Can a Surrogate be forced to Abort the Baby She is Carrying?

pregnantBy Dawn Cranfield

Can a Surrogate be forced to Abort the Baby She is Carrying?

Surrogate mother, Crystal Kelley, was offered $10,000 to abort the baby she was carrying when an ultrasound determined severe birth defects.  Kelley, 29, of Vernon, Connecticut, refused the offer and opted to carry the baby to full-term despite the protest of the parents.

In October 2011, Kelley was paid $22,000 to carry a baby for a couple who already had three children born by in-vitro fertilization.  She had a good relationship with the couple of the unborn child until halfway through the pregnancy when a routine ultrasound determined the baby was not developing properly.

The prospective parents and Kelley were astonished to learn after a more detailed ultrasound that the baby had severe health problems; the technician discovered a cleft lip and palate, a cyst on the brain, severe heart defects and they could not find a stomach or a spleen.  The results would mean the newborn would have roughly a 25% chance of having a “normal life” if the fetus would even survive the pregnancy.

The parents of the child chose to abort the pregnancy rather than carry the baby to full-term; their other three children were all born surrogacyprematurely and two of them spent a great deal of time in the hospital and were still struggling with medical problems.  They had endured enough.

Kelley morally and ethically opposed abortion and fought against their decision.  She felt the couple should “give the baby a chance”.  (

As time became critical for Kelley to make a decision as to whether or not she would abort, the couple offered her $10,000 to terminate the pregnancy.  She declined based on her ethics and morals.  However, she did pause for a moment as a single mother with no job and children of her own to raise.

Kelley countered with an offer of $15,000.  The couple felt they were being extorted and that is precisely the words their lawyer used when he wrote to Kelley and demand she have the abortion.

Armed with her own attorney, Kelley opted to flee Connecticut and move to Michigan where they do not recognize surrogacy contracts.  Unlike Connecticut, where the genetic parents are recognized as the parents of a child, Michigan recognizes the mother to be the one who is carrying the baby.

Once in Michigan, Kelley applied for state assistance, rented an economical sublet, and met a couple who wanted to adopt the child she was carrying.

Although Kelley struggled with wanting to keep the baby on some days, saying she felt emotionally attached to the child she was carrying, she finally determined she was not the one to deal with a baby with special needs.  She met a couple who already had children of their own with medical problems, both biological and adopted; when she asked them to adopt her child, they agreed.

“‘While it is true that (the baby) will face some life-long challenges, it is also true that it is also more than possible for her to have a wonderful life and to thrive,’ the mother wrote to Kelley in an e-mail. ‘I am sorry that (her) biological parents have abandoned their daughter and left you navigating this new, unexpected journey as the sole person bearing responsibility for (her) well-being and care.’” (

Palermo.Fig.2.Child-in-ICU-779701When the baby was born, she was more unhealthy than originally thought; she was born with holoprosencephaly, “where the brain fails to divide into distinct hemispheres”; heterotaxy, “many of her internal organs, such as her liver and stomach are in the wrong places”; “she has at least two spleens, neither of which works properly; her head is very small; her right ear is misshapen; she has a cleft lip and a cleft palate; and a long list of complex heart defects, among other problems.” (

As it turns out, the story has an additional twist, the original donor parents were not exactly the “mother and father”; the father was the donor, but the mother was an anonymous donor.  When the baby was born, Kelley was listed as her mother, but the father’s name was left blank.  The biological father has since terminated his parental rights, although he has asked that he and his wife be allowed to see the child; he has seen her and held her once since the child’s birth.

Hindsight being what it is, I wonder if Kelley would have had the abortion knowing the complexity of this little girl’s health problems.  Where were her morals and ethics when she would not sell her soul for $10,000, but she would for $15,000?

When you sign a contract to become a surrogate, it becomes the property of the lessee, for want of a better word, for 9 months; it seems absurd to make demands on the parents and to further those demands by claiming emotional attachment to the child you are carrying.