Perhaps no better place to kick off my blog for moms and the law than the State that gave us “Baby M.” As you may recall, by the 1980s, science had figured out a way to literally make babies. In that regard, we did come a long way. It seems, however, that our legal system remains stuck in the 1780s.
Last week, New Jersey reaffirmed in the Matter of the Parentage of a Child by T.J.S. and A.L.S., A-4784-09, that it remains okay to add to the indignities, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and frustration of infertile women by yet once again denying them immediate parental rights at the birth of a surrogate child. Nevermind that the gestational mother entered willingly into the process, agreed to bear the child, and agreed while still pregnant to terminate her technical parental rights. Also nevermind that the New Jersey law treats men entirely differently — automatically finding them to be the father of a child born in wedlock, regardless of the genetic parentage.
The only remedy then, is for the birth mother to terminate her rights (which she cannot do until 72 hours after birth) and then for the “stepmother” to pursue an adoption. Meanwhile, the baby is left with only one legal parent to make all of the related parental decisions.
Pursuing a legal adoption then becomes yet another lengthy, expensive, intrusive process that could at best require months to finalize.
So, in case you’ve missed it, that is very likely at the least the third (if not fourth, fifth or sixth) lengthy, expensive, intrusive process that this new mother will have endured. First being the discovery of infertility. Second, the very likely numerous injections and months of trying various medical processes to circumvent the infertility. Third, the agonizing decision and effort to seek a donor/surrogate carrier. Fourth, the trials and tribulations of surrogate insemination. And, finally, once all of that is carried out and lo and behold a child is born — whoops! Let’s start this “mom” roller coaster all over again in the courts. Examinations and explanations of birth efforts, psychological reviews of competence and fitness, intrusive reviews of financial stability — all of which will have been strained by years of going through the process already.
New Jersey moms (and other around the world) who must endure all of this — more than any mother should have to endure before a child is ever born — my heart goes out to you. You clearly have the biggest hearts and strongest wills to bear all of this in order to be the mom you’ve always known you were meant to be. May our courts catch up with our hearts (and with our science) sooner rather than later.