News Brief: Dangers of “commercial surrogacy” raising questions of its value and ethics

January/February 2018
Surrogacy is a growing business in the United States, but the case of a December baby born in Texas reveals some of the dangers that can accompany it.

Sixteen weeks into the surrogate’s pregnancy, the doctor noticed an abnormality in the unborn baby’s heart. A specialist then diagnosed the unborn child with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a birth defect which causes the heart’s left side to be critically underdeveloped. The child could go on to live a fairly normal life, but would need heart surgery a few days after birth and two additional operations later in childhood.

When the intended parents were informed, they demanded the surrogate get an abortion. The surrogate refused and the intended parents stopped paying medical bills. Fearing that the intended parents would not allow the child to receive life-saving surgery after birth, the surrogate hired attorneys and contacted state agencies advocating for the life of the child she carried. (Surrogates by contract have no rights after a baby is born and are most often prohibited from seeing the baby after birth.)

The child was delivered by C-section on Dec. 21, 2017. On Dec. 22, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the intended parents had agreed to do anything necessary to keep the child alive and healthy. Similar cases have occurred in other states.

Surrogacy contracts such as these are legal in most states, including Kentucky, and the debate over the ethics involved continues.