Culture

The Corner

Surrogacy Contracts Can Ruin Lives

The multi-billion dollar international fertility industry preys on poor women to be surrogate mothers–known by the dehumanizing parlance as “gestational carriers.”

Last Friday, I wrote a piece over at First Things on how ever-more radical fertility practices have the power to distort family life–ironically, toward the purpose of starting families. The surrogacy aspect of the industry can be particularly abusive. From, “A Right to the Baby We Want:”

In a few cases, surrogates have died bearing children for others. These women are commonly denied any right to participate in the life of the child they carried.

Moreover, surrogacy contracts may require the surrogate mother to abort if the baby has a perceived defect or is otherwise no longer wanted, a requirement that has led to bitter litigation. Nor is there necessarily a requirement that the baby-buying parents actually accept their order.

For example, a few years ago, an Australian couple paid a Thai woman to gestate two children but refused to take one home because he had Down syndrome. When it later came to light that the father was a convicted sex offender, the surrogate sued for custody of the boy’s sister but lost—even though the judge ordered the father to never be left alone with his daughter.

That was a very partial list. Moreover, the potential complications and destructive outcomes of surrogacy can defy prediction or expectation. 

Case in point. California is a hotbed for surrogacy tourism, including Chinese couples hiring American women to bear their babies–which will automatically become US citizens since they are born here. 

That’s bad enough. But a recent case takes the cake. Jessica Allen, a surrogate mother became pregnant with her own baby while already pregnant with a Chinese baby. And unbelievably, she had to fight to keep her own baby! From the New York Post interview:

The boys, who were still in California, had DNA tests, and the agency told me the results. Mike was a biological match to the Lius [the Chinese couple], while Max had my genes.

So, the agency immediagely gave Allen her own baby right back, right? Wrong:

A few days later, Omega [the surrogacy company] told me that someone from the agency was looking after Max because the Lius wanted nothing to do with him. Omega contacted me to say the Lius expected between $18,000 and $22,000 as compensation.

Wait, there’s more: Allen and her husband were advised they could adopt the baby out so the adopting parents would pay the costs!

To my disgust, a caseworker from the agency lined up parents to adopt him and “absorb” the money we owed the Lius. Or, if that didn’t work out, the Lius were thinking of putting Max up for adoption, as they were still his legal parents.

Eventually Allen got her baby, who they named Malachi, but birth certificate still has the name “Max” given him by the Chinese non-parents. 

And consider this: What if the Chinese couple had taken Malachi back to China? After all, under the contract, he was their son.

In short, what a mess the surrogacy industry can weave. And still, it remains almost wholly unregulated. 

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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