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Surrogacy vs. Baby-Selling
by Pamela MacPhee, Author, Delivering Hope: The Extraordinary Journey of a Surrogate Mom, August 24, 2011
When attorney Theresa Erickson interviewed me for her surrogacy radio show, she seemed like a professional, so I was incredibly disillusioned when it was recently brought to light that she and two others had been operating what prosecutors call a “baby-selling ring” masquerading as surrogacy. Here's my two cents on this disaster.
When I set out to bring a baby into the world for my cousin and his wife so they could experience the joy of a family, the term “baby selling” never entered my mind. With their harvested eggs and sperm, an embryo was created, frozen in storage in hopeful anticipation. For months in preparation we discussed and evaluated the possibilities and risks that surrogacy presented, embarking together in mutual trust and understanding on a journey to bring their baby into the world, to begin their family. After a successful embryo transfer, we supported each other in a deep and meaningful relationship to navigate the sometimes trying emotional and physical challenges of sharing a pregnancy, and I delivered a healthy 7 pound girl to them in joyful triumph and relief. My time and efforts were recognized and appreciated, but nothing was “sold."
According to prosecutors, what Erickson, attorney Hilary Neiman and coordinator Carla Chambers did was nothing of the sort; it was all about selling. The reports say they recruited donors, commissioned embryos and found empty wombs to insert them in — creating babies and shopping them out to the highest bidders under the false pretense that their original intended parents did not want them anymore. Only there were never any intended parents in the first place. Under the guise of a trusted professional, it appears that Erickson blatantly sidestepped the legal system and set up a baby-making scheme to create a market that would earn her dollars at the expense of unwitting and vulnerable surrogates and infertile couples.
I suppose you can argue the difference is subtle since in both cases you are using IVF and transferring an embryo into a commissioned womb to grow a baby. And the end result is the same. But as I have argued in this column before, surrogacy is all about intent.
The starting point is what matters.
Intended Parents are aptly named because it is their intention to bring together all the resources at their disposal to create the family they desperately long for. They work with medical, legal and psychological professionals in a relationship together with their chosen surrogate to facilitate their family journey. There are relationships formed, commitments made and understandings forged. A mutually beneficial exchange blossoms.
Surrogacy is possible through the miracles of modern science to grant the wishes of infertile couples. Thousands of grateful families have been created through surrogacy the right way, with the right reasons and intentions. And thousands of surrogates like me regard their surrogacy journeys as one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives.
I believe this baby selling scheme is an isolated event, and I hope it serves simply as a warning and impetus for better protections for those seeking to realize their dreams through the amazing journey that is surrogacy.
Pamela MacPhee graduated from Stanford University in 1986 with a degree in Human Biology. When her cousin’s wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer and subsequent infertility, she wanted to do something to help. After some serious research and internal soul searching, she knew in her heart she wanted to be their surrogate mom. Her offer became extraordinary surrogacy journey which ended 18 months later with the birth of a baby girl, Hope. MacPhee is the author of Delivering Hope: The Extraordinary Journey of a Surrogate Mom, published in 2009.