A British tabloid recently captured photos of a Georgia man and his young triplets who are at the center of a massive legal battle about surrogacy and parental rights.
The man, C.M., 52, was photographed picking up the triplets from a day care center in Atlanta, Georgia after allegations surfaced that he was neglecting the toddlers, the Daily Mail reports. His lawyer said the claims are false.
In February 2016, the triplets were born to California surrogate Melissa Cook after C.M. allegedly pressured her to abort one of them. Cook refused to selectively abort one of the babies and later sued C.M., regretting her involvement in the surrogacy.
Now she and C.M. are involved in a lengthy legal battle over the triplets and ultimately the rights of surrogates to the children they bear. Cook petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case in April, according to the report.
“The mother-child relationship is the touchstone and core of all civilized society. It has intrinsic worth and beauty for the child,” said attorney Harold Cassidy, who represents Cook and other surrogates. “These contracts are inherently exploitative of the women, create a class of women as breeders, and commodifies the children to be manufactured and sold by a brokerage industry.”
This spring, Cook said she no longer supports the surrogacy industry that she once participated in. She said she wants custody of at least one of the triplets, the one who C.M. wanted aborted, but she is willing to parent all three.
“Children derive a special benefit from their relationship with their mother. What is best for the children is always preeminent,” she said. “When a mother knows that their child is entering into a situation that is not in their best interests or, as in my case, downright detrimental to them, they have a right to object.”
In the fall of 2017, C.M.’s sister Melinda Burnett said her brother was not taking good care of the triplets. The babies’ aunt said they were living in “deplorable” conditions in the basement of C.M.’s elderly parents’ home.
According to the Orange County Register, Burnett said her brother does did change the babies’ diapers enough, and they had to be taken to the hospital to treat a very bad diaper rash. She alleges that the grandfather is a heavy smoker, and a heroine-addicted nephew lived at the house with the triplets for a while and allegedly sold drugs there.
However, C.M.’s attorney said the accusations are fake, and no charges have been brought against his client.
According to the Daily Mail’s description, the boys appear to be well:
Their four-bed, $450,000 home in an Atlanta suburb is welcoming and well-maintained with a play park on the opposite side of the street.
The boys are enrolled at a local nursery where CM drops them off each morning before going to work as a mail sorter for the US Postal Service.
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Our exclusive photos show the cute, brown-haired youngsters greeting their dad as he returns to collect them.
One boy can been seen tenderly clutching a staff member’s hand as they all head outside before being strapped into car seats for the journey home.
‘They look like three typical toddlers – boisterous, cute, happy to see dad and without a care in the world,’ said an onlooker.
Cook is challenging a California law that her lawyers say takes away all rights from surrogates and the children they carry.
Though Cook successfully fought to save the babies’ lives from abortion, she said they were immediately taken away from her, LifeNews reported. Because the babies’ biological father has full custody, she said she was not allowed to hold or breastfeed them. Hospital staff refused to even give her an update about their conditions, Cook said.
Michael Caspino, one of her lawyers, said the case could be a landmark decision about surrogacy laws.
“The only people with rights under the California statute are the people who write the checks to get the babies,” Caspino said. “Nobody else matters. That is wrong. That needs to be fixed.”
Many pro-lifers are increasingly concerned about surrogacy for exactly this reason. Surrogacy, like abortion, treats unborn babies as products to be obtained or destroyed rather than human beings who deserve to be protected and valued. Because of this, surrogates like Cook often face pressure to abort unborn babies.
The publicity surrounding Cook’s story prompted at least one other surrogate mother to come forward and seek help for a very similar situation. The anonymous Southern California surrogate also was pregnant with triplets, LifeNews reported in 2016. She said one of the parents of her unborn babies pressured her to abort at least one of them.
That same year, LifeNews reported another surrogate mother faced pressure to abort after the unborn baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The Colorado surrogate refused, despite the threat of a lawsuit. She is now raising the girl herself.