EXCLUSIVE: 'I felt like just a rented uterus': Surrogate mom speaks out after gay dads refuse to accept premie baby delivered early to facilitate cancer treatment

Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, was recently contacted by a long-time friend, the aunt of a woman who has been contracted to be a surrogate mother.

In this case, the woman was hired by a California couple to undergo IVF and gestate the embryos that had been created with sperm and egg provided by the couple, though the couple is comprised of two men.

Lahl wrote about this after a conversation with the aunt, then reached out and spoke to the surrogate mom. She shared that interview exclusively with Human Events. A fundraiser has been launched to help with her expenses.

The California woman, who has children of her own and has served as a surrogate before, giving birth to twins, underwent the procedure and became pregnant. At 24 weeks, she found out she had breast cancer.

"I went to a routine OB appointment," Brit told Lahl, and my OB found a lump in my right breast. So she sent me for a biopsy. So she sent me for a biopsy. That next week is when it came back that it was positive for breast cancer. So that was like May 17, I believe. So she sent me, obviously to oncology, we kind of started that process of registering that I have cancer while pregnant."

Brit contacted her agency. "I wasn't sure how I was supposed to handle that," she said, "because it's obviously nothing I've ever dealt with before." Still, her main focus was to maintain the pregnancy. 

"I made it very clear to my OB, my oncology team and the agency that my main focus was making sure that I can continue the pregnancy and that the baby would be okay. Which the oncology team confirmed at that time, the cancer that I had, it was totally fine for me to continue to do the AC," which is a pregnancy-safe chemotherapy treatment. 

The agency then told the parents who had hired Brit that she had cancer. But there were additional drugs that her doctors wanted to start her on that were not conducive to the pregnancy, and she wouldn't be able to start those until the baby had been delivered. 

The parents, two dad, were "upset, obviously" Brit said, "scared, worried. They kind of freaked out a little bit, which you would expect because they just found out that their surrogate has cancer." They wanted to be involved, to get updates from Brit's doctors. "They wanted my oncology team to be speaking with them weekly," she said.

For Brit, it was too much. "They were getting a little more intrusive, so I told them I wanted to find out by myself, get the details, and then I would obviously relay them to them. But they weren't happy with that. They were reaching out to everybody, and emailing and threatening lawsuits and all this."

The lawsuits, Brit said, were a function of the dads not having any other mechanism to get information about her medical condition. "They threatened my OB, they threatened my oncology team."

And the oncology team, Brit said, was spooked. "They were like, 'we need to get our lawyers involved because we don't know if we can give you chemo without their permission,'" Brit told Lahl.

Brit contacted her attorney, who assured her that her care and treatment was the top priority and that her care would not be altered based on the wants of the men who hired her to gestate a baby. The two parties have a contract in place that dictates terms, but at this point, Brit said the relationship between them "took a turn."

"I felt like just a rented uterus," she said. "I felt like they only cared about their baby, which I expect them to care about their baby, I obviously cared because I didn't want anything to happen to the baby either. But they didn't care–I felt like they didn't care about me at all."

"They would say it to me," she told Lahl, "they would text me and be like 'we're here for you, whatever you need,' but then to all my doctors they would be completely different."

Then an MRI revealed that the cancer has metastasized. The pregnancy-safe chemo was no longer an effective option to treat it. Terminating the pregnancy became a topic of discussion among Brit and the medical team, or inducing delivery earlier. 

"And that's when the dads were just 'absolutely not' because the whole time they didn't want a baby born for 38 weeks, which even if it was a normal, healthy pregnancy, you can never guarantee, obviously, a baby to be born at 40 weeks."

Lahl asked the reason for this concern from the dads, and Brit said that friends had told them early deliveries could result in damaged babies, and the dads did not want to risk that. Brit told Lahl that the twins she had via surrogacy were at 34 weeks, are almost 2 years old, and speak three languages. "But they wanted no early labor at all," she said.

The contract between Brit and the dads, reviewed by Human Events, reads that "abortion or selective reduction of child" is permissible "only in limited circumstances."

Those circumstances include threats to the mother's life, when not reducing multiples poses a risk to the other fetuses, if the baby has substantial medical abnormalities, or in cases where the surrogate is carrying two or more and the intended parents want either only one or two. This can be done at the parents' request.

The contract between Brit and the dads reads that the Surrogate agrees to these terms, and is willing to travel out of state in such circumstances where it is illegal where she resides. It also reads that the law in the state where the abortion takes place will determine the time period in which abortion may be performed. 

Brit was at 24 weeks. One hospital where she intended to deliver early," she said, "refused to deliver because the parents had reached out to them, more lawsuits, all the way up the chain, and they were like 'we're not going to touch you with a ten foot pole.'"

Brit told Lahl that she eventually delivered on Father's Day, at 25 weeks. She said she was bleeding a lot because her placenta "was not ready to come," and the doctors were "able to get it detached."

"We had multiple families lined up that would adopt," Brit told Lahl. But the dads were not okay with that. In fact, the dads "refused any type of medical intervention" for the child.

"They wanted nothing," Brit told Lahl. "They just wanted their baby's remains and to move on with life. Which I would never have chosen." 

"When the baby was born, was the baby born alive?" Lahl asked.

"I don't really want to go too much into the details of the actual labor. It was not as traumatic as I expcted. But all I can say is the baby is not alive, and the parents should have their remains by now."

The dads had the baby cremated. 

Brit said she only wanted to help people have a baby and "try to help in ways that not everybody could and they just took the whole experience and completely ruined it."

She met the dads, but once the delivery was scheduled, they did not reach out to her. They have not contacted her since.

Brit's iron levels dropped, which made the chemo rough the following week.

"I feel like I'm kind of numb still," Brit told Lahl. "I don't know if I fully processed it because I jumped right into chemo. And right into, you know, just saving my life for my own four children that I have. So I don't know if I fully processed it yet. Because I haven't really had like a big flood of emotions, if that makes sense. I cried like the whole week leading up to the delivery. But since then, I just feel like I don't have a ton of emotion. Because I don't really know how to handle it. Maybe I'm not sure."

Brit is undergoing cancer treatment to save her life, and to continue to mother her children.

California is moving to make hiring a surrogate covered under medical insurance to create fertility equality and give more men access to women's uteruses so they can create families with their own natural children. A gay New York couple has sued to gain that coverage under their insurance plans.

Image: Title: lahl brit


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