Now here is an ethics forest you may not be able to find your way out of. Surrogate Crystal Kelley, a mother of two herself, agreed to be the surrogate for a New York couple upon meeting them at a playground. But after various 21-week ultrasounds revealed that the baby had severe medical problems, the couple insisted that she get an abortion. Kelley had agreed to this clause in the contract she signed with the couple. But upon being pregnant, she had second thoughts. Understandably.
The New York couple, who already had two little girls, reportedly offered Kelley $22,000 to carry their child. After the ultrasound, they offered her $10,000 to get an abortion. She describes them as “attentive” and wanting to be “involved in the pregnancy,” until the baby’s diagnosis:
“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. I can’t deny that I did say, if you give me $15,000, I’ll think about doing it.”
When Kelley refused, she was then slapped with several lawsuits. The 29-year-old then packed up and moved to Michigan where she was able to have rights over the baby. She delivered the little girl last summer, known now as “Baby S,” and placed her up for adoption. It was a very complex and emotionally fraught decision for the mother:
“I had a very hard time giving her up for adoption. I really wanted to keep her,” Kelley said.
Kelley sees the baby, now nine months old, about once month. Doctors are reportedly confident that if Baby S survives the first five years of her life, she has a strong chance of surviving to adulthood. The little girl has also been adopted by a couple — so all’s well that ends well.
But contractually binding any woman to an abortion is a measure of surrogacy negotiation that I simply cannot get behind, also known as “the low hanging ethical fruit,” according to Dr. Arthur Caplan, the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. Like Caplan, I’m wondering how an abortion even made it into the contract:
No one can contract with a woman to have an abortion. Under any circumstances. For any reason. Never. A woman controls her body and no one can make her do anything she does not want to do in terms of medical intervention with her body no matter what she has said before, signed or promised. The lawyer who tried to coerce and threaten Crystal Kelley to have an abortion should be subject to loss of his license to practice law. Any surrogate agency which conveyed an offer of money to encourage an abortion is guilty of at best bribery and an attempt to crassly manipulate a vulnerable woman. And any surrogacy agency that sticks abortion language into its contracts is guilty of gross misconduct.
Mind that “abortion language,” surrogates.