21 December 2015
ByAppeared in BioNews 833
The first case, reported a month ago, involves Melissa Cook, a 47-year-old from California. Cook was paid $33,000 by an unnamed man from Georgia to act as a surrogate. She underwent IVF treatment and was implanted with three embryos created from donated eggs and the intended father's sperm.
A scan at nine weeks showed that all three embryos had gone on to develop normally. Cook, who has never met the father, told the New York Post that she was sent a letter by his lawyer Robert Warmsley, asking her to undergo 'selective reduction' (abortion of one of the fetuses). He stated that failure to adhere to the agreement could lead to 'loss of all benefits under the agreement, damages in relation to future care of the children [and] medical costs associated with any extraordinary care the children may need'.
In the second case, Brittneyrose Torres, also from California, was implanted with two fertilised eggs via IVF. One of the embryos split and went on to develop into identical twin boys. The third triplet is a girl. The parents have asked Torres to undergo a selective reduction, selecting the female fetus for termination. Torres' request to adopt the female fetus her request was refused by the parents.
Torres then contacted the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, a non-profit organisation that campaigns against surrogacy, which has secured free legal representation for the 26-year-old.
In both cases the surrogate mother and intended parents entered into a contract allowing for the termination of pregnancy for medical reasons. While commercial surrogacy contracts are legally recognised in California, a surrogate could not be physically forced to undergo the procedure by a court. Arthur Caplan, Director of Medical Ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center, told CBS News that the right to bodily autonomy is paramount. If the surrogate refuses to comply, however, the parents can refuse to pay her agreed fees and may also leave her with high medical costs, he said.