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Surrogate mothers and fetal foreclosures
March 24, 2009 8:07 AM   Subscribe

What happens when payments to a surrogate mother from an infertile couple suddenly stop, through no fault of either party? [via]
posted by jaimev (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sounds like the setup for a sitcom. Bob Uecker and Alan Thicke are a gay couple looking to adopt when their surrogate service goes belly up and Mom has to move in with them. Wacky Hijinks ensue in "Ute-R-Us" this fall on CBS.
posted by stavrogin at 8:28 AM on March 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'm sure this is some credit crunch/bank collapse fallout.

The trust money was probably invested in something that would give the manager a nice unmentioned return and subsequently tanked and now the manager is in Mexico.

Also something seems really wrong about the margins in this baby manufacturing process. Twelve grand fee upfront? Just how much of a service do they provide when they outsource (to themselves) the cash transfers?
posted by srboisvert at 8:37 AM on March 24, 2009


Abort, retry, fail?
posted by klangklangston at 8:40 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


What happens when payments to a surrogate mother from an infertile couple suddenly stop, through no fault of either party?

well, it sounds like that collins dickhole should be sued into oblivion and arrested, yes? I'm hoping this is the ultimate result.
posted by shmegegge at 8:40 AM on March 24, 2009


Foreclose on that baby?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:43 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


This doesn't sound too funny:
One surrogate, Natash McDuffy, 33, of Houston, is on doctor-ordered bed rest, eight months pregnant with twin girls. She said that she waited for her $2,800 monthly check from SurroGenesis to arrive early this month but that it didn't come.

The bills quickly started stacking up. Her landlord sent her an eviction notice
It sounds like embezzlement-- somebody at SurroGenesis has run off with all the funds and the surrogates, the wanna-be parents and the people left behind at SurroGenesis are all fucked. I wonder how a judge is going to sort things out when the lawsuits start. SurroGenesis was getting $12,000 for their fee at brokering a deal-- is that even legal? Since we don't allow for the selling of children in this country, I imagine the surrogates will have a hard time getting paid if the wanna-be parents can't come up with more money.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:46 AM on March 24, 2009


Babby-Q.

Surrogate mama's gotta eat.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:46 AM on March 24, 2009


Foreclosure:uterus :: Trashout:abortion.

Bond rating:Genetic testing?
posted by adipocere at 8:47 AM on March 24, 2009


Was there any fund manager or "trust" company in the past 10 years that didn't either run a Ponzi scheme or sink its money into risky mortgages?.. sometimes I wonder.

Or are we all so used to the idea of billions of dollars disappearing into a black hole that we don't even think it abnormal anymore?
posted by clevershark at 8:57 AM on March 24, 2009


If this keeps up, pretty soon people will need a license to have a baby.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:59 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we criminalize babies, then only babies will have criminals.

Wait, I'm doing it wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 9:02 AM on March 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


SLoG - adoption agencies also charge money so I think the legal idea is not that they are selling babies (that would be WRONG!) but instead brokering the deal between surrogates and potential parents. What a mess for everyone.
posted by saucysault at 9:04 AM on March 24, 2009


The linked article is a little unclear as to what exactly happened, so I thought I'd put the NYTimes link from the slate article here. To clarify: SurroGenesis USA Inc., in Modesto, CAclosed abruptly and so did the their escrow company, the Michael Charles Independent Financial Holding Group, which was supposed to be safeguarding SurroGenesis' clients’ money. It turns out that many of the offices listed on the SurroGenesis' website were actually post office boxes.

The Holding Group took the money, placed it in a trust and promised to send out monthly checks to surrogates. This system is used by other surrogacy firms, and prevents surrogates from being left destitute if would-be-parents back out after a surrogate become pregnant.

That lawyer mentioned at the bottom of the article has a blog called The Spin Doctor. He's not only a lawyer to the industry but also the head of an egg donation organization, so he obviously has a vested interest in making sure the industry isn't tarnished by SurroGenesis.

His blog mentions that Liz Silverman-Platt, the founder of Baby Steps Fertility is organizing a fund-raiser for the surrogate moms who are being evicted for failing to pay their rent. (Note that according to the LA Times article, the prospective parents sent the mom he specifically mentions in that blog post a replacement check.)

A pre-litigation meeting for those victimized by both organizations is also being scheduled.
posted by zarq at 9:04 AM on March 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


It just goes to show, you can't be too careful.
posted by Dr. Send at 9:08 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If this keeps up, pretty soon people will need a license to have a baby.

I think that's actually the basis for the made-for-TV movie based on the aforementioned TV show 'Ute-R-Us'.

In the film, the gay couple will be played by Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, following them in a 2 hour car chase after a stolen Cadillac piloted telepathically by the unborn child.

As usual, wacky hijinx ensue.
posted by mannequito at 9:11 AM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


SurroGenesis was getting $12,000 for their fee at brokering a deal-- is that even legal?

