and could then give the child up for adoption. This is last is what actually happened. Now there’s complicated litigation over the surrogacy arrangement and who might have breached the agreement, whether money is owed, etc.
Now a lot has been written about this case because there is a lot to say. Some of what I’ve seen seems slightly hysterical. But there’s no question that the case raises a host of issues. Some things are clear, however, and maybe it’s best to start with one of those, as the column I just linked to did: The decision whether or not to abort a pregnancy always remains with the pregnant woman. You can put all sorts of things in contracts, of course, but I don’t think those contracts are going to be enforceable.
And this really does lead me to what I think of as the heart of the matter: The role of the surrogacy agency. Look back at the start of the long CNN article and you can see that it is the agency that sets everything in motion. And to my mind, it’s most important to hold the agency accountable in a case like this.
Everything I’ve read suggests to me that surrogacy can work IF (and I am tempted to make that in bold and italics as well as capitalized) there’s good screening and counselling. The danger is that it may appear easier and less problematic than it actually is. A woman who enjoys being pregnant, who has kids and wants to help others and who needs some money may think surrogacy is a fine idea. And she may be right–but she may also be wrong.
What happened here is terrible to contemplate, but it was something that everyone should have anticipated before entering into the agreement because it was never beyond the realm of possibility. I cannot help but wonder about what the process was by which the language that apparently was in the contract got there. Who drafted it? Who reviewed it with the surrogate? With the intended parents?
It seems to me that the only entity in the picture who can ensure that this is all done properly is the agency–in this case Surrogacy International. (I cannot find a website–but it’s owned by Rita Kron.) But it’s not hard to imagine reasons why the agency might not be exactly vigilant here. After all, my guess is that the agency (and its owner) are in it for profit. No surrogacy deals, no profits. This, it seems to me, is a structural failing of our system that makes cases like this inevitable.
I’ll stop here–off to class–but will try to pick up some of the other threads I see tomorrow.