Supreme Court refuses to intervene in bitter surrogacy custody battle

Surrogate refuses to abort, had lost all custody rights

By Dave Andrusko

Melissa Cook

Melissa Cook

When last we reported on Melissa Cook, Ms. Cook had just filed a lawsuit asserting that California’s surrogacy law is unconstitutional because it violates due-process and equal protection rights.

Cook had entered in a contract in which she would be paid $33,000 to carry a baby conceived through IVF, using a 50-year-old Georgia man’s sperm and a 20-year-old woman’s ova. The contract specified $6,000 for each additional child.

Three ova were implanted. But the man, later identified as Chester Moore, Jr., insisted that Cook “selectively reduce”–abort–one of the three babies. Cook responded, “I am pro-life and I’m not having an abortion.”

“The triplets were born in a Los Angeles hospital in February 2016,” People magazine reported, “The staff allegedly became so concerned about what they believed to be C.M.’s inability to take care of babies that three nurses and a doctor flew back to Georgia with him and the infants in April 2016 to ensure that they would be safe.”

A blizzard of legal maneuverings ensued, in both state and federal courts, reaching the United States Supreme Court. The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland reported today that on Monday the justices announced they will not hear the case of M.C. v. C.M.

In an affidavit filed with the Supreme Court on September 20, Moore’s sister insisted her brother was incapable of caring for one of the three toddlers, let alone all of them.

The Orange County Register’s David Whiting reported

The allegations about the three babies, now 18 months old, are made by the lifelong bachelor’s sister, Melinda Burnett. According to the affidavit, she often visits her brother and lives just 12 miles away.

The father, Chester Shannon Moore Jr., is 51 years old, deaf, cannot speak and struggles with sign language, according to the signed affidavit. He earns $750 a week and works nights as a postal worker.

When the sister learned of the surrogacy, Burnett states in her affidavit, “I was horrified by the prospect that our brother, who has not been able to take care of himself, would attempt to take on raising triplets on his own while he lived in the chaos at my parents’ home.”

Moore raises the three babies, now toddlers, in the basement of his parents’ home in Mableton, Ga., where, court records state, a heroin-addicted nephew often lives and uses in the house.

The air on the first floor is so thick with cigarette smoke, the affidavit says, that visiting child services nurses “had to hold their noses.”

Moore, the affidavit states, fails to change the children’s diapers often enough to prevent rashes. “Ultimately, the rashes became so bad,” Moore’s sister says, that her brother has “had to take the babies to the hospital.

Moore’s attorney denies the allegations, characterizing them as “libel and slander.”

Cook’s legal position was always perilous. “Surrogate moms have no rights, California says, and aren’t even parents,” Whiting explained.

As The Federalist’s Cleveland pointed out, “[T]he sole question Cook asked the Supreme Court to consider was a legal one: whether surrogate mothers and babies born to them have constitutional rights that trump state surrogacy laws.”

On Monday the High Court chose not to intervene.