In February of 2016, I posted about a woman who was carrying triplets through a surrogacy program. The man who had hired her to carry his children (conceived with white Ukrainian eggs) expressed alarm both at the expenses involved in a high risk pregnancy and those involved in raising three babies alone at once. He asked her to selectively reduce the number of fetuses she was carrying, and she refused. Upon getting to know this man a little better, she had serious misgivings about relinquishing any of the babies to him at all. It was a huge legal mess, and you can read the original post here.
So what happened to the babies, the woman who carried them and the man who desperately wanted children of his own (specifically male children who carried his DNA)?
The babies were born in Los Angeles in February of 2016 but were not released until April. This is not surprising, given they were triplets and almost definitely preemies, but I didn’t find any information saying they had any specific immediate health problems, so that’s the good news.
That’s the only good news, I’m afraid. The hospital staff was so concerned that the father, who has now been identified as Chester Shannon Moore Jr., a deaf man in his 50’s who works the night shift at the post office, would be unable to care for the babies, that 3 nurses and a doctor flew home with him to Georgia to make sure the babies were ok according to this People magazine article. This sounds both alarming and somewhat fishy to me. But I’m afraid it does not get better from here.
The surrogate, Melissa Cook, tried to regain custody of the babies, who if you remember, are not biologically related to her. In California, surrogates have no parental rights, and in January, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a state court’s decision denying her attempt to gain parental rights, stating that the federal court lacked jurisdiction. This means that Moore’s fitness as a parent was not addressed. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case even though Moore’s sister, Melinda Burnett, filed a 12 page affidavit claiming he was an unfit parent.
Burnett claims the babies live in a basement full of second-hand smoke in a home Moore shares with his chain smoking elderly parents and a heroin-addict nephew. He has been accused of making the kids eat off the floor and not changing their diapers frequently enough to the point that the rashes required medical attention. This is the point where I take a moment to think that if I had to raise triplets in my parents’ basement alone, they might end up eating off the floor occasionally, too. Diaper rash due to infrequent changing can be serious, but it’s pretty common, and it probably doesn’t in of itself fall under criminal negligence although I might reconsider that if I had more information. I figure Moore is not the first single parent to struggle with a $100 plus per month per kid diaper bill. I wouldn’t want any babies I carried to be raised that way to be sure, but I guess that’s what would make me a poor candidate for giving away children that grew in my body. The court is pretty clear that I would get absolutely no say in the matter, and I just don’t think I could do it.
What actually disturbs me more is Burnett’s description of her brother as being socially awkward, paranoid, and prone to anger. And the biggest reddest OMG flag of all is her reports of cruelty to animals both when he was a child and also more recently. I realize not everyone shares my books-about-serial-killers hobby, but we all know that’s really really bad.
Moore’s lawyer claims the triplets are doing just fine and that the backlash against his client is good old-fashioned discrimination against the disabled. Come on, now. That’s insulting to all the great parents out there with disabilities who are raising great kids. Nobody is claiming this man cannot raise children because he is deaf. The greatest joy of being a blogger rather than a journalist is I can share with you what I really think. I think this guy is a first class creep who has no business raising children. I think the surrogacy agency (who is now providing him with legal defense) was negligent in this arrangement, and I think it’s only a matter of time until these three babies end up in state custody. Social services has already been contacted, so this story is ongoing.
Michelle Cook has been painted as a heroine of the anti-choice movement for refusing to abort and being willing to take in the three babies as her own. I’m not sure she got a win for the movement, here, though. I don’t see any winners at all, not even Moore who I suspect is fully aware he is in over his head and is simply doubling down, probably at the urging of the agency that brokered this arrangement since they still maintain they did nothing wrong. It’s a cruel irony that the man who claimed he was unable to care for a third child is now responsible for that child while demonstrating a profound lack of ability to manage even one. Are we ready to unpack the moral implications of the technology that allows a 46 year old woman to carry triplets, the parents of whom she has never met –A Ukranian woman who can sell her white eggs at a premium and a disturbed man so desperate for his own family of male children who look like him that he bought them? Are we ready to legislate it? Are we ready to say that not everyone who wants their own biological child should be allowed to have one (or three)? And what about all the children, many of them of color, who are already here needing families of their own? What does this debacle say to them?