Mother Knows Best? Surrogate Sues To Gain Rights Over Triplets After Biological Dad Asks Her To Abort One Of The Fetuses

baby foot
What makes a mother? Bethany Khan CC BY-ND 2.0

A surrogacy lawsuit currently underway in California is proof modern-day parenting can be very complicated. Melissa Cook, 47, is fighting for parental rights to triplets she is carrying after the biological father requested to abort one of the triplets, despite no biological relation to the triplets herself.

Last spring, Cook was chosen as a surrogate for a Georgia man she had never met. Since she was implanted with his sperm, as well as an egg from an anonymous donor, Cook knew it was a possibility she'd be asked to abort one of the fetuses. It is common practice for doctors to implant multiple embryos in a woman's womb when undergoing in vitro-fertilization, so as to increase the chances of live birth.

In Cook's case, all three implanted embryos survived. However, The Daily Beast reports the triplets' biological father, identified as C.M., is asking her to reduce the number of fetuses by undergoing an abortion; C.M. allegedly cited financial concerns for his future children. But after carrying the triplets for several weeks, Cook, who is already a mother to four of her own children, as well as a fifth child she acted as a surrogate for, turned down the request.

"They are human beings. I bonded with these kids. This is just not right," Cook told The New York Post when the case first gained media attention in November 2014.

C.M's lawyer, Robert Walmsley, told The Daily Beast his client denies ever pressuring Cook to have an abortion. In his defense, Walmsley claims the motivation behind his client's actions are Cook's and the fetuses' safety, not money. Rather than have an abortion, Cook offered to personally raise one of the fetuses, to which the father allegedly responded by threatening to withhold her $33,000 surrogacy fee. Cook then retaliated by taking legal action against the father in a bid to win custody over all the triplets despite having no biological claims.

According to Cook's 47-page complaint filed on Monday, she claims that "each of the triplets has a fundamental right to get to know and love their mother and to continue their relationships with her," The Daily Mail reported.

Cook is represented by Harold Cassidy, the same lawyer who worked on the landmark "Baby M case" — the first surrogacy case ever to be brought to U.S. court back in 1987. Currently, there are no federal laws on surrogacy; although there are various state regulations. However, seeing as C.M. is the only one with parental rights over the children, it is likely he will gain full custody.

That Cook has no biological ties to the triplets may not be completely accurate. Recent research has found women carrying children fertilized by way of egg donors still have a genetic influence on the fetus. This is done through the passing of molecules known as MicroRNA's, which are secreted in the mother's womb and can change the genetic information of the child.

However, it is not yet known if this information will influence the outcome of Cook's case.

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