From the New York Times, a New Jersey Judge ruled that a woman who was the gestational surrogate for her brother and his male partner can file for custody of the children (they had twins). Gestational surrogate means that her eggs were not used in the pregnancy–her brother and his partner used their sperm and donor eggs to create the embryos that were then implanted in her uterus. She gave birth to twin girls, and is now fighting for custody. According to the NY Times, she is claiming that the surrogacy agreement was coerced.
This Judge cited the famous Baby M case as precedent, which was one of the first legal battles over these types of surrogacy arrangements in the US. The Baby M case was the first to give the surrogate mother rights–but in that case, the surrogate was also genetically connected to the child who was born from her egg as well. What’s interesting is that the woman in this case, Angelia Robinson, is being represented by the same lawyer who represented the surrogate mother in the Baby M case, Harold Cassidy.
Surrogacy is undoubtedly a complicated process. It brings up a lot of questions about parenthood, genetics, parental rights. It’s becoming a more common practice, probably because of advances in genetic technologies and also a new international surrogacy market. It’s also one of the technologies that allows queer people to parent, and for gay men who can encounter difficulty adopting because of restrictions based on sexuality (and who can’t give birth on their own using donor sperm), it may be one of their only options.
I have to admit that I was surprised a judge would rule in favor (although this is not the final custody hearing, but does allow Angelina to file for custody) of the non-genetic parent. But carrying a child in your womb for nine months is no small feat and brings up understandable questions about relationship and rights to a child.
I have mixed feelings about surrogacy. While I understand the desire to parent, and to feel genetically connected to one’s children, it seems like a long way to go for that. I also question the financial transactions involved in surrogacy arrangements, particularly when the women involved are low-income or in the developing world. I don’t think our legal system, which has a narrow definition of parenthood, is adequately prepared to handle these modern arrangements that don’t allow us to clearly identify a mother and father.
I think we’ll see more and more in the legal realm on practices like surrogacy as the practice gains popularity and these types of conflicts arise.
The real life accompaniment to baby mama
Gay men becoming daddies
Ricky Martin a new father
Thanks to Taryn for sending us this link