For the second time in less than a month, a surrogate mother is refusing to honor her surrogacy contract by heeding the biological parents’ selective termination demands, the New York Post reports. Brittneyrose Torres of Thousand Oaks, California is currently 17 weeks pregnant with triplets. She is a 26-year-old surrogate mother who agreed to gestate another couple’s pregnancy in exchange for substantial monetary compensation.
Torres was implanted with two fertilized eggs in her initial effort to become a surrogate mother for a couple she met through Facebook, via a family member of the couple. With IVF (in vitro fertilization) procedures, it is not uncommon for multiple eggs to be implanted at one time to increase the chance that at least one will develop into a viable pregnancy. In Torres’ case, not only did both eggs develop, one split into twins, something else that’s not uncommon in IVF pregnancies due to the hormones required.
Torres found herself the surrogate mother to a set of identical male twins as well as a single female fetus. Her payment for her services? $30,000. According to her surrogacy contract, the surrogate was to be paid a base rate of $25,000 for gestating a single fetus and receive an additional $5,000 in the case of multiples.
Torres told the New York Post that the biological parents seemed excited about the prospect of triplets at the beginning of her surrogate pregnancy. Then, around the 12 week mark, they changed their minds. Per the stipulation in the agreement she signed when she agreed to become their surrogate mother, they stated that they wanted the third child (the female) to be selectively aborted. According to the surrogate mother, the triplets’ biological parents cited concerns about the increased likelihood of developmental issues in triplet pregnancies.
“I emailed my doctors. There were no abnormalities. I told her I couldn’t abort one of the children. I could not emotionally and physically do that at nearly 13 weeks. I believe it will be killing this baby.”
Despite the surrogacy agreement Torres signed when she agreed to become a surrogate mother, she refused their request to selectively terminate the third embryo.
“[They] knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t want to abort unless it was a life-and-death situation. We would never want to abort a baby’s life.”
Because of the contract Torres signed when she agreed to become a surrogate mother, an agreement that included a provision for the biological parents to order termination at their discretion, the biological parents have reportedly begun to suspend some payments to the surrogate in response to her breach of contract.
Torres has sought the assistance of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, a surrogacy watchdog group, in an effort to violate the terms of the contract she signed when she agreed to become a surrogate mother. She reportedly learned of the surrogate watchdog group when she was reading about the case of Melissa Cook. Cook is another surrogate mother who was recently asked by a biological parent to selectively terminate a triplet, also in accordance with the surrogacy agreement she signed.
The New York Post reports that Cook’s payments for her services as a surrogate mother have also been interrupted due to her willful breach of contract.
Torres has reportedly offered to adopt the female fetus when she’s born, but the birth parents are unwilling to make that compromise with their surrogate.
The issue of surrogacy is a contentious and morally challenging one both in the United States and around the world. If you want to be a surrogate mother or utilize the services of a surrogate mother, the legalities vary not just from country to country but also state to state, reports the BBC. In the United States, some states don’t allow a surrogate mother to be financially compensated at all, in others commercial surrogacy is freely allowed.
However, in no U.S. state has a surrogate mother ever been forced to undergo an abortion, regardless of the nature of the surrogacy contract she signed.
While surrogate mothers cannot be physically forced to abort, they can face serious financial and legal repercussions for refusing to adhere to their signed surrogacy contract. They may find themselves losing their financial compensation for their services (as we’ve seen in this case), sued for damages, or in custody battles when the children resulting from their breach of contract are born and in custodial limbo. In the case of surrogate mother Melissa Cook, the biological father has reportedly vowed to financially ruin her for her refusal to honor her contract.
In Brittneyrose Torres’ case, she reportedly came forward with her story as a warning to other potential surrogates.
“I want other women not to be put in this situation. They shouldn’t be forced to do something they don’t want to.”
Her warning is a sound one, and it pertains to both surrogate mothers and biological parents. In the newly-evolving and ever-growing field of commercial surrogacy, there are a plethora of legal and ethical concerns that still need to be ironed out. In the United States, with the patchwork of legislation that varies from state to state, it can be even more difficult for a potential surrogate mother to navigate the hurdles of rights and responsibilities of all parties involved in a surrogacy agreement.
It’s generally advised that all surrogate mothers retain the services of a qualified attorney to ensure that they fully understand their contractual rights and legal obligations. This kind of education and preparation can help to prevent heartbreak and legal issues for both biological parents and their chosen surrogate mother.
[Photo Courtesy Of Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images]