There has been quite a bit of debate about this for the last 20-30 years. Proponents believe the surrogates are performing a vital service. Opponents feel the practice commodifies women and demeans motherhood. A decent legal argument can be, and has been, made for both sides in many countries and US states.

The UK, Canada, France and Australia have made commercial (compensated) surrogacy illegal. It's legal in India and Israel. In the US, it is illegal in Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Washington and Utah. It is currently legal in Arkansas, Oregon and Texas. California is known for having laws that are quite friendly to the practice.

Citizens of countries where surrogacy and/or fertility are banned, such as Saudi Arabia, often go to California to have children. It's common for fertility clinics in the US to cater to these groups.

Since we don't allow for the selling of children in this country, I imagine the surrogates will have a hard time getting paid if the wanna-be parents can't come up with more money.

Arrangements can and will probably still be made under the table. Prospective parents will want to raise their own progeny, and surrogates will probably be unwilling or unable to raise a child that isn't their own.
posted by zarq at 9:17 AM on March 24, 2009


Wouldn't adoption be an easy thing to go through? Seriously there are 1000's of babies that need good families that will not set you back 12K.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:42 AM on March 24, 2009


Are there 1000's of babies needing adoption? I was lookng into open, public adoption in Ontario last week and with a population of over 11 million there were only 55 children up for adoption (only one was a baby and had to be adopted with two siblings).
posted by saucysault at 10:01 AM on March 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wouldn't adoption be an easy thing to go through? Seriously there are 1000's of babies that need good families that will not set you back 12K.

Couples may choose surrogacy over adoption for several reasons. Generally, prospective parents who choose the surrogacy route wish to retain more control over the process by which they have or obtain a child. They include:

1) Parents may want a genetic link to their offspring. (In cases where the egg and sperm both have to be donated, most couples just opt to adopt.)

2) In the US, many states have strict laws regarding adoption, but those governing surrogacy are less well-defined. It can be difficult to adopt a child in some states, especially if the prospective parents are gay. Couples have to meet certain criteria, which are sometimes perceived as arbitrary and offensive.

3) In most states, a surrogate does not have a claim on the child. So if she decides she would like to keep the baby before it is given to the parents, she may have no legal recourse. However, in an adoption, most states protect the biological mother's rights even after the papers are signed. This can be heartwrenching for an adopting couple, who may take their newest family member home from the hospital, only to be forced to return them within days or weeks.

4) A greater degree of knowledge about their child's genetic history.

It's worth noting that most adoptions take place for unplanned pregnancies while surrogacy is a planned pregnancy. The level of involvement of the biological father usually plays a role in both situations.
posted by zarq at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2009


In most states, a surrogate does not have a claim on the child. So if she decides she would like to keep the baby before it is given to the parents, she may have no legal recourse.

Really? This is totally fascinating to me. I thought it was pretty uniform throughout the U.S. that legal motherhood was defined by whose vagina you exited, not whose genetic material was used to create the fertilized egg. Do you know, zarq, if this has ever gone to court? Or is it just the way the laws are currently written, and has never really been subject to a court challenge?

(You seem to know a lot about this, so I'm hoping you can shed more light on this bit.)
posted by iminurmefi at 10:24 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just get a puppy. Geeze...
posted by LordSludge at 10:25 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a pretty complicated area of law that is changing in different jurisdictions. I believe because of a few women that tried to back out of surrogacy agreement in California the surrogate does not use her own egg now but instead uses either the egg of the woman contracting the surrogacy or a donor egg, complicating "ownership" even further.
Helen Beasley had a pretty negative experience of surrogacy. I wonder whatever happened to the children?
posted by saucysault at 10:44 AM on March 24, 2009


zarq, you're leaving out another key reason US couples might choose surrogacy over adoption: they are same-sex couples living in a state where same-sex couples can't legally adopt.


I thought it was pretty uniform throughout the U.S. that legal motherhood was defined by whose vagina you exited, not whose genetic material was used to create the fertilized egg.

As an egg donor myself, I know that I have had to formally surrender my maternal rights in three states so far--California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Do you know, zarq, if this has ever gone to court?

IANz, but I know that it has been litigated on a number of occasions. The first case in the US was a little more than 20 years ago.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:52 AM on March 24, 2009


Do you know, zarq, if this has ever gone to court? Or is it just the way the laws are currently written, and has never really been subject to a court challenge?

A number of legal challenges have been raised, and of those, most wind up going to their states' supreme courts.

Here are some links:

Breakdown of California surrogacy case law, from surrogacy.com, which has solid articles and essays on the subject.

Background NYT article from 1990

The Baby M case was turned into a movie. More.

