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There’s a right way to find a surrogate mother for your baby, and there are a lot of wrong ways. Here’s an example of the latter.
Two unnamed women are being dragged through the Massachusetts judicial system as they fight over guardianship of a child, identified as Keanu, after making a surrogacy agreement over Facebook, the Washington Post has reported.
Going on three years now, the singular case has baffled Massachusetts Probate and Family Court judges, where few laws exist governing surrogacy. The latest development came on July 22, when an appeals court ruled in favor of the would-be adoptive mother on the grounds that the biological family appeared unfit to care for Keanu. Now, the family hopes to appeal the court’s decision, amid a lawsuit they first launched in order to take the child back.
It all started when one woman, referred to only as the “intended mother” in court documents, launched her search for a surrogate on social media.
“[W]ho wants to pop out a baby for my [fiancée] and I?!” the woman posted on Facebook in early 2017.
A woman claiming to be a friend of said fiancée dropped a line: “Hey, if you and [fiancée] were serious about a baby . . . then I would do it,” she wrote, offering to conceive the baby with her then-boyfriend before giving it up at birth. She would also volunteer to cover medical expenses herself, expecting insurance to cover the cost.
“I get some people say they couldn’t do it or it would be heartless to just give up a baby, but it’s not[,] because it would be helping out,” the woman, already a mom of two, wrote in a follow-up message.
“I know you guys would make amazing parents,” the woman dubbed “biological mother” also wrote.
The two couples reportedly never met in person prior to their agreement. Whether they spent time together during the pregnancy, before Keanu’s birth in December 2017, remains unclear.
With only weeks left before the intended mother could legally petition for Keanu’s adoption, the birth mother reneged — alleging the other was not ready to be a parent, in part due to depression and stress following a breakup with her fiancee.
“It’s tragic. Terrible,” said one judge during oral arguments in February of this year. “I don’t have words for the case. But, it has to be resolved for the child’s good in a way that is appropriate.”
Despite the fact that the women did not involve lawyers and contracts well before conceiving the child, experts have called for more clarity in the laws governing surrogacy. According to University of California at Davis law professor Courtney G. Joslin, almost half of all states have yet to legislate the issue — an increasingly pressing one, given the rising number of same-sex couples and single parents seeking surrogates.
“The pace of states weighing in has really increased in the last decade,” Joslin told WaPo. “I expect that we’ll see even more states weighing in on this in the coming five to 10 years.”
The two women spoke via Facebook Messenger throughout the pregnancy, hashing out a number of stipulations. For example, it was agreed that the biological mother would be largely out of the picture throughout Keanu’s childhood, after which the intended mother would reveal his origins.
“Honestly I’m having a baby for you both so that would be 100 [percent] up to you both,” the biological mother wrote. “I have a boy and a girl so I’m Good,” she added.
The intended mother was granted temporary guardianship for six months, at which point she could apply to adopt Keanu. Having agreed to the arrangement, the biological mother made herself scarce during the first few months, as Heather-Jill Williams, the lawyer for the intended mother, noted in oral arguments.
It would happen that their informal handoff at the hospital may have confused clinicians, who assigned Keanu to the biological mother’s health insurance policy — causing her own eldest child to be knocked off the plan. The ordeal triggered something of a change of heart. She soon demanded the intended mom “adopt” immediately or “give him back,” despite the fact she was still nearly two months from the date she could file for full legal custody.
That’s when the biological mom filed a petition to end the guardianship. One month later, the biological father did the same, though the pair appear to have ended their relationship.
While their filings awaited a decision, the intended mom went forth with adoption, which was granted in July 2018. Meanwhile, the biological mother pulled no punches online. “He belongs with his real family instead of in a home where he’s just used to play house,” she wrote on Facebook.
A month after adoption, the intended mom found a brick had been thrown through her home window, with a note that read, “[H]e is mine.”
The state-appointed attorney for Keanu, Jacqueline Y. Parker, told the appeals court in February that the biological parents “physically and emotionally [abandoned] the child,” and demonstrated a “neglectful nature” by agreeing to give a child away to a relative stranger.
Now nearly 3 years old, Keanu remains with the intended mother, as the family court judge ruled that the child should stay with the only mother the child has known. The biological mother has appealed that call with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — now pending.
The judge who ruled in the intended mom’s favor did so regrettably, according to records.
“I’m troubled by the fact that the parties have placed the child in this jeopardy,” he said during oral arguments. “But both sets of potential parents here are far from ideal.”