A woman offered to be a surrogate because she needed the money, and a couple hired her to prevent a biological child from having birth defects. Now she and the couple have both been accused of "playing God."
A couple with three children was desperate to have a fourth, but the mother was incapable of having more children. Her three previous children had all been born through in vitro fertilization; all were born prematurely, spent months in the hospital after birth, and continued to have medical problems.
"They wanted something better for this child," Dr. Elisa Gianferrari, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Hartford Hospital, wrote in a letter to CNN.
The couple agreed to pay Crystal Kelley a fee of $22,000 to have their child via surrogate, using frozen embryos that had been saved from previous attempts to have children. Although she had undergone two miscarriages, Kelley agreed to the surrogacy because she needed the money.
The relationship between Kelley and the couple was a promising one: the couple was attentive to the surrogate's needs and financial issues, according to reports, but trouble ensued following Kelley's fifth month sonogram. It revealed that baby had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in the brain, and a complex heart abnormality.
The baby was given a 25 percent chance of having a "normal life," according to Kelley, who spoke with CNN. The parents' decision came a few days later.
"Given the ultrasound findings, (the parents) feel that the interventions required to manage (the baby's medical problems) are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination," they wrote in a letter to Gianferrari, Kelley's midwife.
Critics of in Vitro fertilization and the utilization of frozen embryos have discouraged the practices on moral grounds. But now, a second moral debate had begun- whether or not to abort.
"They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go," Kelley told CNN, recalling what the couple had told her. "I told them it wasn't their decision to play God."
Kelley did not want to abort the baby. The parents insisted that she must, as it was part of her surrogacy contract. Both parties hired a lawyer and Kelley was informed that she could not be forced into an abortion. In response, the couple offered Kelley $10,000 to terminate the pregnancy. She countered the offer with $15,000, stating that she needed the money. The parents then decided that they would take custody of the child after birth and give the child away to the state.
According to the laws in her hometown state of Connecticut, Kelley had no rights to the child. Not wanting the baby to end up in foster care, she made the decision to temporarily move her and her two girls to Michigan, where surrogacy contracts are not observed and the woman carrying the child has full rights.
Amid custody disputes, the child was born last June. Her condition was far worse than expected.
She has a birth defect called holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to completely divide into distinct hemispheres. She hasheterotaxy, which means many of her internal organs, such as her liver and stomach, are in the wrong places. She has at least two spleens, neither of which works properly. Her head is small, her right ear is misshapen, she has a cleft lip and a cleft palate, and a long list of complex heart defects, among other problems.
Kelley decided that she was not fit to take care of the child, but she did find an adoptive mother who was familiar with the child's birth defects. The baby is not expected to live long due to the multiple heart surgeries that will be required to keep her alive. If she survives the surgeries, there's a 50 percent chance that she will never "be able to walk, talk or use her hands normally," the report revealed.
"This is what happens when people play God," one woman said in response to the article. "This wasn't a miracle of life, it was the miracle of modern science creating a malformed child destined to a short life of round the clock care."
Kelley admitted that a number of people were critical of her decision.
"I can't tell you how many people told me that I was bad, that I was wrong, that I should go have an abortion, that I would be damned to hell," she told CNN.