The distressing story of 14 month old twins born to a surrogate in the United States who have yet to be picked up by their commissioning parents has highlighted the fraught nature of surrogacy, especially for the children involved, who are often the biggest losers at the heart of such arrangements.
The twin’s surrogate mother, Amanda, revealed that she decided to be a surrogate one more time after a previous positive experience. She registered with an agency and fell pregnant shortly after signing the contract. However, restrictions on foreign travel imposed to control covid, interfered with plans for the commissioning parents to visit the US to collect the twins as planned in February 2021.
“They weren’t willing to quarantine for two weeks before entering the US” Amanda explained.
“Not only did they not pick up the twins – they never established their parental rights.”
Given that the biological parents were not present at the birth, the birth certificate lists Amanda and her husband as the babies’ biological parents. The surrogacy contract required a new birth certificate to be drawn up after the babies had been transferred to their biological parents. This never eventuated.
Initially, the commissioning parents sent money to Amanda and her husband to contribute to expenses related to caring for the babies. After a while, however, Amanda asked them to stop if they weren’t going to come and collect them.
“Since then, she hasn’t ‘heard from anyone’ – with the biological parents not even contacting the twins on their first birthday.
“It has now been 50 days since Amanda and her husband have heard from the other couple and the 14-month-old twins are still living with them.
“They have now hired a lawyer to try to work out where to go from here.”
Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated one. There are documented cases of babies being abandoned by commissioning parents for a variety of reasons: sometimes because the babies are born with disabilities; sometimes because their own relationship has broken down; and sometimes, for no discernable reason whatsoever, they just never show up. The case of baby Gammy, born with disabilities to a surrogate mother in Thailand, made headlines in Australia several years ago, highlighting the inherent complexities and resultant trauma that can eventuate when children are commodified in surrogacy arrangements.
The negative effects on the mothers who carry these babies to term on behalf of others has been documented in the book edited by Jennifer Lahl, Melinda Tankard Reist and Renate Klein, Broken Bonds: Surrogate Mothers Speak Out:
“These raw accounts expose the pro-surrogacy propaganda. They reveal the cruel disregard for the birth mother, the treatment of the child as a made-to-order commodity which has to be perfect or it will be rejected.”
As the New State Task Force on Life and Law concluded in its report “Surrogate Parenting: Analysis and Recommendations for Public Policy” in 1988:
“...the practice [of commercial surrogacy] could not be distinguished from the sale of children and that it placed children at significant risk of harm… surrogacy undermines the dignity of women, children, and human reproduction.”
The story of Amanda’s twins and their abandonment is a heartbreaking one. There is no doubt that a profound bond has been established between Amanda and these children. After spending nine months in her womb, the babies have been cared for and nurtured by Amanda and her husband in the 14 months since their birth, and have been part of their family all this time. Removing them now will inevitably cause rupture and broken bonds, as the children are separated from the only parents they have ever known in their young lives.