February 24, 2024

Americans using surrogacy to create made-to-order babies

Lack of consistency in US surrogacy legislation leads to legal complications

Laschell and Paul Baker holding the twins she bore July 28 as a surrogate mother. / New York TimesDifferent regulatory approaches to surrogacy in the US can result in
legal tangles, according to a report in The New York Times Magazine. The “lax atmosphere” of surrogacy regulation “means
that it is now essentially possible to order up a baby, creating an emerging
commercial market for surrogate babies that raises vexing ethical

The Times gives three disturbing examples.

After years of infertility, Amy and Scott Kehoe
decided to hire a surrogate. They purchased sperm from an anonymous
donor, who is a high-achieving
college student and employed a surrogate mother. Their twins were born
on July 28.

But the babies are now
in the custody of the surrogate mother, Laschell Baker, after she acquired a court order
to remove the children from Ms Kehoe’s care. Upon discovering that Ms Kehoe was
suffering from a mental illness, Ms Baker feared for
the children’s safety. “I couldn’t see living the rest of my life
worrying and wondering what had happened, or what if she hadn’t taken her
medicine, or what if she relapsed,” Ms Baker told the Times. Baker already has four children of her own, and plans to raise the twins, Bridget and Ethan, with her
husband Paul.

Five parties were
involved in this transaction: the sperm donor, the egg
donor, Ms Baker and the Kehoes — plus the two middlemen
who brokered the sperm and eggs.

Lawyers say that fewer problems arise when there
is a
genetic link between the prospective parents and the offspring. Very
gestational surrogacy involves two parents who are able to produce eggs
sperm of their own, but the woman is unable to carry a baby. Most
surrogacy arrangements run smoothly, and doctors say that they can be
highly fulfilling.

Another case involved an eccentric 60-year-old who
engaged a sperm donor, an egg donor, a surrogate mother to produce twin
girls. From the moment of the birth there were allegations of neglect
and utter incompetence as a parent. He had approached the transaction
so carelessly that he has had to fight several attempts to remove the
girls from his care.

The third involved a
woman who agreed to be a gestational surrogate for her brother and his male
partner. The partner donated sperm and the woman carried the child to birth.
The trio are now fighting for custody of 3-year-old twin girls. The woman now claims that she is the mother even though she did
not supply the eggs for the process.

In the US, there is no
centralised authority regulating surrogacy. Although fertility doctors
have a
financial stake in the process, they basically control the process.
California upholds surrogacy agreements, but Michigan doesn’t. 

George J. Annas, a Boston University bioethicist, said, “This is the main
problem with commercialization, seeing children as a consumer product. This is especially true when there is no genetic
connection with the child,” he told the Times
last week. “It really does treat children like commodities. Like pets.” ~ New
York Times Dec 12

Jared Yee