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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Surrogacy: Who should have parental rights?
A British woman asked to be a surrogate mother by a Californian couple says she will take them to court to stop them from making money from the twins.
The couple asked Helen Beasley to terminate her pregnancy after discovering she was carrying twins, but she refused.
Miss Beasley accuses the American couple - who she contacted over the internet - of backing out of the $20,000 deal with her and demanding at least three times more to transfer their parental rights.
Under California law, all rights to the future of the twins lie with the intended parents, but the surrogate mother will ask the court to grant her parental rights, so that she can decide who the parents will be.
Who should have rights over the children? Are babies being turned into commodities bought and sold over the internet? Do we need international rules to regulate surrogacy and adoption?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I believe that, in the way that Groucho Marx wouldn't have wanted to belong to any club that would have him as a member, people who are so driven by the desire to possess a child, and I stress the word possess, should not be able to purchase one in this way. I think that the checks and balances in the current adoption system in the UK go a long way to ensuring the suitability of potential parents. Using filthy lucre to bypass this, results in freak shows like we saw with that North Wales couple recently.
Leon, Manchester, UK
Surrogacy is a blessing, and a selfless gift from a compassionate woman who is able to carry a child for an infertile one.
We are currently pregnant via a gestational surrogate and ever so thankful.
Douglas Kay, USA
Speaking as a three-time surrogate, there are FAR too many misconceptions being discussed here to correct in one go. Grotesque? What is grotesque in carrying the baby of a couple that have been trying for 20 years and NEVER achieved a pregnancy, or the baby of a lady that has had 12 miscarriages, or as I am now doing, the baby of a lovely lady that lost her unborn child and had an emergency hysterectomy to save her life?
I could go on but won't. If anyone wants to ask questions of someone that actually knows what she's talking about...feel free.
Perhaps before some of you start blasting surrogacy as "immoral," you should consider the scores of couples who cannot bear children -- usually for medical reasons that are beyond their control. If the parents have, indeed, failed to live up to their contractual obligation, then Helen should do what anyone does when a contract is breeched. But creating a media hurricane is a certain way to gain profit for yourself, one way or another, isn't it? And if the concern is truly for that of the unborn children, as it should be, then we wouldn't even be discussing this right now.
"Sell parental rights"? I can't believe somebody said that.
The whole mess created by this contractual dispute will hopefully serve as a harsh lesson to anyone wishing to delve into the grotesque act that is surrogacy.
Hope, Mesa, USA
Blaming California for surrogacy seems a bit much (Rod McEwen, Greenock). The UK invented IVF, wasn't English woman Kim Cotton the first surrogate mother? and Helen Beasley herself is English. Miss Beasley seems particularly adept at playing the media and legal games involved, and I suggest we have nothing to learn from the Americans in this squalid story. Poor babies.
Tom OD, Leicester, UK
If one couple are prepared to pay for a child, and a woman is prepared to give birth and then sell the baby, then neither is fit to be a parent. The babies should be cared for by the authorities from birth until a suitable family is found to adopt them.
This seems to be happening more often in the US, except each time the scenario seems to be more ridiculous than the previous. Funny how it always seems to be in California. All this does, is to make a mockery of the US legal system, and I'm sure it embarrasses the majority of US citizens. But then again it's up to the US electorate to stand up and say 'No more of this trade in babies'.
Linda, New York, USA
Why should either have any rights? They are both as bad as each other except one wants what the other has!
I think you should be allowed to sell anything that is yours. If it is your baby you should be able to sell it. It is not the government's baby, it is yours.
Jasmine Guha, Texas, USA
How disgusting! Could the couple in question do any more refining in their "choice"? What if the child isn't the EXACT colour that they wanted? What if the hairstyle is wrong? What if the child is unfortunate to have a deformity? Should they return it to the vendor? This bargaining with human life should be abolished asap, I think that the fact that this is happening is completely outrageous. I'm totally dumbstruck.
It's yet another sign of the slippery slide to Americanism that the UK seems to be destined for. We
never hear of any cases like this in the rest of Europe. The UK is going the way of 'everything has a
price' and the moral and social responsibility is being forgotten (or sold) in preference for making
a quick buck.
Jason Channing, Reading, UK
It makes me very angry when I see people trying to buy children like this. Have they though of adopting unwanted but loveable children from official sources? If not, is it because they are not considered suitable for some reason?
The adoption of orphaned children is one thing but the made-to-order fashion of surrogacy is surely not right. If nature does not allow you to have a child, adopt an existing "fledgling". Don't create another child whose manufactured second-hand nature is going to cause it problems later in life.
Jo, London, UK
Surely there is a way to make this sort of behaviour by a half-hearted couple actionable as manslaughter in a human rights court. We could eliminate overnight the cheap attitude displayed by some towards this very serious commitment.
Spare a thought for Miss Beasley's young son. It cannot be easy to see your mother discussing how she was too late to kill one baby she is carrying and now has to negotiate a sale of them both. Siblings of surrogate mothers often feel, not surprisingly, very insecure.
RM, South Sudan/Canada
Rights? Suitability? Everyone thinks they know a solution. There are no golden rules and even suitability of parents is too simple. What if my neighbour suddenly claims I am not suitable to bring up my children? Can they make a claim on my children because they are more suitable? The moment we start to simplify ethical dilemmas and make legislation based on simplification, is when injustice is born. Every case must be examined on its own merits, without preconditions.
