Sur­ro­gate of triplets tests bound­aries of birth con­tracts.

Bi­o­log­i­cal dad not fit to par­ent, says woman

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX SWOYER

A woman who gave birth to triplets as a sur­ro­gate mother now wants the Supreme Court to step in and give her some parental rights over the chil­dren she car­ried to term, say­ing she doesn’t think the bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther can prop­erly care for them.

Melissa Cook is one of sev­eral women test­ing the bound­aries of sur­ro­gacy con­tracts and ask­ing judges to weigh in, ex­pand­ing the rights af­forded to women who agree to birth some­one else’s child as sci­ence widens the paths to fam­ily cre­ation.

In her case, Ms. Cook struck a sur­ro­gacy deal with a Ge­or­gia man in 2015, agree­ing to carry chil­dren from his sperm and an anony­mous egg donor. The man, who is dis­abled and lives with his par­ents, agreed to pay her $19,000.

After Ms. Cook found out she was car­ry­ing triplets, the man de­manded she abort one of them — a process known in the in­dus­try as “se­lec­tive re­duc­tion” — for fear he could not care for all three and of harm­ful side ef­fects to the fe­tuses if all three were kept to term.

She re­fused and of­fered to take care of one of the chil­dren, but he re­jected that of­fer.

After a lengthy court bat­tle, Ms. Cook gave birth in a Los An­ge­les hos­pi­tal in Fe­bru­ary 2016, and all three chil­dren were turned over to the man in Ge­or­gia.

She now says she’s wor­ried about their well­be­ing and wants the court to grant her parental rights so she has say in their up­bring­ing. She re­fused to take the $19,000 pay­ment and has pe­ti­tioned the Supreme Court to hear her case, ar­gu­ing that states should not pro­mote sur­ro­gacy.

“When a mother knows that their child is en­ter­ing into a sit­u­a­tion that is not in their best in­ter­ests or, as in my case, down­right detri­men­tal to them, they have a right to ob­ject,” Ms. Cook told re­porters at a press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

Sur­ro­gacy laws dif­fer from state to state, and there’s no na­tional stan­dard for a sur­ro­gate’s rights. Much of it de­pends on the con­tract the sur­ro­gate reaches with the in­tended par­ents.

Ms. Cook ar­gues that no con­tract should su­per­sede the rights of a woman who car­ried a child in her womb.

“The mother has a right to a re­la­tion­ship with the child. The child has a re­cip­ro­cal right,” said Harold Cas­sidy, Ms. Cook’s lawyer.

She lost in lower fed­eral courts, where judges de­cided to stay out of the dis­pute, leav­ing it to Cal­i­for­nia courts. They ruled the sur­ro­gacy con­tract she signed giv­ing up parental rights was valid.

Arthur Ca­plan, a bioethics pro­fes­sor at New York Uni­ver­sity, said it’s un­likely the high court will take her case.

“They’ve tried to stay away from re­strict­ing the right to par­ent, even though we don’t have what would be a pos­i­tive right to par­ent,” Mr. Ca­plan said of the court’s jus­tices.

He said state law­mak­ers should step in to han­dle the grow­ing num­ber of unan­swered ques­tions about sur­ro­gacy, such as whether a sur­ro­gate on life sup­port still has to give birth un­der a con­tract, and what hap­pens if in­tended par­ents die be­fore the birth.

State law­mak­ers, though, have largely avoided those thorny top­ics, fear­ing the con­se­quences of cre­at­ing an­other bat­tle­ground for pro-life and pro-choice ad­vo­cates.

“The field has gone on as a com­mer­cial busi­ness with con­tracts in my view that are set un­fairly,” said Mr. Ca­plan.

Fig­ur­ing out what sit­u­a­tions would cre­ate an open­ing for a sur­ro­gate mother to claim rights could be fraught with com­pli­ca­tions.

One of Mr. Cas­sidy’s clients, Toni Bare, said she will ask the Supreme Court to step in after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled she had no rights to cus­tody or care of the child she birthed as a sur­ro­gate.

Ms. Bare had fought turn­ing over the child after the wife of the bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther used a racial slur to de­scribe her and, Ms. Bare says, ha­rassed her fam­ily.

“No state should al­low the pur­chase of a child, re­gard­less of the adults’ de­sires,” she said. “The state cer­tainly shouldn’t force the sale, or have laws that en­cour­age peo­ple to do so.”

Many Euro­pean coun­tries have banned sur­ro­gacy, spawn­ing what amounts to re­pro­duc­tive tourism, with Euro­pean cou­ples hir­ing sur­ro­gates in the U.S. in hopes of skirt­ing their home coun­tries’ bans.

Mr. Ca­plan said bans in some Mus­lim coun­tries have cre­ated an­other so­lu­tion: uter­ine trans­plants.

“It’s not like th­ese is­sues are go­ing to go away,” he said. “It shifts the ter­rain.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.