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Surrogate mother: A new wrinkle in the abortion debate

By Jacque Wilson, CNN
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Parents offering surrogate mother $10,000 to abort baby starts conversation
  • Surrogate mother was portrayed as both a villain and a hero in story comments
  • Story raises other questions about health insurance, quality of life

(CNN) -- It's a story where there is no right answer; no black and white; no moral high ground.

It's the story of a surrogate mother fighting for an unborn child that belongs -- at least in part -- to others.

Of parents hoping to prevent a life filled with pain and suffering.

Of laws that only make clear how much we have left up to interpretation.

"Geesh, what a mess," CNN reader Scranton wrote. His succinct comment was the No. 1 comment on our story: "Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby."

Ultrasounds showed the baby Crystal Kelley was carrying would have complicated health problems. The parents offered her $10,000 to terminate the pregnancy. She instead fled to Michigan, where the law made her the legal mother, and gave the baby up for adoption.

"She felt this poor, sweet disabled baby moving inside and still just gave it away to strangers," Outumn wrote. "The other family seems to have been villain-ized here, but I think they just didn't want their baby to suffer."

"This woman gave up her reproductive rights the moment she agreed to be a surrogate for someone else," LGTV296 said. "The parents asked her to carry a child that one couldn't have, and by extension, Kelley became an extension of the other woman's body. She had no rights to decide on the fate of this child."

"When (the parents) changed their minds, she was looking out for the baby she carried," Charteuxe wrote. "While my choice would have been different, I believe in CHOICE! The baby's here now and she found a family who wanted her. That's what it's all about."

It's a story about the right to choose -- who gets to choose who lives and who dies? Who gets to choose what "quality of life" means? Baby S. from the story has a birth defect called holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to completely divide into distinct hemispheres. She also has heterotaxy, which means many of her internal organs, such as her liver and stomach, are in the wrong places. This is just the beginning of the list.

Peter38j said he adopted a child who also had complex health problems -- a little boy with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palette, heart problems and a mal-rotated intestine.

"He still faces a number of surgeries going forward, but he is the joy of our lives," Peter38j wrote. "He attacks the world with energy and a joy that is infectious to those around him. It is a completely different challenge than our previous three kids, but he's our son and not for a second do we look at him as anything but our son."

"Don't you think your assessment might be a bit skewed?" Laughingirl asked Peter38j. "This child, too, will know a great deal of pain, isolation, separation and grief. He will never know a 'normal' life. You obviously love him very much and that will help, but there's no telling what will happen to him and how he will deal with it as he gets older."

"What's sad is people don't even realize there's a possibility that not being 'normal' isn't certain to be a bad thing," Bob replied. "Individuals are shaped by the lives they lead, and major life challenges have forged some of the world's best people."

It's a story -- like many medical stories -- that led back to cost. Who pays for this child's treatment? When Kelley arrived in Michigan, she immediately filed for Medicaid. Commenters wondered whether the state is footing the bill, or if the baby's new adoptive parents have private insurance that's covering the cost.

"From a philosophical standpoint, there's a certain ridiculousness to giving the woman a 'choice' but then allowing her to opt out of the 'responsibilities' of that choice," Visionary_23 wrote. "We don't do that for any other 'choices' once one reaches adulthood."

"One cannot assign a dollar value to a life -- that is cruel and heartless," Joe Capp said. "But the simple fact is that the cost of care for this mother and her child, who required intensive neonatal care, fell on the taxpayer."

Sonja had another question: "Yes, the surrogate did apply for Michigan Medicaid, to be able to provide care for the baby, but the genetic parents were looking to make the baby a ward of the state in Connecticut. Where's the difference here?"

It's a story where people question what happened and why, and what we can do in the future to prevent it from happening again.

"Perhaps the insanity of one woman carrying the child of another couple should be outlawed," CNN reader Ray B. wrote. "We stop playing God and the problem is solved."

"If you think that with pregnancy that you can 'have it your way', you're delusional," JR48 said. "Reproduction is an embryological crapshoot, regardless of whether or not there is surrogacy involved."

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