Woman paid $22,000 to be a surrogate mother refuses parents' wishes to have an abortion when her ultrasound reveals series of disabilities and flees across the country to save the baby
- Surrogate mother Crystal Kelley, 29, refuses to have abortion after abnormalities spotted on ultrasound
- The baby's parents then demand custody of the child but plan to surrender her to the state of Connecticut into foster care
- So Crystal flees to Michigan where she is legally recognized as the mother
- Baby now lives with adoptive parents in Michigan but has long-lasting medical problems
By JAMES NYE
The unforeseen consequences of any surrogacy were laid bare when a woman paid $22,000 to have a Connecticut couple's baby fled across the country to save the unborn child's life when they demanded she abort the pregnancy.
Five months into a surrogate pregnancy last year, Crystal Kelley discovered that the child she was carrying had significant abnormalities - beginning a tragic and heartbreaking ordeal for her and the conflicted parents.
While most surrogacies hope to have only happy endings, Crystal, 29, was hit with a series of legal actions that caused a secretive flight to Michigan that ended with the child being born and adopted by neither her nor the intended parents.
Surrogate Crystal Kelley and the parents of the child she was carrying went through an exhaustive legal battle after she refused to abort the baby she was carrying
In August of 2011, Crystal, who has two children of her own fell into financial difficulties and offered her services through an established surrogacy agency to a couple who desperately wanted a fourth child but couldn't have one.
They paid the standard fee of over $20,000 to Crystal and then an embryo the pair had left over from a previous round of in-vitro fertilization was used on October 8th.
Just 10-days later Crystal fell pregnant and so thrilled were the couple that they demanded to be as involved as possible during the next nine months.
The would-be mother phoned daily to offer morning sickness sympathy and gave Crystal and her two daughters Christmas presents and even paid out the monthly surrogate fee early to help her out.
'She said, 'I want you to come to us with anything because you're going to be part of our lives forever,' said Kelley to CNN.
In February though, everything changed when ultrasound tests began to show that the baby was not developing as was hoped.
Crystal Kelley became pregnant in October of 2011 and at first enjoyed a healthy and strong relationship with the parents of the child she was paid $22,000 to bring to term
Doctors suspected that the baby had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in her brain and serious heart defects. They couldn't even see a stomach or a spleen.
On February 16th, 2012, with the parents at the ultrasound with Crystal, their worst fears were confirmed.
Physicians at Hartford Hospital said the baby would need several surgeries after birth and had only a 25-percent chance of living a normal life.
After this bombshell news, a letter was sent to Crystal's midwife, in which Dr. Elisa Gianferrari, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Hartford Hospital, and Leslie Ciarleglio, a genetic counselor outlined the parents wishes.
'Given the ultrasound findings, (the parents) feel that the interventions required to manage (the baby's medical problems) are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination,' they wrote according to CNN.
However, Crystal, who is staunchly religious disagreed and said that 'all efforts should be made to 'give the baby a chance'.
For the parents though, who had gone through three previous premature births that left two of their children with medical problems, the abortion was the most humane option.
The disagreement turned sour and developed into an emotional stand-off between the parents and Crystal.
'They said they didn't want to bring a baby into the world only for that child to suffer. ... They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go,' said Crystal to CNN.
'I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do,' said Kelley.
'I told them it wasn't their decision to play God.'
Unsure of their legal rights, the parents were stunned to discover that only Crystal could go arrange and go through with an abortion.
But the couple soon let Crystal's agency at Surrogacy International know that if she brought the pregnancy to term they wouldn't be the baby's legal parents - leaving the child to her.
Confused by this, Crystal questioned whether she wanted to become a mother again, especially since the only income she could count on was the surrogacy fee and child support from her daughter's father.
Then, Rita Kron from Surrogacy International took Crystal to lunch and explained to her the realities of bringing up a disabled child and that, incredibly, the parents would pay her $10,000 to have the termination.
