Surrogate Mother Who Refused to Abort Child Flees State to Keep Couple From Taking Custody
CNN recently reported a story of a woman who defied the demands of a couple to abort the baby that she was carrying for them as a surrogate.
The woman’s name is Crystal Kelley, who at age 29, was seeking to be a surrogate for a couple that was struggling with infertility. In addition to wanting to help a desperate family, she was in need herself of finances, which her surrogate services would provide.
In 2011, she arranged to meet with a couple in a playground near her home of Vernon, Connecticut to discuss carrying a child for the family. The unidentified couple had three children, but could not have more, and had two frozen embryos in storage.
Kelley and the family came to an agreement, and in October, she had both embryos implanted into her uterus. She was informed days later that one had survived. The two parties were cordial and friendly with each other — that is, until approximately five months into the pregnancy.
During a routine ultrasound, doctors had difficulty seeing the baby’s heartbeat and requested that Kelley go to Hartford Hospital for further tests. Later, Kelley received a phone call notifying her that the child had severe abnormalities, including heart defects, a cyst on the brain and a cleft lip and palate. They could also not locate the spleen.
Doctors told Kelley that the baby would require several heart surgeries following birth, and would likely survive, but would only have a 25 percent chance at a normal life. When the waiting couple found out, they demanded that Kelley obtain an abortion.
“Given the ultrasound findings, [the parents] feel that the interventions required to manage [the baby's health issues] are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination,” stated a letter from Hartford Hospital.
“Ms. Kelley feels that all efforts should be made to ‘give the baby a chance’ and seems adamantly opposed to termination,” the document continued.
Kelley’s decision made the couple very upset.
“They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go,” she remembered. “I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do. I told them it wasn’t their decision to play God.”
The couple then called Hartford Hospital to inquire about abortion services, but was informed that only Kelley could request an abortion.
Days later, Kelley received an email from a surrogacy organization, notifying her that the parents had decided that they did not wish to have rights to the child if he or she was to be born.
“You will be the only person who will be making decisions about the child, should the child is born,” wrote Surrogacy Internation’s Rita Kron.
However, she told Kelley that the couple had offered to pay $10,000 to have the baby aborted. Later, Kron took Kelley out to lunch to convince her to move forward with the abortion.
“She painted a picture of a life of a person who had a child with special needs,” Kelley recalled. “She told me how it would be painful, it would be taxing, it would be strenuous and stressful. She told me it would financially drain me, that my children would suffer because of it.”
In a statement that she later regretted, Kelley said to ask the parents if they would move forward with an abortion for $15,000. However, she quickly recanted and again resolved to keep the baby safe — no matter what.
Soon after, Kelley received a strongly-worded letter in the mail. The couple had hired an attorney.
“You are obligated to terminate this pregnancy immediately,” wrote attorney Douglas Fishman. “You have squandered precious time.”
In just weeks, Kelley would be 24 weeks pregnant and would not be permitted under law to abort. The attorney pressured her to schedule the abortion quickly, stating that she had signed a contract that agreed to end the baby’s life should there be a severe abnormality. He also threatened that if she did not abort, the parents would sue to get their money back — plus legal fees.
Kelley again refused. Instead, she obtained her own attorney, Michael DePrimo, who contended that the woman should not be forced to have an abortion.
“[A]bortion is off the table and will not be considered under any circumstance,” he wrote to Fishman.
However, soon after, Fishman contacted DePrimo and said that the couple had changed their mind. The planned to take custody of the child and then surrender her as a ward of the state upon birth. Kelley wouldn’t have it.
DePrimo then presented Kelley’s options, one of which was to move to a state where only the woman carrying the child is recognized as the mother under the law. After contemplating the issue, Kelley decided to move to Michigan.
“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,” she said.
She said she chose the state because it provided the best pediatric heart care in the country.
Because Kelley did not feel that she could raise the child herself, she contacted one of the women that helped her move to Michigan and asked if she would be interested in adopting. She said yes.
In the meantime, the couple filed court documents fighting for their rights to the child. However, in the paperwork, it was admitted that the woman was not really the mother as she had used an anonymous egg donor during the invitro fertilization procedure.
Therefore, when the child was born, a girl, Kelley’s name went on the birth certificate and the father’s name was left blank. The two parties agreed to give up rights to the baby as long as the adoptive parents would allow the couple to visit the child.
The infant still deals with numerous health issues, including a mishapen ear and head, and faces a number of risky heart surgeries, but according to her adoptive parents, is in good spirits.
“[She] wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm,” they wrote in an email to CNN. “Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing [this child] with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving.”
Kelley, who is thankful that she fought for the baby’s life, says that she has been demonized by many as she has shared her story online.
“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 explained.
But Kelley is adamant that what she did was right.
“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.”
“When I look into her pretty blue-ish eyes, I can see that sparkle that makes me know that I did the right thing by standing up for her,” she added in a recent blog post.