DES MOINES, IOWA — Surrogate rights in Iowa have fallen under the microscope.
“Genetically, it is not her child, it is a child with genes of other people she agreed to carry,” said Iowa Supreme Court Justice Thomas Waterman.
In January of 2016, Paul and Chantele Montover entered an agreement in Linn County for a surrogate to carry their child but surrender custody immediately upon birth.
“We decided to not use an agency, but our clinic gave us several websites of people advertising to be surrogates,” said Chantele.
After birth, the surrogate believed she should be the baby’s mother.
“Parental rights arise out of blood relationships and acting on that relationship. Well, the blood relationship is absent as it relates to the surrogate,” said Philip De Koster, the Montevers’ attorney.
The surrogate’s attorney argues a parental relationship was already formed from carrying the child through pregnancy.
“The concept that a woman who carries a child can have her rights terminated based on a written document executed prior to the birth of the child, there is absolutely no authority for that,” said Harold Cassidy, the surrogate’s attorney.
It is a stance the opposition calls a slippery slope for Iowa.
De Koster said, “There are countless situations where grandparents have a more direct relationship with the child than parents for any amount of reasons. It would be dangerous to say somehow relationship can get you in the door.”
The Montovers say the relationship broke down and the surrogate cut off communication, even giving birth prematurely to twins without notifying the Montovers. One child passed away.
Speaking to the surrogate’s attorney, Justice Waterman, said, “Your client prevented this father from bonding with the child, being at the birth, holding the child at birth.”
In February of 2017, a district court judge ruled custody of the child belonged to the Montovers, but an appeal by the surrogate sent it straight to the Iowa Supreme Court.
“Here a mother carries a baby to term, and because there was a contract, which one could argue is a one-sided contract to benefit your client, that is it. All done and no due process,” said Justice Edward Mansfield.
In adoptions, Iowa mothers have a short waiting period to change their minds before releasing their parental rights. While the surrogate in this is not genetically related to the child, a ruling on Friday could grant some of those same rights to surrogates.
Justice Brent Appel said it isn’t going to be an easy decision. “I’m struggling with it because I don’t think it’s clean. I think it is in between. The law hasn’t anticipated it, our code hasn’t anticipated it,” he said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Montovers with court costs as they await the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision.