In November 2015, a forty-seven-year old California woman was faced with aheart-wrenching demand— terminate one of three triplets or face “financial ruin.”
Now, she is fighting back.
— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) November 27, 2015
Melissa Cook was paid $33,000 to become a surrogate mother for an unidentified man in Georgia.
Per their agreement, Cook was to have a child from in-vitro fertilization using his sperm and an anonymous twenty-year-old woman’s eggs.
What neither party intended was that all three of the embryos placed in Cook would develop, resulting in triplets. But around eight or nine weeks, according to the New York Post, Cook learned that she was, in fact, pregnant with triplets.
Upon hearing the news, the Georgia man demanded Cook abort one of the babies or “face financial ruin.” Citing a provision in their surrogacy agreement, he argued that it allowed for a “reduction,” should he so choose.
California law provides that, except in instances of medical emergencies, abortions are not to be performed once the fetus becomes viable— at or around twenty weeks. At the time the man made his demands, Cook was seventeen weeks pregnant.
She refused to comply with the man’s demands, despite his lawyer’s warning that there would be “immense remedies” sought by the man for her refusal to abide by the agreement.
Now twenty-three weeks along, Cook has filed a lawsuit claiming that California’s surrogacy law is unconstitutional.
— Nana Coker (@nanacokerdotcom) January 5, 2016
In a forty-seven page complaint, she argues that her surrogacy agreement with the Georgia man is invalid as the law on which it relies violates the rights provided to her by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Cook’s lawyer, Harold Cassidy, says California’s Surrogacy Enabling Statute “will not withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
“The notion that a man can demand that a mother terminate the life of one of the children she carries by an abortion, and then claim that she is liable for money damages when she refuses, is cruel to the mother,” he argues.
In her lawsuit, Cook claims that she is the legal mother of all three unborn children and seeks custody for at least the triplet who was asked to be terminated.
“I no longer view surrogacy arrangements in the same favorable light I once did,” she explains. “Children derive a special benefit from their relationship with their mother.”