By Carol Tobias, President
National Right to Life
The headline on the powerful CNN story tells a terrible story—“Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby—the subhead tells us about her quandry–“A surrogate’s unimaginable dilemma”—but it not until we are well into Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen’s story that we learn that Crystal Kelley did the right thing: she did not abort.
This story is not about the ethics of surrogacy. It is about Kelley’s refusal to abort “Baby S.” when a prenatal screening showed “severe medical problems” and she came under tremendous pressure from the biological parents.
The ultrasound taken when Kelley was five months pregnant showed the baby had “a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in the brain, and a complex heart abnormality,” Cohen writes. (Her conditions turned out to be even more challenging at birth.)
The full story of Kelley, Baby S., and the unnamed parents is like something out of a Jodi Picoult novel.
What we know from the CNN story is that Kelley had been a surrogate before. The biological parents, who already had three children, desperately wanted a fourth child. They had frozen two embryos which were both implanted in Kelly. By Cohen’s account, this surrogacy and pregnancy which took place in 2011-2012 went well until the ultrasound showed that the baby would have serious problems. Cohen writes for CNN that
“The doctors explained the baby would need several heart surgeries after she was born. She would likely survive the pregnancy, but had only about a 25% chance of having a ‘normal life,’ Kelley remembers the doctors saying.”
A letter from Kelly’s midwife noted that as a result of the ultrasound, the parents felt that abortion was the “more humane option.” Kelly disagreed.
From that point forward, an already inherently ethically, morally, and spiritually complicated situation became mind-bogglingly complex.
According to medical records, the biological mother inquired about abortion techniques.
A lengthy series of events transpired, all intended to ratchet up the pressure on Kelley to abort. For example, she was told through an intermediary, that if she didn’t abort, the couple would not agree to be the baby’s legal parents. When that failed, the parents offered $10,000 to Kelley to abort the baby.
And then this real-life tragedy really became stranger than fiction.
Everything from the parents hiring a lawyer to compel her to abort under the terms of the surrogacy contract; to being told the parents had changed their minds and would “exercise their legal right to take custody of their child — and then immediately after birth surrender her to the state of Connecticut; to Kelley fleeing Connecticut to go to Michigan where she corresponded with parents of children with special needs; to concluding it was best for Baby S. to be adopted by a family which had already adopted several children; to giving birth June 25 to Baby S.
Oh, and did I mention that it came out that “the wife was not the baby’s genetic mother — they’d used an anonymous egg donor.”
Which brings us to now. Baby S. has very, very serious medical issues and the adoptive parents are keenly aware that she may not be with them for an extended period and if she does live could face serious difficulties. But you might already expect they see Baby S. in an entirely different light. Cohen writes
“Her adoptive parents know some people look at her and see a baby born to suffer — a baby who’s suffering could have been prevented with an abortion. But that’s not the way they see it. They see a little girl who’s defied the odds, who constantly surprises her doctors with what she’s able to do — make eye contact, giggle at her siblings, grab toys, eye strangers warily. S. wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm,’ her mother said in an e-mail to CNN. ‘Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing S. with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving.’”