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Thursday, March 7, 2013

When surrogacy goes awry

Crystal Kelley and Baby S

It seemed like a straight-forward business deal, single mother and surrogate Crystal Kelley would carry a married couple's fourth child for $22,000.  But when an ultrasound performed at five months revealed that the baby had a cleft lip and palate, a brain cyst, and a serious heart condition, the genetic parents insisted she abort the child.  Even though Kelly signed a surrogate contract, agreeing to abort in case of severe foetus abnormality, she reneged.

The genetic parents have two children who both have ongoing medical problems, so they tried hard to change her mind.  They offered her an extra $10,000 to abort and when Kelly made a counter-claim of $15,000, the couple refused and a legal battle began.  The couple threatened to take custody of the baby and surrender her to the state of Connecticut where she would spend her life in foster care as a ward of the state.

Kelly found a lawyer who took her case for free.  He told her to move to Connecticut where she would be recognised as the child's mother.  She moved to Michigan with her two daughters and found a family who wanted to adopt a special needs baby and agreed to take her.  Then it was revealed that the embryo had been from an anonymous donor and not the wife.

Finally, soon after she was born, the parents and the surrogate mother struck a deal - if the father gave up his parental rights, he and his wife could visit the child and the adoptive family, which they continue to do.

Baby S, as she is now referred to, was born on June 25 and suffers from more extensive medical problems that the ultrasound revealed. Her internal organs are in the wrong place, she has a cleft lip and palate, complex heart problems, and two non-functioning spleens.  Her head is very small and one ear is severely misshapen.  She's already had open-heart surgery and an operation on her intestines.  There is also a 50 per cent chance she will never walk, talk or use her hands normally.

But the two special people who wanted to adopt her couldn't be happier. They insist that despite her medical problems, she has beaten the odds and is living a happy life.  "She wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile" they said "She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm.  Ultimately we hold onto a faith that in providing her with love, opportunity and encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of."

Surrogacy in Australia must be privately arranged and no fee or payment is permitted, although in some cases, medical expenses are allowed.  Finding an ultruistic surrogate in Australia is almost impossible, the lucky ones may have a close relative prepared to carry their baby, but the majority don't.  That's why would-be parents go to America.