LOS ANGELES (CN) - A surrogate mother who refused the father's demand that she abort a triplet sued Los Angeles County officials this week, claiming the state's surrogacy law unconstitutionally reduces her to a "breeding animal or incubator," and enforces the "commodification" of children.
Melissa Kay Cook, 48, claims California's Surrogacy Enabling Statute encourages the buying and selling of children while reducing surrogate mothers to a "breeding animal or incubator," who have no say in the pregnancy or parental rights.
In her Feb. 2 federal lawsuit she demands that her name be put on the birth certificates.
Cook's triplets, all boys, are due in March. She says their biological father has admitted he's incapable of raising them. She says the father, C.M., is a deaf, single 50-year-old postal worker who lives with his elderly parents in Georgia.
Cook claims Santa Barbara-based Surrogacy International solicited her to be a surrogate and its part owner, attorney Robert Walmsley, drafted a 75-page "In Vitro Fertilization Surrogacy Agreement" that she signed on May 31, in which she agreed to bear three male children for C.M.
Neither Surrogacy International nor Walmsley are defendants in the federal lawsuit. The defendants are the director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the department's medical director, and the county clerk.
Cook filed a similar lawsuit on Jan. 4 in Superior Court.
Two days later, C.M. brought a parentage action in a Los Angeles family court, seeking an order declaring him the father, which is required under California's surrogacy laws, his attorney Walmsley told Courthouse News.
The civil case was dismissed after judges decided they wanted both cases heard in family court and Cook filed a counterclaim in the confidential proceeding.
Walmsley says C.M. wanted twins and Cook pushed him to agree to triplets.
"She urged my client and the doctor to do three," Walmsley said in an interview. "Do three. And he said, 'No I think we should just do two.' And she was pushing it. She pushed it."
Walmsley said that in hindsight C.M. made two mistakes: working with Cook and "capitulating to her urge to transfer three" embryos into her womb.
Walmsley acknowledges that C.M. asked Cook to abort one of the fetuses, but said doctors were telling Cook the same thing, because "there were indications of abnormalities."
Walmsley added that Cook has been a surrogate before and knew what she was getting into. He said Cook offered to go away if C.M. let her keep one of the babies, which Cook corroborates in her lawsuit: "And my client said, 'Are you out of your mind, I'm not separating my kids.' He's not going to do that."
Walmsley said C.M. simply wants to get custody of his children and move on, and that he's fed up with the legal maneuvering of Cook and her attorney, Harold Cassidy.
Cook said in a statement Wednesday that she has been ordered not to work, is resting as much as possible and taking medication to prevent early contractions.