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Why the Surrogacy "Baby M" Case Stirred the Nation

Why the Surrogacy “Baby M” Case Stirred the Nation

by YCPress

Why the Surrogacy “Baby M” Case Stirred the Whole U.S.?

The “surrogacy controversy” of actress Zheng Shuang in the United States continues to ferment, and surrogacy and its related moral and ethical topics have caused great controversy. As early as the 1970s in the United States, there were babies born through surrogacy.

In the face of the potential demand for surrogacy, commercial surrogacy emerged in the U.S. In the 1980s, a baby surrogacy case caused a stir in the U.S.

The earliest commercial surrogacy centers

The definition of assisted reproductive technology is broad and encompasses both surrogacy and egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, etc. Surrogacy technology originated in 1884 with the first successful artificial fertilization of humans, which laid the foundation for surrogacy technology. in the 1930s, Schering Pharmaceuticals in Germany and Parker-Davis Pharmaceuticals in the U.S. began mass production of estrogen.

in 1944, John Roark, a professor at Harvard Medical School, successfully completed the first experiment in human history in which eggs were fertilized outside the womb.

in 1953, researchers successfully The first cryopreservation of sperm was performed.

In 1968, British physiologist Robert Edwards achieved fertilization of the human egg in the laboratory. He then began working with gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, with Edwards studying fertilization and early embryo culture and Steptoe using laparoscopy to treat patients with tubal infertility.

On November 10, 1977, Leslie Brown, a British woman who had been unable to conceive for nine years due to blocked fallopian tubes, underwent an in vitro fertilization procedure developed by Edwards and Steptoe.

This is considered one of the greatest events in the history of world medicine in the 20th century.

Noel Keane, a Michigan attorney, saw the opportunity and entered the field of commercial surrogacy legal services, drafting the first commercial surrogacy contract in 1980.

The following year, he established the Noel Keen Infertility Center in New York, specializing in providing commercial surrogacy legal services for infertile couples desperate for a child. But a variety of ethical issues implicit in surrogacy also surfaced.

Lawsuit over surrogacy contract

It was March 1984 when Mary Beth Whitehead, who lived in New Jersey, was flipping through the newspaper and saw an ad for a commercial surrogacy at the Noel Keen Infertility Center in New York.

The ad was looking for women willing to help infertile couples with the promise of a substantial fee, and Mary, who was living in poverty, suddenly saw the light.

Mary, who had dropped out of high school early in life, married garbage truck driver Richard Whitehead, and they had two children and had been living very poorly.

A doctor couple, Elizabeth Stern and William Stern, had been married for more than a decade without children and were eager to have a child of their own. In the United States, the legal process for adopting a child is complicated and the waiting time is long. In desperation, the Sterns found out that the Noel Keen Infertility Center could provide surrogacy services and wanted to give it a try. The couple finally chose Mary.

After negotiations, the two needy couples came to the Noel Keen Infertility Center in February 1985 to sign a surrogacy contract. Under the contract, Mary agreed to accept William’s sperm for artificial insemination, and she was required to relinquish direct custody and support of the child after birth.

In return, the Stern’s gave Mary’s family $10,000 as a reward after the birth of the child. Little did they know that the matter would later involve them in a huge surrogacy controversy.

On March 27, 1986, Mary gave birth to a baby girl in the hospital, whom she named Sarah Elizabeth Whitehead. Mary was overwhelmed with grief and joy at the sight of her daughter’s birth, and her motherly nature suddenly made her realize that she must not give up her child for money. She unilaterally offered to break the contract, refused to accept $10,000, and took the baby home.

Later, the Stern’s forcibly took the baby away and Mary, the mother who had lost her child, became hysterical and approached the Stern’s, demanding that the baby be returned to her immediately or she would commit suicide on the spot. Because Mary was so emotional, the Sterns had to agree to let her take the baby back first. Soon after, Mary and her husband quietly left New Jersey with the child and fled to Florida.

The Stern’s hired a private investigator to investigate and finally discovered the whereabouts of Mary’s family. They filed a court action to freeze Mary’s family’s bank accounts and issue a warrant for their arrest. The famous “Baby M” surrogacy case in U.S. history was launched.

Multi-state legislation restricts surrogacy

The case was first heard in New Jersey Superior Court on January 5, 1987. The court referred to the child as “Baby M” to protect her privacy. In the courtroom, lawyers for both sides exchanged words. The Stern’s attorney, Skroff, said the court was addressing the question of whether the contract should be honored.

Mary’s lawyer, Harold, countered that there are some things for a woman that money cannot buy. Skroff asked that the Stern’s be sentenced as parents of “Baby M” under the contract, and claimed that Mary had threatened to kill the baby and then committed suicide and was not a competent mother.

Psychoanalyst Marshall argued in court that Mary was suspected of being mentally stimulated, that it was unsafe to leave the baby with her, and that the Sterns should be given custody of the child. Dr. Silverman, a female psychoanalyst, argued that Mary’s reaction was one that any biological mother would have made.

The surrogate “Baby M” case attracted national attention, and there was a lot of talk in the streets. Women in general sided with Mary, and 121 female celebrities, including actress Meryl Streep and author Susan Sontag, published an open letter, “By These Standards, We Are All Unqualified Mothers,” criticizing the comments of male experts such as Marshall.

Some of the underclass also said that the courts could not award a child of a worker’s wife to a doctor’s family on the basis of a contract.

However, on March 31, 1987, the New Jersey Superior Court issued a judgment formally affirming the surrogacy contract and awarding custody of “Baby M” to the Stern’s based on the best interests of the child.

In February 1988, under public pressure, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the decision, ruling that the surrogacy contract was void as a violation of public policy, and the case was remanded to the Family Court.

Considering that Mary was divorced and remarried by this time, the family court awarded custody of “Baby M” to the Sterns, with extensive visitation rights to Mary, in the best interests of the child.

For a long time, the surrogacy case of Baby M was not forgotten in the U.S. In May 1988, the ABC television series “Baby M” aired, and in 1989, Mary published a book based on her experiences, “A Mother’s Story”.

By 1992, 17 states across the United States had passed legislation restricting or outlawing commercial surrogacy contracts.

In March 2004, “Baby M” (note: she was later named Melissa Stern) came of age, her parental rights to her biological mother, Mary, were naturally terminated, and the adoption process officially confirmed Elizabeth’s motherhood.

Afterwards, Melissa said in an interview that she loved her family (referring to the Sterns) and was happy to be living with them.