Surrogate sues parents over unborn twins
SAN DIEGO, California -- A surrogate mother from Britain has filed suit in San Diego Superior Court against a California couple, charging that they abandoned the children they hired her to bear.
Helen Beasley, 26, is pregnant with twins -- an issue that prompted Charles Wheeler and Martha Berman, both San Francisco, California, lawyers, to terminate their contract with her, Beasley's attorney said.
"They didn't want two babies. They wanted one baby and that's it," Theresa Erickson, a San Diego attorney, said earlier this week. "When Helen said she wouldn't reduce, they said, 'Well, we only wanted one. We don't want to separate them, so you figure out what you're going to do with the two babies.'"
Diane Michelsen, an attorney for the surrogate parents, said there is another couple available ready to "accept custody of these children by taking over the surrogacy contract." She said Beasley and her attorney want only to "exploit the situation."
Michelsen, who spoke to reporters Sunday, refused to take questions about the case.
"Charles and Martha consider this entire situation to be a private matter, which has no place in the media," she said.
Beasley met Berman, 47, and Wheeler, 50, through an Internet surrogacy site. After corresponding via e-mail for a few months, she agreed to be paid $20,000 to carry the couple's baby. The couple made a $1,000 initial payment, and in March, Beasley came to California, where she underwent in vitro fertilization using Wheeler's sperm and a donor's eggs.
Two months after she became pregnant, Beasley learned she was carrying twins. Court documents indicate that the contract she signed called for her to abort any additional fetuses if she had multiple fertilization, which is not uncommon with an in vitro procedure.
But Beasley said that she and the parents had an oral agreement that no abortion would take place after 12 weeks -- and that Wheeler and Berman didn't tell her to go through with the procedure until the 13th week of her pregnancy.
"They knew about the twins from eight weeks, so they had all those weeks to sort it out," Beasley told CNN San Diego affiliate KGTV. "So I can't get how it took them to 13 weeks to say, 'OK, we'd better make an appointment now.'"
'They're not mine'
Now six months into her pregnancy, Beasley said Wheeler and Berman have left her on her own with the twins on the way -- a situation that Beasley, a legal secretary and single mother with a 7-year-old son, says she can't afford.
But California law grants parental rights to the intended parents in a surrogacy agreement, meaning Beasley -- neither biologically or legally the twins' mother -- cannot seek adoptive parents for the babies.
"When they're born, what happens to them?" she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I can't have them. I can't do anything with them. They're not mine."
In an attempt to force Wheeler and Berman to bear legal responsibility as the childrens' parents, Beasley returned to California, where she wants to give birth.
Wheeler and Berman have asked Beasley for $80,000 in expenses, alleging that she broke their contract.
Beasley's civil lawsuit asks for damages for emotional distress and breach of contract. A second suit, filed in family court, seeks to revoke Wheeler's and Berman's parental rights.
"What we want to do is establish their rights as parents and then basically take them away" so that Beasley can find adoptive parents for the children, Erickson told KGTV.
"My ideal solution is that the babies are born here, and I'm allowed to find new parents for them," Beasley said.
Beasley's case is the first in California involving a couple who change their minds about babies being carried for them by a surrogate.
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