The Indiana Court of Appeals says a surrogate mother is the legal parent of a child that was conceived using another woman’s eggs.
A couple from Indiana made an arrangement with Surrogate Mothers Inc. to hire a surrogate for a child that was being conceived using the man’s sperm and an egg from an anonymous donor.
To make sure the couple had the rights to the child, the surrogate mother, her husband and the child’s biological father filed a petition with a Putnam County court in October to establish paternity and disestablish maternity, but the court ruled that the surrogate was the legal mother, and the court of appeals has since upheld that ruling.
Morgan County attorney and Surrogate Mothers Inc. Founder Steve Litz says the decision is flawed.
“The court said that because a man does not have a right to disestablish paternity therefore a woman doesn’t have a corresponding right to disestablish maternity, and that simply is wrong,” he says.
The court also overturned the lower court’s decision that the surrogate’s husband is the legal father, granting the biological father paternal rights.
Indiana University Maurer School of Law Associate Professor Deborah Widiss says this part of the ruling is legally sound. As for a woman’s right to disestablish the maternity of a surrogate, the law is more unclear.
“I think that’s an area where the Indiana law is unsettled,” she says. “I think you see the court here trying to work through statutes that were written in a time when we didn’t have the possibilities that we do now for having a mother gestate a child that’s not biologically related to her and the statutes haven’t really been updated to deal with all the potential complications that flow from that.”
She says the court may be correct in saying that there’s no procedure in place to disestablish maternity other than adoption. However, she says the state would benefit from addressing the issue more directly.
“There are other states that are far more protective of surrogacy contracts than Indiana so I think in many instances, couples that are interested in surrogacy in other states,” Widiss says.
Litz says the baby has been living with the biological father and his wife since its birth. The couple plans to obtain consent from the surrogate mother to allow the wife of the baby’s father to adopt the child.
Litz anticipates no issue in obtaining consent from the surrogate. Then, the wife will adopt the child via step-parent adoption, and a separate birth certificate will be issued with the new parents’ names.