A British woman who gave birth to twin baby girls for a European couple is now involved in a dispute with the couple in California who eventually adopted them, reported last week's Mail on Sunday. Claire Austin, who has acted as a surrogate parent twice before and has run her own surrogacy agency, has called for the practice to be banned following her experiences.
Ms Austin acted as a surrogate for a couple living in France, using an egg from a British woman and sperm from an American donor. The procedure was carried out by a doctor based in Athens, Greece, in February 1999. But when Ms Austin found out that she was carrying twin baby girls the couple asked her to have a termination, as they only wanted boys. Ms Austin, by that time 21 weeks pregnant, instead travelled to California to deliver the babies and find alternative adoptive parents.
A Californian agency called Growing Generations put Ms Austin in touch with Tracey Stern and Julia Salazar, a lesbian couple who wanted to adopt the babies. But following the birth of Danielle and Emma, an ongoing row over medical fees erupted and the couple no longer wish to remain in contact with Ms Austin.
Fertility expert Robert Winston described the saga as 'a perfect but sorry example of all that was bad about surrogacy'. He told the Times newspaper that the story of the conception and birth of the twins illustrated the worst aspects of surrogate parenting, with babies treated as commodities rather than human beings. James Yeandel, a spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said that 'We have carefully defined regulations in this country but to control international surrogacy would be nearly impossible'.