Parents Offer Surrogate $10,000 to Have an Abortion: Was She Wrong to Refuse?

PregantWe've all heard the happy stories about surrogacy -- just look at thrilled parents Giuliana and Bill Rancic! Who doesn't love their story? But what happens when a surrogate pregnancy goes wrong?

One couple found out the hard way, and ended up offering their surrogate an extra $10,000 to terminate a pregnancy they believed would cause a life of misery and suffering to the baby she was carrying on their behalf. She refused. Was she wrong? Were the parents wrong to ask her to terminate in the first place? It's a tough situation, but I believe the decision lies with the baby's parents, and in this case, that didn't include the woman carrying that baby.

Here’s what happened, in a little bit more than a nutshell: Surrogate mom Crystal Kelley was five months pregnant with a fetus she was carrying on behalf of a couple who already had three children (two of the couple's 'leftover' frozen embryos were implanted; the second embryo failed to thrive) when an ultrasound confirmed terrible news. The technicians could not see a stomach or a spleen, and the baby had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in her brain, and serious heart defects. Doctors gave the baby a 25 percent chance of ever having a "normal life" and said that she’d need several heart surgeries after she was born, at the least.

More from The Stir: Surrogate Mom Is Left With Twins When Couple Changes Their Minds

Here's where the biological parents and the surrogate saw things differently. The mother and father, who were paying Kelley $22,000 to carry their baby, wanted to terminate; all three of their previous children had been born prematurely, two requiring extensive hospital stays and facing ongoing medial problems. They didn’t want to put another baby through something even worse, which is completely understandable. Except for devout pro-lifers, no one would blame the couple for choosing abortion, if the mother was the one actually carrying the severely deformed fetus.

But Kelley didn't see things that way; she wanted to give the baby in her womb "a chance" at life.

"They were both visibly upset. The mother was crying," Kelley says of meeting with the parents when they asked her to end the pregnancy. "They said they didn't want to bring a baby into the world only for that child to suffer. They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go." But Kelley didn’t agree: "I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do. I told them it wasn't their decision to play God."

Hmm. Isn't it kind of strange to talk about playing God, when you're bearing another woman's child, thanks to the miracle of modern technology?

An incredibly stressful and sad series of events followed, including an offer on behalf of the desperate mother and father to pay Kelley an extra $10,000 to have an abortion. She countered with $15,000, but says it was a "moment of weakness" because she needed the money so badly and quickly changed her mind. After being sued, Kelley got desperate and moved from Connecticut to Michigan, one of the states that doesn't recognize surrogacy contracts, where the baby legally belongs to the woman who's carrying the baby. Which in itself is totally incredible, isn't it? It seems insane: you pay someone to carry your baby because you can't, and that woman could end up being declared your baby's mother?!

You can read about the whole rest of the story at CNN, including the major medical abnormalities "Baby S." was born with, her slim chances at a healthy life, and who ended up adopting her (Kelley wanted to give the baby a chance at life, but she didn't want to raise her). I find the whole thing heartbreaking -- this isn't something I've ever thought about when it comes to surrogacy, but of course, it makes sense that complications can arise, just as with any pregnancy.

I have so many questions about this specific situation ... Why, if their other children all suffered medical abnormalities, did the mom and dad go ahead with another pregnancy using the same "batch" of embryos? Why, if Kelley was so adamantly "pro-life," did she feel it was OK to implant two embryos, knowing one or both might not make it? Isn't that "playing God" as well? What’s the difference?

The real question though is, who should get to make the tough decisions when it comes to surrogacy -- the woman carrying the baby or the biological parents? To me, it’s one of those things that seems straightforward at first -- the surrogate is performing a service; it’s an incredible service, to be sure, but she’s not the parent. Yet, having carried my own child and knowing that bond you develop with the little life inside of you, I do understand why Kelley felt such a sense of responsibility to the baby. Ultimately, though, the fact is that Kelley signed an agreement to, essentially, allow another couple the use of her body, and I don’t believe it was her decision to make.

What do you think? Was Kelley right to defy the parents' wishes and refuse to end the pregnancy?


Photo via lizdavenportcreative/Flickr

law, complications, abortion, c-sections, special needs


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Vegeta Vegeta

My brother told me about this last night, and that he couldent believe the stir hadn't covered it yet lol. Anyway I think the surrogate is a nut, the baby has severe severe problems why would you want a baby to live in such awful circumstances?! Also she's only carrying it, it's not hers to make decisions for except what to eat etc. I also think it's nuts that theyres states that nullify surrogacy papers. Wtf.

EmmaF... EmmaFromEire

That baby has a list of medical problems longer than my arm, most alarmingly an underformed brain, which carries a risk of early death. That woman was wrong to flee, wrong to go against the child's parent's wishes.

nonmember avatar MammaMel

Actually...if you read the whole story...the bio mom wasn't was the husbands sperm and someone else's eggs

Vegeta Vegeta

Another note, I kind of feel like you should be able to be arrested for basically hijacking someone else's bio property. And if she needs 15k that badly I seriously doubt she's gonna beable to afford this kids medical bills.

leona24 leona24

This is just selfish and ignorant of the surrogate. This poor baby will only suffer. What is the point.....

Albond86 Albond86

Having gone through having a child who had a huge list of abnormalities and was missing some vital organs, I feel for those parents. THey were making the right choice! Choosing to not wanting their poor little girl to suffer! Their surrogate was WRONG! She should have goen through with the parents wishes. They were "playing God" the minute they created life in a lab and inserted it into her as a surrogate! HORRIBLE Situation all around! 

the4m... the4mutts

I actually agree with the surrogate. You become a surrogate to give life, not end life because someone doesnt want to watch suffering. Obviously SOMEONE was willing to provide for the child, since it was adopted.

I mean, at what point do "abnormalities" become too much to deal with, and warrant abortion? Serious surgeries needed? Severe mental retardation? Mild retardation? Autism?

I dont presume to tell anyone what to do with their own body. If the birthing mother chooses that path, well, its on her. But asking someone you paid to bring life into the world, to knowingly terminate that life? No. It then becomes the surrogate's decision.

Its one thing to become pregnant naturally, OR through medical intervention, knowing that ALL pregnancies, no matter how they come about, run the risk of being un-viable, or resulting in misscarriage. It's another to ask someone to kill because you dont want to deal with it.

Think of this: teen becomes pregnant in a state where the teens parents are legally responsible for the teen & her baby. Those parents cannot force the teen to abort, any more than surrogate users should be able to force the surrogate to abort.

PerkyMe PerkyMe

"They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go."  Who are THEY to plad God????  WOW!!!!  I agree totally with the surrogate....there is nothing about having an abortion ...that is God like. 

nonmember avatar Heather

I agree more with the surrogate..she agreed to surrogacy to bring a life into the the point where it's ending a life, it's her final decision..her body, & her soul that a murder would be upon. NOT the biological parents, as the abortion/termination/murder however you want to think of it wouldn't be happening within their bodies. It would have made the most sense for this to be discussed & agreed upon in the contract, long before the situation arose. So all parties were clear on how each felt on the subject of abortion, if necessary.

cmjaz cmjaz

So, when u carry someone elses baby, its no longer YOUR womb? Gee, what happened to the 'my body, my choice' crowd? You can't pick and choose who gets to claim that its their body and therefore their choice. Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to have an abortion that late in the pregnancy? Not dangerous for the biological mother, of course. They don't have money to pay for medical costs but can pay tens of thousands of dollars for surrogate?

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