You Decide: who has parental rights?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I’m taking a break from my traditional columns. Usually, I state my opinion firmly one way or the other. This week, I simply can’t make up my mind how I feel about this issue. Therefore, I leave it for you to decide.

Does a surrogate mother have the right to keep the baby she carries that is biologically hers, or should the couple who hired her have the right to the child?

There is a case in Florida that’s been in the news often lately regarding a surrogate mother who decided shortly into the pregnancy that she was going to keep her unborn child.

Florida courts ruled that not only does she get to keep the baby, but one judge also terminated the biological father’s rights to the child.

Is this ethical? Is it right that the couple who paid this woman to carry a child for them should be denied the right to see the baby they so dreamed of?

On the other hand, would it be right if the woman who carried her biological child in her womb for nine months was forced to give her up?

Florida law clearly states that when a surrogate mother uses her own egg, the surrogacy is treated as an adoption and as such she has the right to change her mind up to 48 hours after the baby’s birth – regardless of whether there is a pre-existing contract or not.

However, my concern is that in essence what this woman has done is made somebody else pay to be the sperm donor of her child.

If this case is upheld in the courts, that sets a precedent for women seeking sperm donors in the future.

Why pay thousands of dollars for a sperm donor and in-vitro fertilization or intra-uterine insemination when you can simply pretend to be a surrogate mother and have someone pay you to have the baby?

It’s a horrible thought that someone could be so devious, but I predict that’s what’s going to happen if this case isn’t overturned.

I’m not certain how to go about being fair in this instance, though. Certainly the couple who initially sought out the woman in hopes of her birthing a child for them should have some rights to that child.

Yet the biological mother as well has a right to be with her baby at least to some degree if she so chooses.

I polled an online group of moms to see what they thought about this situation. The majority felt that since the surrogate mother was paid, she should either have to give the child to the couple or pay back the money. These moms also felt very strongly that under no circumstances should the father’s parental rights have been terminated, as the child is biologically his as well.

A Today Show poll showed that 55% of people felt that the couple should have custody, 38% felt the biological parents should share custody and 7.2% thought the surrogate mother should keep the child.

Similarly, a poll on a news station in Florida showed that 92% of viewers thought the couple should get the child and only 8% thought the surrogate was in the right.

What do you think and why? Let me know!

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. E-mail your responses to: jennipher.dickens@r-cnews. Results may discussed in a future column.