This page talks about a couple of landmark surrogacy cases, including Baby M and that of Johnson v. Calvert

"A Pennsylvania woman who reneged on a surrogate pregnancy contract does not have parental rights over the triplets she bore, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday." (The eggs weren't hers, so the judge said that since the kids weren't made up of her genetic material, she had no claim to them. This ruling overturned one in her favor from a lower court.)

The Helen Beasley case was really awful. Woman agrees to be a surrogate. Prospective parents find out she's having twins. They demand that she selectively reduce one of the fetuses. She refused. She had both babies, the parents violated the contract and continued to make payments to her.

Surromoms Online also has a news breakdown that can be helpful for an at-a-glance review.

The bottom line: all of these legal suits seem to be decided on a case by case basis. Sometimes genetics is considered, sometimes intent. There doesn't seem to be an overriding factor.

(You seem to know a lot about this, so I'm hoping you can shed more light on this bit.)

Thanks. I used to handle publicity for several organizations and companies that dealt with infertility issues, including a chain of fertility clinics. At the time, I needed to know all this stuff.
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on March 24, 2009


Wow, thanks! This is (for some reason) really shocking to me. The whole idea of IVF and test tubes babies, and surrogacy in general, has never seemed weird or ethically wrong to me, but something about the idea that you could gestate and give birth to a child and have no legal rights to that kid is... disturbing. Profoundly disturbing, actually. Not sure why.

I'll be browsing through those links, thanks.
posted by iminurmefi at 11:10 AM on March 24, 2009


zarq, you're leaving out another key reason US couples might choose surrogacy over adoption: they are same-sex couples living in a state where same-sex couples can't legally adopt.

Well, I sorta mentioned it:

"It can be difficult to adopt a child in some states, especially if the prospective parents are gay."

I know... difficult ≠ impossible.
posted by zarq at 11:11 AM on March 24, 2009


Sorry, zarq, I didn't mean to be nitpicking. It's just that some non-US folks often don't understand why US gay couples often see surrogacy as a first choice and don't even consider adoption, because the concept of gay couples being a priori forbidden from adopting seems so bizarre to them.

I have encountered several gay couples who lived in jurisdictions where they could have adopted, but who didn't consider it because of the jurisdictions where it was forbidden.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on March 24, 2009


It can even be difficult to get IVF in some states.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 11:44 AM on March 24, 2009


You're welcome!

The whole idea of IVF and test tubes babies, and surrogacy in general, has never seemed weird or ethically wrong to me, but something about the idea that you could gestate and give birth to a child and have no legal rights to that kid is... disturbing. Profoundly disturbing, actually. Not sure why.

I've interviewed a number of surrogates and also couples who conceived through surrogacy. I have a great deal of sympathy for both parties. And the complexities of their arrangements truly astonished me.

From the prospective parents' persepective, they pay for everything: tests, medications, etc. They have to deal with various complications and their own psychological stresses. Because surrogates usually conceive through IVF, the expense can be astronomical, and of course, pregnancy is never guaranteed with IVF. They have to worry about the surrogate's activities. If she's placed on bed rest, will she do it? Will she smoke or put the fetus at risk in any way? In many cases, they are literally a plane ride away from their surrogate.

From the surrogate's perspective, she's probably doing it for either one or two reasons: she wants to give another couple an incredible gift, and/or she needs the money. Every one of them spoke at length about the severe emotional and physical toll the pregnancy took on them. Plus, the parents often come across as total control freaks. IIRC, most also found it difficult to deal with the ensuing depression.

Even after speaking with them, I can't even imagine how hard it must have been to give up a child they gave birth to. :(
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on March 24, 2009


Sorry, zarq, I didn't mean to be nitpicking.

No worries. Honestly, I'd have been better off being specific. So I'm glad you mentioned it. :)

I have encountered several gay couples who lived in jurisdictions where they could have adopted, but who didn't consider it because of the jurisdictions where it was forbidden.

In a way, it's less of a problem now than it was five years ago. Most states now allow single GLBT adoption and are either deliberately vague about adoption by a second person or allow it outright. The situation definitely isn't ideal. What this usually means is that one parent must adopt a child, and then their partner must also then try to adopt after the first adoption is complete. But complete prohibition is now rarer than it used to be, and that's a good thing.
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on March 24, 2009


Foreclosed baby auctions, here we come!

A couple, obviously past reproductive age, walks into a fertility clinic. "Do you have a list of your foreclosures?"*

Soon, we'll have a baby bubble, as anyone with any spare scratch left looks to cash in. TLC merges two of its most popular shows to launch "Flip That Baby!"

* This is probably funnier if you've worked in mortgage banking at all in the past decade.
posted by Eideteker at 12:32 PM on March 24, 2009


Just get a puppy. Geeze...
posted by LordSludge


A BLACK dog. Jeez. Don't you know how many unadopted black dogs there are?
posted by Night_owl at 1:56 PM on March 24, 2009


Surrogate? Did they stop growing cabbage in California?
posted by Goofyy at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2009


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