Abortion Law: Surrogate Offered $10,000 to Abort Deformed Fetus, Refuses, Faces Legal Issues

A Connecticut surrogate was already guaranteed $22,000 by a couple to have their child, but when doctors discovered the fetus had several health problems, the parents made another offer: $10,000 extra to have an abortion.

Crystal Kelley, a 29-year-old single mother of two, had two of the couple's thawed-out embryos put into her uterus in October 2011. Ten days later, one of them took and Kelley was on her way to providing a couple something very precious to her: the gift of a child.

Kelley's two previous miscarriages propelled her wish to help someone else with fertility problems. When she met the couple — caring and observant of their three childrens' needs, all of whom were also conceived via in-vitro fertilization — she could tell how much they wanted another child and quickly agreed to carry their fourth.

"I want you to come to us with anything because you're going to be part of our lives forever," Kelley remembers the mother telling her. She adds, "They were fantastic for a long time. They gave me the impression that they definitely cared about their children very much. They were very involved in their kids’ lives."

But a routine ultrasound at Hartford Hospital soon revealed some major problems. The fetus had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in its brain, and serious heart defects. Doctors couldn't see a stomach or a spleen.

The couple was "frantic," according to Kelley. The friendliness and trust that had previously defined the relationship between the two parties was disappearing.

Then came the letter that would change everything. Dr. Elisa Gianferrari, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Hartford Hospital, and Leslie Ciarleglio, a genetic counselor, wrote:

"Given the ultrasound findings, [the parents] feel that the interventions required to manage [the baby's medical problems] are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination."

When Kelley refused, citing her religious beliefs, the couple decided they didn't want the child anymore.

"They didn't believe it was fair to bring a child into the world that would only know pain and suffering," said Kelley. "If I don't have support of these people. What am I going to do with a baby? I didn't get into this to have a baby."

Kelley then received a letter from the couple's lawyer, Douglas Fishman, reminding her that her surrogacy contract required her to get an abortion in the case "of severe fetus abnormality." Desperate and scared, she moved to Michigan, whose state law would disregard the surrogacy contract and allow her to adopt the child.

On June 25, 2012, Kelley gave birth to "Baby S," born with severe deformities in her head and ear, a cleft lip and a cleft palate, and a long list of complex heart defects. She was able to find another couple to adopt her, though she admits it was difficult to give her up, and has no regrets about her decision.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time a surrogacy case has gone wrong, and these cases usually end with the surrogate choosing abortion as a result of oppressive laws. Just as choosing abortion is solely the choice of the pregnant person, so too should the choice not to abort. Contracting an abortion is, simply, a violation of the pregnant person's body.

The onus is on the hiring party to raise and care for the child. By entering into a contract with a surrogate, a situation like this should never have the chance to occur. A couple who chooses surrogacy must not only accept that not all pregnancies are perfect, but that their surrogate maintains the right to their own body throughout.

This story outlines the glaring reality that many are lucky enough to never have faced: that taking away a person's right to choose abortion is wrong, but forcing abortion upon them is just as reprehensible.

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Christine Salek

Christine is a writer and perpetual student living in Des Moines, Iowa. Her writing can also be found on Medium, the Gonzaga Bulletin, and ResearchGate.

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