The Cook Surrogacy Case: Who Is the Parent?

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The Cook Surrogacy Case: Who Is the Parent?

California surrogate Melissa Cook has had an immense amount of media coverage since taking a stand against reducing her triplet pregnancy to twins. The biological father, residing in Georgia, had requested a “reduction” to preserve the health of the surrogate as well as the health of his unborn children after being informed that all three embryos implanted in the surrogate had resulted in viable fetuses.

Cook, 47, is a gestational surrogate and has no biological ties to the fetuses. An anonymous egg donor was used for the surrogacy.

Most surrogacy contracts include a provision allowing intended parents to make decisions about abortion as well as selective reduction in instances where a multiples pregnancy results. IVF assisted pregnancies carry higher rates of multiples than natural pregnancies.

Katie O’Reilly of The Atlantic interviewed several individuals in her article, When Parents and Surrogates Disagree on Abortion.

 Cook filed a lawsuit against the father in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming her Constitutional rights of due process and equal protection were being violated.

“Cook says she wants to take all three fetuses to term, adopt the unwanted third, and collect her full surrogacy fee,” O’Reilly reported. “She also wants the court to rule that her surrogacy contract is unenforceable, which would protect her from the consequences of breaching her contract and possibly allow her to keep the multi-thousand-dollar fee stipulated in her gestational carrier agreement.”

While Cook may want to adopt the third baby, she has no legal right to make that decision. The intended father is the only parent of the children under California law, and he is thus the only one who can make the decision to place the child for adoption. Therefore, the surrogate can only adopt the child if the intended father places one of the children up for adoption and permits her to be the adoptive parent.

Professor of gender and bioethics at Macaulay Honors College, Elizabeth Reis, explained how emotions may change from the time a legal contract is signed to the time an intended parent requests an abortion or reduction.

“…there’s no way to know how you’ll feel when you’re pregnant and ordered to reduce,” Reis said.

Not to be overlooked is the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. That case set a groundbreaking precedent by protecting the right of a woman to have an abortion under the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

Despite the terms in a surrogacy contract that may give the intended parents the sole authority to determine when a pregnancy should be terminated, no one can force a woman to have an abortion. A pregnant woman has a constitutional right to choose whether she remains pregnant or terminates her pregnancy, following applicable state laws.

Cook has now given birth to triplets and while she would like to classify the father as a “sperm donor,” the court correctly ruled in his favor as the only parent of the triplets Cook was carrying.

As C.M said in his statement, “There have been many misrepresentations made about this matter,” the statement read in part. “I have addressed those misrepresentations in the appropriate forum -the judicial system -and the appropriate Court has heard both sides and issued a correct ruling based on California law and any constitutional issues that there may be. I stand by the Court’s ruling.”