A Connecticut couple offered their surrogate mother US$10,000 to abort their baby because it had major defects.
A Connecticut couple offered their surrogate mother US$10,000 to abort their baby because it had major defects. When the surrogate refused, the couple’s lawyer sent a letter demanding that the baby be aborted. “You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately,” wrote attorney Douglas Fishman, “You have squandered precious time.”
The complex story emerged in a CNN report on Sunday and has sparked a blizzard of commentary. Crystal Kelly, 29, is a mother of two who in 2011 sought to become a surrogate mother. She was underemployed and in need of money to support her young children. Through a surrogacy agency she was put in touch with a Connecticut couple who agreed to pay her $2,200 a month for bearing their child (though it has since emerged that the eggs used were actually from a anonymous donor).
Five months after having the couple’s embryos implanted, Kelley went an ultrasound and found that the child had several congenital abnormalities, including a cleft palate brain cyst and complex heart abnormality.
When they heard of the defects the legal parents asked Kelley to have an abortion, believing this to be the “most humane” option. They offered Kelley an additional US$10,000 if she had the termination. Initially Kelley, in what she called “a moment of weakness”, said she would terminate for $15,000. Shortly after she categorically ruled out an abortion, believing that it was wrong.
The parents enlisted the help of Hartford attorney Douglas Fishmen, who sent an intimidating letter demanding that Kelley terminate the baby. The parents first threatened to sue Kelley, and then said they would give up custody to the state of Connecticut should the child be born.
Kelley feared the child going into state care, and so fled to Michigan, a state where surrogate mothers are considered the legal parents of their children. Kelley then searched for appropriate adoptive parents, to whom the baby was given shortly after its birth.
The story has generated intense debate amongst commentators. Arguing from a pro-choice perspective Dan O’Connor of Johns Hopkins University argued that Kelley’s rights over her own body outweighed the rights of the legal parents. “If we have any pretensions about defending a woman’s right to choose, then we must defend that right even when, like Kelley, she chooses to change her mind” wrote O’Connor.
Dawn Crawfield of the Guardian is also pro-choice, but she disagreed. arguing that the legal rights of the parents trump the concerns of the surrogate mother: “it seems absurd to make demands on the parents and to further those demands by claiming emotional attachment to the child you are carrying”.
Kelley herself says that she stands by her decision and is happy the child has lived regardless of the suffering it has to endure.
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