But, in a shocking turn of events, Crystal said that she would indeed consider the abortion if the parents paid her $15,000.
Claiming this was a moment of weakness, Crystal told CNN that she immediately regretted the counter-offer, which was totally refused by the parents.
With the 24-week legal limit for a termination rapidly approaching, the desperate couple hired a lawyer.
'You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately,' wrote Douglas Fishman, an attorney in West Hartford, Connecticut. 'You have squandered precious time.'
He reminded her that she had signed a contract agreeing to 'abortion in case of severe fetus abnormality' - but the contract did not stipulate what this meant.
Fishman said she was in breach of contract and that if she did not abort she would be sued for the money already paid, which was $8,000 and the medical feeds and legal fees to date.
Hiring her own lawyer, Michael DePrimo, an attorney in Hamden, Connecticut, Crystal fought back by sticking to her resolution not to have the abortion.
Immediately, Fishman wrote back to DePrimo saying, 'Ms. Kelley was more than willing to abort this fetus if the dollars were right.'
The twisting and tragic story turned again when the parents changed their minds and said they would now exercise their legal rights to take custody of the child - but after the birth would surrender her to the state of Connecticut for foster care.
At this point, DePrimo explained to his client that this was going to happen and that the law was firmly on the parents side.
However, Crystal now decided that she couldn't stand the thought of the baby in foster care.
Running out of options, Crystal was advised that she could go to a state where the birth-mother and not the genetic parents would be considered the legal guardian.
So, on April 11th, in her seventh month of pregnancy, Crystal moved her daughter's to Michigan and only as she was driving away told her attorney to inform the couple of her plans.
'Once I realized that I was going to be the only person really fighting for her, that Mama bear instinct kicked in, and there was no way I was giving up without a fight,' said Kelley to CNN.
Choosing Michigan to have the baby was also a medical decision too - C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan has one of the best pediatric heart programs in the country.
Once firmly established in a small, cheap, sub-let in Ann Arbor, Crystal came to another realization - she could not keep the child, but she would give the child up for adoption in Michigan.
Locating a couple who wanted to take on a special needs child, Crystal prepared to come to term and hand the child over.
However, with one month to go, the parents filed an order in Connecticut Superior Court that they wanted to be the legal guardians - but admitted that the wife was not the baby's genetic mother - an anonymous egg donor had been used.
But, as this development was thrashed out in court, the child, a girl, was born on June 25th and weighed six pounds but was not breathing.
Swift medical attention brought her to life and Crystal's name was placed onto the birth certificate.
Three weeks passed until both sides came to an understanding - the father gave up his paternal rights so long as he and his wife could keep in touch with the Michigan adoptive parents.
In the seven months since, the couple have visited the child known as Baby S. and held her in their arms.
'They do care about her well-being. They do care about how she's doing,' the unnamed adoptive mother said to CNN.
But the child's medical problems have become far more serious than the ultrasound back in Connecticut first revealed.
Her head is small, her right ear is misshapen, she has a cleft lip and a cleft palate, and a long list of complex heart defects.
She's already had one open-heart surgery and surgery on her intestines, and over the next year she'll have one or two more cardiac surgeries.
If the child, named Baby S. for legal reasons does survive, there's a 50 percent chance she won't be able to walk, or talk.
As far as Crystal is concerned though, she did the right thing, even though some people have sent her hate messages through her blog, Surrogate Insanity.
'I can't tell you how many people told me that I was bad, that I was wrong, that I should go have an abortion, that I would be damned to hell,' she said.
'No one else was feeling this pregnancy the way that I was. No one else could feel her kicking and moving around inside,' she said. 'I knew from the beginning that this little girl had an amazing fighting spirit, and whatever challenges were thrown at her, she would go at them with every ounce of spirit that she could possibly have.
'No matter what anybody told me, I became her mother.'
**I purposely left the pictures out, but they are available here: