Over the years, ‘reproductive biotechnology’ has become more refined. Especially in the last two decades, the US witnessed a typical surge in some complex issues that revolved around fertility, surrogacy, child support, paternity, and property rights. Not that these are new, but the outline was visible since the 1980s.
As that is when almost everyone, including parents, lawyers, bioethicists, and theologians were actively talking about ‘babies on sale.’ In other words, the legal and moral rights of these little ones came into the picture. Here are such landmark cases.
Watershed Baby M Case
In 1987 in New Jersey, this incident was the first to involve arrangements from surrogate parents. William and Elizabeth Stern had contacted Mary Beth Whitehead, who would act as a surrogate mother for the couple. She was pregnant using Stern’s sperm. In her journey of 9 months, she suddenly had a change of heart and refused to hand the baby to the couple who were awaiting her reply. Later on, she even sued for her child’s custody.
Believe it or not- the Supreme Court in New Jersey passed the verdict in her favor. ‘Blood being thicker than water’ – the declaration read that the contract she signed in with her parents had been invalid then. On the other hand, the court’s statement read that the government was against enforcing any contract that would take away a mild from her mother. Whitehead, however, didn’t get the custody, but got “visualization rights.”
The Beasley Case
Helen Beasley got a sum of nearly $20000 to carry till the day the child would be born to a California-based couple. After eight weeks, she realized she was carrying twins. Going by the contract, the couple announced a selective reduction. But this would happen if the pregnant lady would carry more than one fetus. Now that the couple knew about the clause, they called over Beasley to have a single fetus. She did not agree to this, stating that the pregnancy has entered a point where there’s no going back!
The couple could have sued her by asking for an abortion if the issues prevailed. And that wouldn’t have been pleasant for her. Despite knowing that she had no legal power over the little ones, she did not want to let the couple have their baby. She was rather angry and spoke about how all the who don’t like kids. Thankfully, there was another couple who went ahead with the contract.
This was yet another New York case. White Donna and Fasano had contracted with a popular fertility clinic. They implanted two fertilized eggs into her uterus, and she had twins- one whitish and the other black—serious negligence on the clinic. There was a mix-up of the fertilized eggs inside her uterus. Fasano then turned the baby upside down and eventually returned the little one to the biological parents, but kept the latter was sued for visitation powers.
As per the court, Donna’s mother would be ‘nominal’ and kept Fasano out of the picture. Even now, the biological parents are continuing the ‘suing’ with the clinic for sheer negligence issues. One thing that stands out in regards to this case was largely property rights. What exactly are frozen embryos from the standpoint of a lab test- ‘people’ or ‘property.’
The Turczyn Case
In 1996, Michael and Debbie Turcyzn separated from each other, but still, she decided to go ahead with artificial insemination by an unknown sperm donor. Thankfully, they reconciled, and with the support of Michael, Debbie had quadruplets. But after nine months, Debbie finally filed for divorce and even sued Michael for child support.
Along with Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a lower court passed an order against the husband and said it was a case of ‘trumped biology.’ Despite Michael making it to the court time and again, they decided not to hear the case. Unfortunately, there were no legal guidelines about how long a parent should continue their role before being called a legal parent.
If you read more, it might surprise you to know how many such cases even exist! And how parenting cannot mean good news to everyone at all times as they end up battling numerous such issues. Have you encountered such challenges, do let us know in the comments section!