Legal 'kidnapping'? Surrogate keeps twins from adoptive parents

Legal 'kidnapping'? Surrogate keeps twins from adoptive parents

Legal 'kidnapping'? Surrogate keeps twins from adoptive parents

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by JUJU CHANG, JENNIFER PEREIRA and SUZAN CLARKE

WHAS11.com

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 11:35 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 13 at 11:36 AM

(ABC News) - Scott and Amy Kehoe knew they wanted to be parents since the moment they married eight years ago. But after two miscarriages and five failed rounds of in vitro fertilization, they decided to seek out a surrogate.
The Michigan couple bought donor eggs and sperm and Shelley Baker -- an experienced surrogate -- agreed to carry the embryos. She gave birth to twins in July.
The Kehoes, who live near Grand Rapids, thought their dreams had come true. But those dreams quickly became a nightmare. One month after the birth, they were forced to say goodbye to their children.
Baker, 35, who has four children of her own, had decided to keep the twins she had borne on the couple's behalf because of information that came to light about Amy's mental health history that made her uncomfortable.
One week after the birth of the children, whom the Kehoes named Ethan Paul and Bridget Lily, Baker and the adoptive parents headed to court so the Kehoes could be designated the children's legal guardians.
Surrogate Wary of Adoptive Mom's Past
It was there that Baker said she learned Amy Kehoe, 41, had a history of mental illness and a minor criminal record. Around nine years ago, Amy Kehoe was arrested for minor cocaine possession and diagnosed with an unspecified psychotic disorder.
Baker said the disclosure took her by surprise. It made her uncomfortable, she said, because she felt Kehoe was "never honest" about her past.
"I felt irresponsible as a mother. You know, as a surrogate," Baker said. "Because I stood in front of the judge, while listening to this woman tell about her psychotic disorder, and her anxiety, and the pills she has to take and the criminal history."
But Amy Kehoe said nothing had been hidden.
"She knew I was seeing a psychiatrist. I told her that," she said, speaking of Baker.
Kehoe's husband agreed.
"Nothing was ever hidden from her," he said.
It was reported that Amy Kehoe suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but the Kehoes say that's untrue. Amy Kehoe's doctor confirmed that she has never been diagnosed or treated for that illness.
Adoptive Parents Stunned by Surrogate's Actions
Even though she had misgivings, the two-time surrogate mom agreed in court to hand the babies over, telling the judge that from what she had observed, the Kehoes "love these babies very much."
The Kehoes took the twins home, and bonded with them. So they were floored when Baker exercised her legal right to take the children back.
Baker said Amy Kehoe's mental health and criminal history posed too much of a risk to the children, despite the fact that a social worker had deemed the Kehoes to be fit parents.
Amy Kehoe's psychiatrist had written his patient a glowing letter of recommendation, saying Kehoe had faithfully taken her medication for nine years, had never missed an appointment and that her medical condition wasn't an impediment to her being a fit parent.
"He's not there every day with her," Paul Baker, 36, the surrogate's husband, said of the psychiatrist's assessment. "I mean, what happens if she quits going to him? If she stops taking her meds two, three months down the road? You never know."
Melissa Brisman, a reproductive lawyer who has handled about a thousand surrogacy cases, said she believes the babies belong with the Kehoes, even though Baker says she didn't know about Amy Kehoe's medical and criminal history.
"It doesn't justify her keeping the babies," Brisman said. "She was still compensated for her expenses, she still agreed to hand the babies over. She just became judgmental of ... their ability to parent without all that much evidence. It was almost like she ... just decided that because this person had a mental illness, that meant she couldn't handle the children."
Law Favors Surrogate, Kehoes Claim 'Kidnapping'
Amy Kehoe called the Bakers' actions a case of legal "kidnapping."
The law sided with the Bakers, because Michigan is one of five states where surrogacy contracts are not recognized. Because the Kehoes were not biologically related to the babies, they had no further legal claim.
The Kehoes said they had a verbal agreement with Baker, and that they covered the woman's medical and related expenses, which is allowed under the law. It is illegal in Michigan to compensate a surrogate beyond medical expenses.

The Bakers have legally changed the twins' names to Peyton and Dani. They say their entire family is in love with the newest members.
"It took me a long time to just come to the decision. ... They're our babies," Shelley Baker said. "We had to take our babies back."
Meanwhile, the Kehoes have a nursery that's filled with everything a parent could ever need. Except babies.
"Those are our babies. They are not Shelley's. They're our babies," Amy Kehoe said.

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