Women as nothing more than a womb for rent is so demeaning, but that is what surrogacy is all about, we should all wake up to that reality.
The US couple in this case just went a bit further than normal, asking the owner (woman) of the womb to kill one of the preborn children in it. The problem in this story is surrogacy itself. Women and children should never be viewed as objects.
Surrogacy should never happen. Because it is an act of
adultery carrying someone's sperm who is not the
husband. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) considered the placing a
sperm in a womb of a woman who is not the wife of
the owner of the sperm as an adultery. That could also
mean artificial insemination and surrogacy. According to Islam, the mother is the one who gives birth to a child and in the absence of legal husband she is in charge. British government should protect the surrogate mother.
It's a sign of the unfortunate influence of American culture that everyone is obsessed about "rights". Whatever happened to responsibilities?
How interesting that the 'mother' of the twins in this case says she does not want the Californian couple to make any money out of the babies - yet she was quite happy to be a 'rent-a-womb' for them in the first place and receive $20,000 for having a baby.
Sharon B, London, UK
I think that if the couple really wanted children they would take both babies. As they only wanted one baby it makes me suspect that the child isn't really required to be part of a loving family - it is just another accessory like a house or car that every couple feel that they need.
As for Catriona's comments, I feel I could easily be a surrogate mother if the money was right and I would have no second thoughts about giving up the baby as I have no maternal instincts at all.
All parties in this affair come across as disgustingly selfish and mercenary. People who should never have anything to do with children.
Society has a duty to protect children, wherever they may be or come from, from the excesses of individual citizens. The sort of exploitation identified by this case can only be controlled within the laws of a single country. International deals over surrogate births should be outlawed.
Alex Banks, UK, living in France
Not to worry - we will have cloning soon and rights of surrogate mothers will be irrelevant.
The basic problem is that society now seems to recognise a "right" for people to have children. There is no such right. Children are not born for the personal satisfaction or convenience of the parents. Children are human beings in their own right, towards whom the adult world has responsibilities. Seen in this light, surrogate parenthood is undesirable in principle. However, since it is technically feasible there is no doubt that there will be many such cases in the future. Regulation by law, preferably by international treaty, is therefore needed. I would suggest that no general decision be taken on whether the surrogate mother or the genetic parents are "entitled" to the child. It should be left to the courts in each individual case to give a decision based solely on the interests of the child.
Shalini Asregadoo, UK
I think it is foolish and irresponsible, to purchase babies on the internet for tens of thousands of pounds. It is a sign of our sick consumer lifestyle that people today seem to think that everything should be purchased on the internet.
The biological parents of a child have complete rights over him and no one else can dictate terms. Secondly, since when did the life of a human being become a commodity for transaction? Human life is sacred and must be given the respect it deserves - something a law put in place can achieve.
David Procter, Port Hawkesbury, Canada
Now that our children have been reduced into mere products to be purchased online, fresh from the womb, etc, why not treat this 'product' the same way as others? A contract has been entered into and it must be respected. Personally I find buying a baby distasteful. However, it has become so difficult and time- consuming to adopt that childless people are forced to use whatever means available to have that wonderful little baby. As a woman I do sympathise but my womb will only ever "produce" for myself.
It is absurd to consider giving rights to this couple. They have attempted to force the surrogate mother to abort a healthy child purely because they felt inconvenienced by the fact she is carrying twins instead of a single child. These are not the sort of people who, to me, show the kind of yearning for a child that a worthy parent would. Without wishing to sound too callous, perhaps there is a strange sense of justice in their being infertile. The mother should be allowed to select suitable parents for these children, a couple who will not be "put out" by the fact there are two rather than one.
This sounds like a messy situation and the buying and selling of life, in this case babies, goes back to the slave trade. The hard facts to me should be dealing with the two main characters, namely the mother (albeit through surrogacy) and the father who (via whichever means) impregnated her. As for making money from this subject, I'd have thought "cash for babies" has been pretty well exhausted by the media these days.
Paul Atkins, Milton Keynes
The parental rights in this case clearly lie with the natural parent of the child, the father. None of the other parties have any blood-tie to the child.
However, in cases where children are not being treated properly, the authorities have the right to take children into care. This is what should happen here. The child should be given free of charge to a couple who view it as a human being and not a possession to fight over.
As one half of a childless couple, I would hate to see people who wish to have a child through surrogacy suffer, but I am totally at a loss as to how any prospective mother, adoptive or otherwise could deliberately abort a child, for no reason other than twins would be inconvenient!!!
For these people to then make a profit through the sale of the twins is disgusting. I hope that common decency prevails and allows Helen Beasley to find alternative parents for the children (without making any profit by their adoption).
So my answer is a definite yes, there should be some international rules laid down.
The only person who has any rights is the
woman whose body is being used in this way although I think she was stupid to act as a
surrogate mother in the first place. How any
woman thinks she can remove herself from
the babies she is carrying is beyond me!!
15 Aug 01 | Health
Surrogate fights to stop twins sale
14 Aug 01 | Health
US surrogacy row parents hit back
11 Aug 01 | Health
UK laws favour surrogate mothers
21 Jan 00 | Health
Infertile woman loses court claim
06 Dec 99 | Health
Woman demands health authority pays for surrogacy
16 Feb 01 | Health
Internet rush to buy human eggs
20 Dec 99 | Health
Fight for dead man's sperm
20 Dec 99 | Health
Sperm and eggs: the legal background
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