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Family Offered Surrogate $10,000 for Abortion

Update Date: Mar 05, 2013 12:57 PM EST
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Most of the time, surrogacy is a happy tale. Someone receives the baby that he or she always wanted, helped along the way by a person willing to help them with their journey. For Crystal Kelley, her surrogacy started off that way as well, but the experience quickly turned sour.

Crystal Kelley was a single mother with two children who had lost her job as a nanny. When she agreed to be a surrogate for a Connecticut family that wanted to add a fourth child to their brood, her only income was child support for her two daughters. The monthly surrogacy fee of $2,222 would help her scrape by, according to CNN. Ten days after being implanted with frozen embryos left over from the couple's previous attempts of in-vitro fertilization, she discovered she was pregnant.

Five months into the pregnancy, Kelley had a routine ultrasound that revealed bad news. The ultrasound revealed that the baby had a cleft lip, cleft palate, a cyst in the brain and serious issues with her heart. The ultrasound could not even uncover a stomach or a brain. Doctors explained that, after the birth, the baby would require several heart surgeries. While she would survive the pregnancy, there was only about a 1 in 4 chance that she would go on to have a normal life.

The couple decided nearly immediately that they wanted Ms. Kelley to terminate the pregnancy. Two of their other three children had needed to spend months in the hospital following a premature delivery, and they felt that it was more humane to end the fetus's life now. Ms. Kelley disagreed. The couple attempted to sweeten the offer by offering her $10,000 to have the abortion. Ms. Kelley asked for a counteroffer of $15,000, but nearly immediately changed her mind. She was going to have the baby.

However, the couple was not about to let Ms. Kelley make that decision without a fight. At first, they said that she was in breach of contract, saying that they would sue her to regain the fees that they'd already paid her, about $8,000, in addition to medical expenses and legal fees. Then they tried a different tack, saying that they wanted legal custody of the infant, but they would surrender the baby to the state.

Neither of these options worked for Kelley, but as the surrogate, there was little that she could do in the state of Connecticut, where laws said that the legal parent was the genetic one. So she moved to Michigan, where the law stated that the legal parent was the person giving birth to the child. In the meantime, she found a family that was willing to adopt the infant, as she knew that she could not take care of a special-needs baby.

Finally, three weeks after the birth of baby S., the couple decided to relinquish parental rights as long as they could have contact with the adoptive family. Now eight months old, baby S. has even met her genetic father. However, her medical problems were even more extensive than they thought. In addition to the cleft lip, cleft palate and heart abnormalities, her brain did not divide into two distinct spheres, in a condition called holoprosencephaly. She also heterotaxy, a condition where many of her organs, like her spleen and stomach, are not in the correct place. She has at least two spleens, but neither work properly. She is small for her age, and her head is small for her size. Her right ear is misshapen. Even if she does survive the many surgeries she needs, there is a 50 percent chance that she will be unable to walk, talk or use her hands properly.

Still, her adoptive parents see her as a gift. And, even though Kelley has received a fair amount of backlash from her role in the saga, she does not regret any of it. She says that she feels like she did the right thing.

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