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"Intended mother" should be held legally responsible for surrogate baby born through donor egg

July 8, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
If a woman arranges for use of a donated egg and a surrogate mother to conceive a child and signs a contract agreeing to take custody when a baby is born, is she the child's mother?

"The View" host Sherri Shepherd is apparently trying to argue that she is not, in fact, the mother of a child that will soon be born to a surrogate mother. The New York Daily News reports that Shepherd and her estranged husband, Lamar Sally, reportedly went through fertility treatment. The unborn child was conceived via a donor egg that was fertilized with Sally's sperm and then was implanted into the uterus of the genetically unrelated surrogate. Now that they are divorcing, Shepherd doesn't want to pay child support for the baby or to be the child's mother. Sally has filed for custody.

As far as I'm concerned, the child's right to the financial and emotional support of two parents trumps Shepherd's right to back out of this arrangement and avoid future contact with her ex. If she intended to become the child's mother when she arranged for its conception, she should be required to act as his or her mother when the child is actually born. Presumably both the egg donor and the surrogate/gestational mother have no desire to be this baby's mother and have signed away any parental rights they might have. Hence, Shepherd, the "intended mother" and legal wife of the child's father, is the only legal mother left standing.

The Shepherd case is probably another example of the need for regulation of the fertility industry and clarification of laws surrounding this practice. Different states have different laws regarding surrogacy and conception using donated eggs and sperm and regarding the rights of the resulting children. Thousands of children are conceived using donated eggs or sperm or both. Some are carried by surrogate mothers, often in foreign countries such as India. In other cases, an infertile woman might carry a child who was conceived via a donor egg that was fertilized with her husband's sperm. A gay couple might hire a surrogate mother to carry twins conceived with eggs from the same donor but each fertilized with a different man's sperm. The resulting children are twins and genetic half siblings. A lesbian couple might arrange for one partner to donate the egg and the other to carry the child to term, giving both women the claim to the title "mother." The laws regarding all of these practices differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, leaving the children produced in legal limbo.

People who were conceived in this manner will likely have other concerns as they grow up. Anonymous sperm and egg donors can have dozens or hundreds of genetic children spread across the country and in foreign countries. When they grow up, the kids may have no interest in finding their genetic roots but others may well have a deep hunger to track down unknown genetic relatives. Some may be understanding of the situation and others may be angry with the parents who raised them. There is no way to tell how the child about to be born to Shepherd and Sally will feel, but the law should stand up for his right to have a mother and a father.


Article Comments



Jul-11-14 4:35 PM

And the same old response of both parents having to work to make ends meet very plainly shouts that the primary wage earners wages are to low in this country. Raise the wages so people can support their families without government help would be a great place to start. Or lower energy costs to where they were 25 years ago.


Jul-11-14 4:30 PM

Andrea... exactly my point the Mother won't be raising the kid anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if the Mother was out doing seminars on how to raise children properly, and probably government funded to boot.


Jul-11-14 3:55 PM

She should be as responsible as if she was carrying the child herself. There are plenty of mothers who did not intend to get pregnant but did not forsake the responsibility or care of their child just because they didn't want to deal with the child's father. Sherri Shepherd is more than old enough to know right from wrong.


Jul-11-14 3:26 PM

I wouldn't bet on the child not seeing the inside of a daycare center. Things happen.


Jul-11-14 10:55 AM

These are the sort of people who can afford a live-in nanny and expensive private schools and camps. The boy won't see the inside of a daycare center.


Jul-11-14 8:37 AM

Doesn't really matter, chances are the baby will be raised at a daycare facility anyway. I still haven't understood how Mothers were completely duped into thinking they have to work outside the home or be worth less than a man.


Jul-09-14 1:18 PM

I understand Shepherd's wish to not have any ties with her estranged husband but that shouldn't cut her ties with that child. She contractually obligated herself. Legally, she can't just turn her back and say she changed her mind like the baby was a pair of shoes. I hope the contract is upheld and that she moves beyond her selfish ways.


Jul-09-14 11:38 AM



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