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Abortion Is Beyond The Point In Controversial Surrogacy Case

Christopher Robinson |
March 10, 2013 | 4:31 p.m. PDT


Of all the issues involved in this case, abortion is not one of them. (Toby Hudson, Wikimedia Commons)
Of all the issues involved in this case, abortion is not one of them. (Toby Hudson, Wikimedia Commons)
There are numerous issues involved in the story of surrogate mother Crystal Kelley and the baby she gave birth to, but in this instance abortion is not one of them. Kelley, a commercial surrogate mother, was halfway through a pregnancy when an ultrasound revealed that the fetus growing inside her would have severe, life-threatening birth defects.

The fetus’ biological parents told Kelley to terminate the pregnancy because they did not want to bring into the world a child who would have to endure so much physical suffering, were she even to survive. Kelley refused.

The couple launched a legal battle that resulted in Kelley moving with her two children from Connecticut to Michigan, which has surrogate laws that favor the physically pregnant woman. Knowing that Kelley was in a financial bind, the couple offered her $10,000 for the abortion, which she counter-offered with $15,000, but ultimately still refused. It was then revealed that the couple had used a donated egg, meaning that the baby was only genetically related to the father and further complicating the situation.

The story generated a strong response from the national media, who were quick to frame it around the abortion debate, “The story of Baby S., as she has been called, is about who has the right to choose whether someone lives or dies and what 'quality of life' really means — the heart of the matter of the abortion issue,” wrote reporter Aly Neel in a Washington Post editorial on Wednesday.

Not only is this a complete misinterpretation of the “heart of the matter of the abortion issue,” but a misunderstanding of what is really important, and what society should take note of, with regard to surrogate pregnancies.

First, let’s get something straight: abortion is not about “the right to choose whether someone lives or dies”; it is about a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her body. The “live or die” argument is a logical fallacy constantly touted by political groups trying to turn back the clock on women’s rights. In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a woman’s right to choose in Roe v. Wade. End of story, plain and simple.

Now to the real issue, surrogate pregnancy. There are several problems and inconsistencies that, if corrected, could avert similar situations in the future. The United States does not have a uniform policy of surrogate pregnancy. This means that all 50 states could potentially have 50 different laws about the rights of a surrogate mother. In Connecticut, the decision making belonged to the biological parents of the fetus, but in Michigan that right went to Crystal Kelley.

We live in a modern age when technology allows us to make advances, such as surrogate pregnancy. However, with such power comes the need for responsibility. Although states’ rights are important, in the case of surrogate pregnancy we must have a unified national policy that is consistent with existing rights. A woman has the right to choose what to do with her body, so while a fetus is growing inside a surrogate mother, she must have the full responsibility for it.

There must also be greater stringency over who may become a surrogate mother, especially if the woman is being paid to do so in a commercial surrogacy. Crystal Kelley was an unemployed mother of two children who sought to be a surrogate because she needed money. Someone who is in dire straits straits financially is not fit to be a surrogate, because of the potential to allow money override their otherwise informed decision making.

This time, the issue is not abortion. The issue is surrogacy.


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