Having children can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. That's because from the very beginning, it's an unimaginably difficult process. Challenges arise even before the baby is born. Pregnancy is a peculiar process where many bizarre stories can arise. But perhaps none as strange or as drawn out as this one.
Not everyone can become pregnant. There are many heterosexual couples that have troubles conceiving. There are also homosexual couples who wish to become parents but obviously can't through traditional means.
For couples like these, adoption has always been an avenue to bring a child into a loving home. But due to rapid advances in technology, a new option has been made available. Couples that can't become pregnant themselves can choose a surrogate mother for their child.
Surrogacy is still relatively new. It involves placing a fertilized egg into a host mother who will carry the child to term for someone else. It's a truly remarkable process, and one often done out of love for the parents-to-be.
However, because this procedure is so new, the legality of it is still unclear. This became a major issue for one gay couple in the U.K. Back in September of 2015, they signed a surrogacy agreement with a woman.
The woman agreed to carry an embryo conceived using sperm from one of the men and an egg from a Spanish donor. She became pregnant, and all seemed to be going well. However, shortly before it became time to hand the child over to the couple, something happened.
It's unclear exactly what happened. Some theorize this could have stemmed from a money dispute. On top of covering all medical costs, surrogate mothers can be paid handsomely for their troubles. Of course, after carrying a human being in her for nine months, the mother could also have simply grown attached and changed her mind about handing the child over, despite it not being genetically hers.
This posed a problem for the person in charge of deciding this case, Lord Justice McFarlane. The laws were clear, but these were obviously unique circumstances. To make her final ruling she decided to do what would be best for the child.
Lord Justice McFarlane noted the child’s genetic relationships and welfare are the most important factors for deciding where they should live. She thought the gay couple would be the most likely to provide for their everyday needs. She also took into account how hostile the surrogate mother had been during the process.
Finally, after being stuck in a nearly two year legal quagmire, the gay couple were awarded custody rights to their child. Lord Justice McFarlane stated that although surrogate mothers have the right to change their mind, they don't necessarily have the right to keep the child. Especially when they're "less able to look at matters from the child’s point of view."
The gay couple were finally given their baby. But the birth mother was granted limited contact with it six times a year. This was also done with the child's best interests in mind, as McFarlane said, "The more unusual the facts, the greater the need to keep the child at the heart of the decision."
Surrogacy can be one of the greatest, most selfless acts of love done for another human being. But as we've seen, it can also get very complicated very quickly. Lord Justice McFarlane concluded, noting that this case "demonstrates the risks involved when parties reach agreement to conceive a child which, if it goes wrong, can cause huge distress to all concerned."