A New Zealand couple has shared a heartbreaking story about a surrogate who aborted their baby without their knowledge.
Due to struggling with severe endometriosis, Jane* was told she’d never have children. So when her and her husband John* fell pregnant two years after they got married with their daughter Jenny*, they were overjoyed.
Eventually, they discussed the possibility of having a second child, but due to severe health issues during her first pregnancy, Jane's gynaecologist confirmed it was unlikely she'd carry another baby and that if she did, it could result in a nine-month hospital stay.
Naturally upset about the news, Jane confided in a good friend of hers. “Out of the blue” the friend offered to act as the couple’s surrogate because “if anyone deserved this, it was [her and John]”.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Jane and John began the surrogacy process in June 2019.
As in Australia, commercial surrogacy isn’t legal in New Zealand, so surrogacies are done via an "altruistic arrangement", rather than a legal contract. They can be done out of goodwill or selflessness, but not for payment.
Fertility counselling was part of the process and included questions around abortion and whose baby the surrogate sees it as. They had separate solicitors and the surrogacy arrangement was approved by the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology.
In September 2020, the couple were ecstatic to learn their surrogate was pregnant. But at nine weeks of pregnancy they were shocked to find out that after becoming very ill with prenatal depression, the surrogate had aborted the baby.
Jane believes she should have been told about the abortion before it took place.
"It was our biological baby and Jenny's biological sibling. I could've explained how it was going to affect the rest of our lives. Even though everyone has walked away from this and even though it's painful, I'll talk about it. I never expected I'd have to worry about someone terminating our baby. It never crossed my mind."
This story is devastating for all parties involved – the couple, the surrogate and the baby – and has prompted suggestions that the lack of legal protections mean surrogacy laws need reforming in New Zealand.
The reality is, however, that no amount of legal regulation can protect against the inherently exploitative and harmful nature of renting (or borrowing) women’s wombs or the ethical minefield that exists when trading human lives. There will always be fallout when we treat women as baby-growing machines and children as commodities.
*Names have been changed.