A woman who was acting as a surrogate for a married couple was offered $10,000 to abort by the biological parents after the unborn baby was diagnosed with a heart defect.
The couple even told her she “should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go.”
It gets worse. The family lawyered up and attempted to force the woman to abort the baby. The lawyer sent her a letter that said, “You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately,” wrote Douglas Fishman, an attorney in West Hartford, Connecticut.
CNN sums it up this way:
In one view, she’s a saint who fought at great personal sacrifice for an unborn child whose own parents did not want her to live. In another view, she recklessly absconded with someone else’s child and brought into the world a baby who faces serious medical challenges when that wasn’t her decision to make.
This is a mess of a situation. A total mess. But the thing that must be remembered is that a little miracle came out of it.
The baby was born and adopted by another family with other special needs children. The prognosis for the baby is still uncertain. And while this baby will know pain and suffering, the baby should also know that she was fought for, protected, and loved.
CNN has the whole amazing story and it’s told pretty factually so I’m grateful for that:
After speaking with the surrogacy agency, Kelley, then 29, arranged to meet the couple at a playground near her home in Vernon, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford. When she arrived, she liked what she saw. The couple was caring and attentive with their three children, who were sweet and well-mannered and played nicely with her own two daughters. The couple desperately wanted a fourth child, but the mother couldn’t have any more babies. Yes, Kelley told them right then and there. Yes, I will have a child for you.
CNN made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the couple by phone and e-mail.
The couple had conceived their children through in-vitro fertilization and had two frozen embryos left over. Doctors thawed them out and on October 8, 2011, put them in Kelley’s uterus.
About 10 days later, a blood test showed she was pregnant — one of the embryos had taken.
Kelley and the parents were thrilled, and over the next few weeks, the mother was attentive and caring. When Kelley had morning sickness the mother called every day to see how she was feeling. She gave Kelley and Kelley’s daughters Christmas presents. When Kelley couldn’t make rent, the mother made sure she got her monthly surrogate fee a few days early.
“She said, ‘I want you to come to us with anything because you’re going to be part of our lives forever,’ ” Kelley remembers.
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‘There’s something wrong with the baby’
“Congratulations! You made it half through!” the mother emailed Kelley on February 6.
It was one of the last friendly e-mails between Kelley and the woman who’d hired her.
A few days later, Kelley, five months pregnant, had a routine ultrasound to make sure the baby was developing properly. The ultrasound technician struggled to see the baby’s tiny heart and asked her to come back the next week when the baby would be more developed.
At that next ultrasound, the technician said it was still hard to see the heart and asked Kelley to go to Hartford Hospital, where they could do a higher-level ultrasound.
Apparently, there was more to it than that.
As Kelley was driving home, her cell phone rang. It was the baby’s mother.
“She kept saying, ‘There’s something wrong with the baby. There’s something wrong with the baby. What are we going to do?’ ” Kelley remembers. “She was frantic. She was panicking.”
Then the midwife called. She told Kelley the ultrasound showed the baby had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in her brain and serious heart defects. They couldn’t see a stomach or a spleen.
The next ultrasound was three days away, and Kelley grew increasingly anxious with each passing day. By the time she walked into Hartford Hospital on February 16, 2012, she was 21 weeks pregnant and “absolutely terrified” of what the ultrasound would show and what the parents’ reaction would be.
An emotional standoff
With the parents standing behind her, the ultrasound technician at the hospital put the wand on Kelley’s stomach. The test confirmed her worst fears: It showed the baby did have a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in the brain, and a complex heart abnormality.
The doctors explained the baby would need several heart surgeries after she was born. She would likely survive the pregnancy, but had only about a 25% chance of having a “normal life,” Kelley remembers the doctors saying.
In a letter to Kelley’s midwife, Dr. Elisa Gianferrari, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Hartford Hospital, and Leslie Ciarleglio, a genetic counselor, described what happened next.
“Given the ultrasound findings, (the parents) feel that the interventions required to manage (the baby’s medical problems) are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination,” they wrote.
“Ms. Kelley feels that all efforts should be made to ‘give the baby a chance’ and seems adamantly opposed to termination,” they wrote.
The letter describes how the parents tried to convince Kelley to change her mind. Their three children were born prematurely, and two of them had to spend months in the hospital and still had medical problems. They wanted something better for this child.
“The (parents) feel strongly that they pursued surrogacy in order to minimize the risk of pain and suffering for their baby,” Gianferrari and Ciarleglio wrote. They “explained their feelings in detail to Ms. Kelley in hopes of coming to an agreement.”
The two sides were at a standoff. The doctor and the genetic counselor offered an amniocentesis in the hope that by analyzing the baby’s genes, they could learn more about her condition. Kelley was amenable, they noted, but the parents “feel that the information gained from this testing would not influence their decision to consider pregnancy termination.”
The atmosphere in the room became very tense, Kelley remembers. The parents were brought into the geneticist’s office to give everyone some privacy.
After a while, Kelley was reunited with the parents.
“They were both visibly upset. The mother was crying,” she remembers. “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.”
“I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do,” Kelley said. “I told them it wasn’t their decision to play God.”
Then she walked out of the room.
“I couldn’t look at them anymore,” she said.
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$10,000 to have an abortion
The next day, according to medical records, the mother called Hartford Hospital to ask about different types of abortion. It was explained to her that they could induce birth (the baby wouldn’t survive) or they could do a dilation and evacuation, in which case the pregnancy would be vacuumed out of the womb. The mother, after asking about whether the fetus would feel any pain, said she thought the second option was best.
She asked if the procedure had been scheduled. No, she was told. Only Kelley could do that.
The mother noted that the surrogacy agency was getting in touch with Kelley, and a few days later, Kelley received an e-mail from Rita Kron at Surrogacy International telling her that if she chose to have the baby, the couple wouldn’t agree to be the baby’s legal parents.
“You will be the only person who will be making decision (sic) about the child, should the child is born,” Kron wrote.
CNN contacted Surrogacy International, and a woman who said her name was Rita answered the phone.
“You have to understand something — there is a privacy that exists and that’s the end of the story,” she said and then hung up. Kron did not return CNN’s e-mails.
Kelley didn’t want to be the baby’s mother — she’d gotten pregnant to help another family, not to have a child of her own. Kron gave her an option: the parents would pay her $10,000 to have an abortion.
The offer tested Kelley’s convictions. She’d always been against abortion for religious and moral reasons, but she really needed the money. Just before getting pregnant, she’d lost her job as a nanny, and the only income she had coming in was child support from her daughters’ father and her monthly surrogacy fee of $2,222, which was about to end because of the dispute with the parents.
Her resolve began to falter. Then it nearly crumbled.
Kron took Kelley to lunch.
“She painted a picture of a life of a person who had a child with special needs. She told me how it would be painful, it would be taxing, it would be strenuous and stressful. She told me it would financially drain me, that my children would suffer because of it,” Kelley remembers.
Kelley had a counter offer. “In a weak moment I asked her to tell them that for $15,000 I would consider going forward with the termination,” she said.
But as soon as she got in the car to go home, she regretted it, Kelley said.
Kron let Kelley know the parents had refused to pay $15,000. By that point, it didn’t matter to Kelley — she’d decided against abortion no matter what. Kron sent her an e-mail asking if she’d scheduled the appointment for the abortion.
Kelley wrote back a one-word answer: no.
On February 22, 2012, six days after the fateful ultrasound, Kelley received a letter. The parents had hired a lawyer.
“You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately,” wrote Douglas Fishman, an attorney in West Hartford, Connecticut. “You have squandered precious time.”
Check out the story at CNN.