A surrogate mother in the United
States, who refused an abortion at the intended parents' request after a scan revealed abnormalities, has told CNN news that
she was offered money to terminate the fetus and was threatened with legal
action. The intended parents have negotiated access to the child, who now lives
with adoptive parents.
The surrogate, Crystal Kelley, and
the intended parents were all present when an ultrasound scan at five months' gestation revealed
the fetus had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in her brain and severe heart
defects. Doctors later told them that if born, the child would require extensive
surgery and had a 25 percent chance of a healthy life.
Later, a doctor and genetic counsellor at Hartford Hospital, Connecticut, wrote to Kelley's
midwife stating that the intended parents, who were both believed to be the biological parents of
the child, had expressed their wish for Kelley to undergo an abortion.
The letter said: 'Given the ultrasound findings, [the intended parents]
feel that the interventions required to manage [the resulting child's medical
problems] are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option
to consider pregnancy termination', reports CNN.
The intended parents, who had two
previous children with medical problems, explained they opted to use a
surrogate to 'minimise the risk of pain and suffering for their baby', the
Kelley, who was implanted with an
embryo stored from the intended parents' previous IVF procedures, refused the
request, however. The relationship between Kelley and the intended parents, who
had been on good terms with frequent contact, then began to deteriorate.
agency reportedly wrote to Kelley informing her that
if she decided to proceed with the pregnancy the intended couple would not
agree to be the child's legal parents. CNN reports that an agent at the company told Kelley, who had agreed to a $22,000 surrogacy
'fee' to help with financial difficulties, that the parents would pay her
$10,000 to have an abortion. After some negotiation Kelley ultimately rejected
reports that a lawyer hired by the intended parents wrote to Kelley explaining
that she was 'obligated' to terminate the pregnancy. The lawyer, Douglas
Fishman, told Kelley that she had signed a contract agreeing to terminate the
fetus in the event of 'severe fetus abnormality' and that, if she refused, the intended parents
would sue for breach of contract. Fishman declined to comment on
the specifics to CNN, saying: 'The situation... is complicated. It's very
A lawyer acting for Kelley,
Michael DePrimo, said that while the intended parents could not legally compel
her to have an abortion, they planned to put the child up for foster care as a
ward of the state. As legal parents - under Connecticut law the
genetic parents are considered the legal parents - the intended parents would seemingly
be permitted to do so.
Before the birth, Kelley then
moved to the state of Michigan - where the law does not recognise surrogacy
contracts and considers the birth mother as a legal parent. While there,
another couple agreed to adopt the child at Kelley's request.
The intended parents then filed a
claim in the Connecticut Superior Court for parental rights. The claim,
however, revealed that the intended mother was not the child's genetic mother and
they had used an egg donor, further complicating the matter.
A deal was struck between the
parties after the child was born, with Kelley's name on the birth certificate,
and the intended father, who is the child's biological father, agreed to
relinquish his rights to legal parenthood in return for access by the intended
mother to keep in touch with the child's new adoptive family. CNN reports that
the couple has since visited the baby.
'I think I did what was right for
her. I gave her a chance that no one else was prepared to give her', Kelley told the Telegraph last week. 'I am proud I stood up for what I believe
CNN reports the child's medical
problems turned out to be more serious than the ultrasound revealed. She was born with a brain defect, holoprosencephaly, and a condition that results in some of her internal organs developing in the opposite side of the body, heterotaxy syndrome. She has two spleens
that do not function properly, heart defects and facial disfigurement. If the
child survives extensive planned surgeries, doctors say there is a 50 percent
chance she won't be able to walk or talk.
CNN says attempts at contacting the couple for comment were