With the murky surrogacy laws in the U.S., and especially internationally, a surrogacy contract can always surprise you.
Brittneyrose Torres, a 26-year-old surrogate from California, found out how difficult surrogacy negotiations can be after refusing a couple’s request to abort their third baby.
Now 17 weeks pregnant, Torres was first implanted with two fertilized eggs. When one of the eggs split to make twins, a common happening with in vitro fertilization, Torres found out she was pregnant with triplets — two boys and a girl. Through her surrogacy contract, Torres was supposed to receive $30,000 in total: $25,000 for carrying one baby and an additional $5,000 for carrying two or more. But now Torres finds herself in a bind, as the biological parents say a contract loophole will allow them to order an abortion of their third baby. The intended parents, who Torres was connected with through Facebook, are withholding payment until she aborts one baby, who they say has medical risk for developmental disabilities. Torres says her doctors have confirmed the female baby has no abnormalities and has even offered to adopt, but the parents refused.
As shocking as it is to hear a surrogacy argument that hinges on a baby’s life, this kind of gridlock is not at all uncommon. Surrogacy laws by state, and especially overseas, have been called by many a “ticking time bomb.” Way back in 2004, we already knew that flimsy surrogacy laws were a problem — 10 years ago there were a number of states that didn’t have surrogacy laws in place. And as a report for Voices in Bioethics confirms, both domestic and international surrogacy laws still suffer from a clear lack of legal regulation.
Nowadays, there are a number of discrepancies in surrogacy laws from state to state, and a great many countries don’t address surrogacy legalities at all. This is why we continue to see mass confusion and heartbreak in cases of surrogacy: What starts as a happy agreement can easily turn into a surrogate mom who wants to keep the baby or biological parents who want to give the baby back.
While we don’t know all the details of Torres’ case, as outlined in The New York Post, we do know that her surrogacy story serves as a cautionary tale for all bio parents and potential surrogates everywhere. Torres says she was connected with the intended parents via Facebook before a contract was drawn up, but there is no mention of using a reputable surrogacy agency. Taking the legal side of surrogacy seriously before pregnancy is ever on the table is critically important — to protect both the parents and the surrogate mother.
A surrogacy agency serves an important purpose, but it isn’t cheap. There are plenty of parents who choose to forgo a middleman agency to save on the cut they will take, which may have happened in Torres’ case.
Choosing to not use a surrogacy agency as a cheaper workaround is bound to cost you one way or another. A surrogacy agency is responsible for representing the best interests of both the surrogate and the biological parents, drafting legal contacts and mediating all communication. In a case like Torres’, where biological parents are asking her to do something she believes to be unethical, a surrogacy agency could have caught this contract clause that allowed for abortion early on to make sure both parties approved. A surrogacy lawyer can also provide extra protection and help negotiate costs.
There’s one clear message in this ultimately heartbreaking story: Surrogacy laws aren’t getting any better anytime soon. While surrogacy can have a successful and happy outcome when both parties are on the same page, major disagreements can happen just as often. Any woman considering giving the gift of life to parents who can’t conceive needs to protect her own interests first.