Checks & Balances

Checks and Balances image

The importance of conducting thorough research and due diligence in surrogacy arrangements cannot be overstated. A recent case involving Theresa Erickson underscores the need for individuals to be vigilant and informed when entering into surrogacy agreements. Intended parents must take proactive steps in verifying the integrity and credibility of all parties involved, including surrogacy agencies.


the story…


In 2011, Theresa Erickson, a previously reputable and respected attorney and owner of her surrogacy agency, found herself on her way to federal prison in California for illegally creating what was effectively an inventory of unborn babies.   The concept was simple – she sent would-be surrogates to Ukraine to receive embryos from anonymous sperm and egg donors.  Once the woman reached their second trimester, she would sell the unborn baby to unsuspecting parents waiting to be matched in her surrogacy program.  Her story was that the developing fetuses were supposedly the result of a legal surrogacy arrangement, but the original ‘parents’ had backed out.  As someone who knew the legal system well, she filed declarations and pleadings with the Supreme Court of California, falsely representing that the unborn babies were from legitimate surrogacy agreements between the unsuspecting ‘new’ parents and the surrogate.  In the court pleadings she filed with the court, she swore under oath that the parties signed the contract before the embryo transfer occurred.  Due to her respected position, no one doubted her integrity – until her scheme fell apart when surrogates learned late in their pregnancies that there were no actual parents for the unborn children they carried.  Although California law permits surrogacy arrangements if the surrogate and the intended parents enter into an agreement before an embryonic transfer, it implicitly forbids the sale of parental rights to babies and children for obvious and nefarious reasons.  If a woman is pregnant BEFORE she meets the intended parents and signs a contract with them, this is not a surrogacy pregnancy, and the proper course is a full adoption.


Laura Duffy, Federal Prosecutor, stated:


“The surrogacy laws were enacted to protect both unborn babies and parents seeking children. Erickson abused her position as a trusted legal advisor and officer of the court by circumventing the law and undermining the rights of children and intended parents. Out of sheer greed, Erickson preyed upon people’s most basic need: to raise a child. We cannot and will not allow individuals like Erickson to profit by taking advantage of vulnerable people who have a sincere desire to lawfully adopt and parent children.”


but how?


Like many, you will probably wonder how on earth she managed to pull off this scheme.  It was quite simple. There were no checks and balances since she owned both the agency and the law office. 


When an agency, lawyer, or fertility clinic are all separate entities (that exist independently but work together without coercion or bias), each entity or professional will be concerned with their own individual ethics, reputation, and legal liability.  Getting people from several entities to agree to commit fraud or tolerate someone acting unilaterally or deciding to falsify documentation is much more complicated. As Theresa could manipulate documentation with impunity, she could take advantage of innocent intended parents – because she was accountable to no one. 


It, therefore, pays to check and verify everything along the way, as everything may be different from what it seems…



Author: Karen Synesiou, Infertility Portal, Inc.

Checks and Balances fork