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Paid surrogate challenges California law, hoping to avoid aborting unwanted triplet
Melissa Cook is challenging the California surrogacy law as unconstitutional after the intended father of the triplets she's carrying allegedly demanded she abort one. - photo by Lois M Collins
Melissa Cook, 47, is challenging California's surrogacy law after she says the man who hired her to carry his intended children demanded she abort one of the fetuses when he learned she's expecting triplets.

While the man has denied the allegations, Cook's case is the second time in recent months that women who signed contracts to serve as paid surrogates and then learned they are carrying triplets have made news after refusing to "reduce" their surrogacy, according to the New York Post.

"Cooks lawyers filed a 47-page complaint in Los Angeles state Superior Court claiming the contract with the biological father and the California surrogate law it relies on violate due-process and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution," the paper reported.

The article quoted Cook: I no longer view surrogacy arrangements in the same favorable light I once did. Children derive a special benefit from their relationship with their mother.

Brittneyrose Torres, 26, also of California, is in a similar battle. Both surrogates signed contracts that included stipulations of both payment and the right of the intended parents to request that a fetus be aborted, part of a "reduction clause" in some surrogate contracts.

"In both the Torres and Cook cases, the intended parents claimed a provision in their contract gave them the right to order an abortion, and have suspended some payments to the surrogates for breaching it," a December New York Post report said.

The Daily Beast two weeks ago wrote that "Robert Walmsley, the attorney for the intended father of Cooks babies, says his client never pressured Cook to abort any of the fetuses and accused the tabloid of selectively quoting" letters the man sent to Cook. They only took what pieces served their stories, he told the Daily Beast.

"The intended father has continued to make payments to Cook and has 'been extraordinarily sensitive to her emotions and feelings and her decisions,'" the article said. "Walmsley also says his client tried to get Cook counseling."

The New York Post noted that "Cooks legal fight comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers are weighing whether New York should lift its ban on commercial surrogacy enacted in 1993."

According to the Daily Beast article, "Both women have retained an attorney Harold Cassidy, an outspoken lawyer who has for decades argued against abortion and surrogacy in the courts and are no longer talking to the press."

On Jan. 5, Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, issued a written statement that said "Melissa Cook may finally be the turning point in the third party reproduction age. This is a landmark case. Women across America have been bullied, intimidated, exploited and used by the commercial surrogacy industry that preys on the poor for profit. Now that industry has gone too far by trying to force women to abort healthy babies solely for financial benefit."

States handle surrogacy in different ways. While paid surrogacy arrangements are legal in some states and unpaid surrogacy is legal in others, Michigan is "a state that criminalizes surrogacy, making it a felony to enter into a surrogate parenting contract," according to a 2013 Harvard Law blog by Judith Daar.
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