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Surrogate or Parents-to-be: Who Gets to Decide?

By Madeline Holler |

surrogate, infertility

Whose body is it?

Surrogacy is a thorny issue, period.

When more than two people are involved in making a baby, questions about who gets to decide what — and who, ultimately, the fetus-then-baby belong to — have been a cloud lingering over the whole process since it first began.

There are surrogate moms who, after nine months of gestation, decide they want to raise the baby. There are women and men who hire surrogates but later decide that, never mind, one or the other or both don’t want the kid after all.

A now there’s this: a couple who wants to terminate a pregnancy and a surrogate who doesn’t.

When a couple in British Columbia learned through prenatal tests that their baby would likely be born with Down syndrome, they decided to terminate. Problem was, they weren’t the pregnant ones — their surrogate was. She was determined to see the pregnancy through.

Per their agreement, the couple would be absolved of any responsibility, which sounds pretty cut-and-dried. They all agreed to the contract. Only some aren’t so sure. Were the agreement to be contested, a judge could go to family law and require that the biological parents support the child financially.

In some U.S. districts, a couple can sue their surrogate and get their money back if the surrogate changes her mind and decides on a course not in line with the original agreement.

The National Post, which reported on a conference where this Down syndrome case was brought up, lists some of the other anticipated outcomes of children born of surrogate mothers in Canada — at least three of whom are raising the children they thought would be handed over to the couple who commissioned the pregnancy.

The surrogate carrying the fetus with Down syndrome eventually honored her contract and went through the the abortion. She’s a mother of two children and cited her own family responsibilities.

This situation brings up good questions about surrogacy, the lack of regulation and who, ultimately, is responsible. When you turn your body over in service to another couple, where do your rights end and someone else’s begin?

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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6 thoughts on “Surrogate or Parents-to-be: Who Gets to Decide?

  1. JimmyH says:

    What about the rights of the beautiful unborn child with Down syndrome!? My wife and I have a gorgeous 5 month old baby girl who has Down syndrome, and we can’t imagine life without her. It’s unfortunate that we’ve become such a throw-away society that has such a poor understanding of the value of EVERY human life.

  2. Carrie M. says:

    I have no answers on this one whatsoever.I do think you can’t legally be forced to abort.

  3. Leticia Velasquez says:

    Therein lies the moral problem of surrogacy. This woman sold her services to grow a baby. This makes what should be an act of love in a lifelong committment a cold business deal. Tragically, she forgot that acting in a way inconsistent with her human dignity would hurt her. And the perfectly wonderful baby whom she is being asked to kill.
    Pope Paul warned that misusing reproduction would lead to the objectification of women in Humana Vitae in 1967. He was prophetic.

  4. JEssica says:

    Surrogacy should be outlawed, it takes advantage of poor women.

  5. Marj says:

    You can’t force a woman to carry a baby, and you can’t force her to terminate one. Unless they had a legally binding agreement that she was required to terminate the pregnancy if they told her to, they don’t have a leg to stand on.

  6. Black Sheep says:

    “Likely” had Down Syndrome?! I sure hope they confirmed that with an amnio before terminating. CVS or amnio is the only way to know for sure.

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