US Supreme Court turns down appeal of surrogate mother who refused to have abortion
Melissa Cook appears in a screen capture of a press conference held on May 24, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of a surrogate mother who was pressured, but refused, to have an abortion after it was found that she was carrying triplets.
Melissa Cook, 47, became pregnant with triplets after she was implanted with anonymous donor eggs fertilized by the sperm of Chester Moore Jr., who had hired her as a surrogate.
When Moore found out that all three embryos survived, he decided that he could not afford to raise all three babies and told Cook to abort one.
Cook refused and gave birth in California to all three babies in February 2016, but she did not want Moore to have the third baby. She also wanted the government to ensure that Moore was a fit father before he obtained custody of any of the babies.
Before giving birth, she filed a lawsuit challenging California's surrogacy laws, saying they violate her and the then-unborn babies' rights to due process and equal protection under the Constitution.
She lost in both federal and state courts, and the California Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal. As a result, Cook's parental rights were terminated when she went into labor two months early. Moore, a postal worker in Georgia, was declared the sole parent of the three newborn babies, who remained at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for three months without mother or father at their sides.
The hospital reportedly refused Cook's request to see the babies, while Moore had only visited them for a short time.
Cook continued her efforts to challenge the lower court decisions by filing a petition for review in the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2017.
According to The Federalist, Cook's lawsuit poses the question of whether the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection trump state surrogacy laws.
Under California law, a surrogate mother's parental rights may be terminated before birth based on the surrogacy contract's terms, even if the surrogate later seeks to assert parental rights. The child purchaser can also be named by courts as the legal parent before birth and without any consideration of "the best interests of the child."
Moore's sister, Melinda Burnett, has stated in an affidavit that her brother, who is deaf and mute, is unable to care for the three babies. She claims that the children, who are now 18 months old, are currently living in deplorable conditions in a basement with Moore.
Kathleen Sloan, the co-author of a friend of the court brief filed in support of Cook, said that the Supreme Court's refusal to hear her appeal can have dire consequences.
"Surrogacy is creating a generation of children severed from biological and genetic identity and a breeder class of marginalized women," Sloan said.
"Both are being transformed into commodities for sale on the global marketplace. This can only be accepted and condoned by a society untethered from any sense of ethics, human rights, dignity, or moral values. When the primal bond—as ancient as humankind itself—between mother and child is destroyed, what will be left?" she added.