Supreme Court must take on heartbreaking surrogacy case

Arina Grossu is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.  This article appeared in The Hill on September 30, 2017.

There is currently a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court which presents critical constitutional questions relating to California’s enforcement of surrogacy contracts under the state’s statute.

By the provisions of that statute, anyone — regardless of their suitability, age, living arrangements, inability to care for children, and even if they are not genetically related to the child produced by the arrangement — can buy a child and force termination of her mother’s parental rights even if such termination and separation is harmful to the child.

In fact, in the case currently before the Court, C.M. v. M.C., the California court stated: “What is going to happen to these children once they are handed over to C.M, that’s none of my business. It’s none of my business. And that’s not part of my job.”

Melissa Cook and her three innocent babies have been caught in the crosshairs of the Wild West nature of the U.S. surrogacy market. A then-50 year old, deaf, mute Georgia postal worker living in his sick, elderly parents’ basement decided that he wanted to purchase boys using a surrogate. He hired Melissa, a then-47 year old mother of four from Los Angeles, to be a surrogate. Using his sperm and a 20-year-old donor’s eggs, he had 13 embryos created. Ultimately, Melissa refused to accept payment of over half of the money still owed to her, stating that she could no longer accept the money.

C.M. had three male embryos transferred into Melissa’s uterus, but when all three successfully implanted, he wanted one or two of them aborted, stating that he could not afford them. When Melissa refused, she was threatened with a lawsuit.

The triplets were born to Melissa in February 2016. The children were taken from her and security guards made certain that she could never hold or breastfed them. The significantly premature babies lived in the NICU for 10 weeks, but C.M. only visited them once — for two days.

The petitioner’s supplemental brief outlines how the hospital staff was so concerned that C.M. would be unable to care for the babies that three nurses and a doctor flew from California to Georgia to monitor their safety. The head nurse was so upset and concerned, a few days later she reported the situation to the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.

There was no home visit or inquiry into C.M.’s parental fitness before he entered into the contract, as would be required for an adoption. CM’s sister later told the Court, “If C.M. applied to adopt a child and a home inspection was conducted, he would never have qualified to be an adoptive parent. If he was required to take psychiatric examinations, he could never have qualified.”

Ironically, C.M.’s inability to care for the children was known to the surrogacy broker which profited from the arrangement. At the beginning of the dispute, he wrote “Triplets for a married couple is hard enough. Triplets for a single parent would be excruciating. Triplets for a single parent who is deaf is — well beyond contemplation.”

As if his physical limitations weren’t enough, according to his sister, C.M. is depressed, has anxiety, a paranoid personality disorder, irrational anger fits, has pulled his own hair out, and has a history of being cruel to family pets — even killing them.

C.M.’s father, who is very ill and has a severe heart condition, is a habitual chain-smoker at the home where the babies live. The babies are exposed to the cigarette smoke which is so thick that the nurses found it difficult to breathe. C.M.’s mother is bed-ridden and requires a home aid to care for her and change her diapers.

Neither of his parents are capable of helping to raise these children. Additionally, C.M.’s 28-year-old nephew Mitch has also lived at the house while the babies were there. Mitch is a heroin addict who sold heroin from the house and has been jailed.

These 19 month-old boys are living in deplorable conditions. C.M. refuses to change the boys’ diapers “as often as needed because he doesn’t want to spend the money.” At one point, this resulted in rashes that were so serious that the babies had to be treated at a local hospital. The children were also forced to eat food off the dirty floor. The supplemental brief recites that C.M.’s sister provided an affidavit which disclosed this disturbing information because she “felt a deep moral obligation to take action to protect the three children and give them a chance at life.”

The boys’ plight has received press attention from People magazine and other outlets. A broad coalition has come together to plead with the Supreme Court to hear this desperate appeal. A group of 15 feminist academics and advocates has filed a brief supporting Melissa Cook and the children.

Groups including the Family Research Council, American College of Pediatricians, Concerned Women for America, Center for Family and Human Rights, Charlotte Lozier Institute, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and the Catholic Medical Association, and others have teamed-up to file briefs supporting the Court’s examination of this important issue.

Will the Supreme Court hear this case? It should, for these reasons.

First, because children are being created, with a plan in advance of conception to deprive them of the love and support of their mother. These arrangements exploit the financial needs of a class of female “breeders,” placing the desires of an adult above what is in the children’s best interests.

Second, because we, as a society, should always stand in direct opposition to the manufacture and sale of children.

Third, because we should never use state power to enforce contracts that sever the rights of women to their relationship with their biological offspring and of children to continue to benefit from the special mother-child bond.

The surrogacy industry preys upon women and children. It is time for the Supreme Court to review the constitutional violations inherent in these arrangements.