A surrogate mother has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a battle to gain custody of triplets she carried by gestational surrogacy.
The mother, Melissa Cook, 49, of Woodland Hills, Calif., carried three babies for a single father, Chester Shannon Moore Jr., 51.
Moore, a postal worker, is deaf and mute and lives in his elderly parents’ basement in Mableton, Ga. The arrangement was made through a surrogacy agency.
Cook says Moore is incapable of caring for the three baby boys, now 18 months old.
Last week Cook’s attorneys filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court written by Moore’s sister, who alleged Moore leaves the babies alone, sometimes forces them to eat off the basement floor, and has had to take the babies to the hospital for severe diaper rashes from not changing their diapers often enough, according to the Orange County Register.
Moore never wanted triplets. Doctors implanted three embryos—made from his sperm and donor eggs—assuming they would not all live. After all three proved healthy and viable, Moore ordered Cook to abort one. Cook refused, and Moore eventually agreed to take all three.
From the middle of her pregnancy until now, Cook has been fighting for legal custody of the three children. But California state laws treat surrogate-carried children as exchanged commodities and surrogate mothers as contracted service-providers. The “intended parent” has exclusive parental rights to the babies.
Cook and her attorney argue the law violates her constitutional due process and equal protection rights. But so far, lower courts have refused to acknowledge Cook has any rights to the children.
Pro-family groups say this case exemplifies the complicated, and sometimes ugly, underbelly of surrogacy. There are no national laws regulating the practice, and state laws are inconsistent.
A friend-of-the-court brief filed last month by the Thomas More Society on behalf of five medical organizations, including the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists and the Catholic Medical Association, highlights mounting research showing surrogacy poses medical risks to both the surrogate mother and the babies. Risks include higher occurrences of adverse outcomes and fetal anomalies in surrogate-carried infants than infants conceived spontaneously, greater physical burdens for pregnant surrogates than other pregnant women, and harm to both the surrogate and baby by severing the maternal-child bond.
“Surrogacy diminishes respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond, encourages exploitation of women, and it commodifies pregnancy and children,” said Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for the Thomas More Society.
Another brief filed on behalf of 15 feminist academics asserted the law governing surrogacy exploits both the mother and child and denies the biological connection between a surrogate and the baby.
“The emerging science of epigenetics shows that the woman carrying the child also shapes his or her identity in permanent, deeply significant ways,” Kathleen Sloan, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women and the author of the brief, wrote in an essay for Public Discourse. “To assert that a pregnant woman is not at all the mother of the child or children she is creating with her own body—regardless of whether the egg was hers—is a flat denial of biological reality.”
Sloan noted that in these cases the best interests of the surrogate-carried child are ignored because he or she is considered a “purchased commodity subject to property and contract law.”
The Supreme Court is set to decide soon whether or not it will take the case.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Saulich
Publication date: October 2, 2017