Suit gives birth to a new page in surrogate motherhood
By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune,
IL, August 30, 2001
BOSTON - A month after they were born, a baby
boy and his twin sister still have no birth certificates.
The paperwork is being held up in a dispute that could change
the legal definition of “mother” in the state.
In Massachusetts and many other states, the woman who gives
birth is presumed to be the child-bearer and can have her
name on the original birth certificate. Some state laws
do not address the issue of surrogate mothers who received
an implanted embryo and carry it to term.
Maria and Steven Culliton hope to change that in Massachusetts.
They hired a surrogate after Marla had six miscarriages.
The woman received an embryo created from the couple’s
sperm and egg, and she gave birth to twins on July 23.
Although the surrogate agrees she has no parental rights,
a family court judge refused to allow the Cullitons’
names on the original birth certificates.
“It is one of a new wave of cases, which are forcing
courts throughout the country to wrestle with the meaning
of such basic, fundamental terms as ‘mother’,
‘paternity’ and ‘maternity’ as a
result of reproductive medicine,” said Melissa Brisman,
the Cullitons’ lawyer.
Massachusetts’ highest court will hear arguments
in the case on Sept. 6. In the meantime, the court blocked
the hospital from issuing birth certificates.
The usual procedure in cases involving a surrogate in Massachusetts
is that the name of the child-bearer appears on the birth
certificate. Hen the genetic parents must go to court to
adopt the child and legally sever the surrogate’s
The original birth certificate is then sealed by the court
– opened only in extraordinary circumstances by a
judicial order – and a new one with the genetic parents’
names is issued.
The Cullitons do not want the surrogate’s name ever
to appear on the birth certificates, arguing that genetic
parents should have the right to decide how and when to
tell children about the circumstances of their birth.
Surrogacy laws vary from state to state. Some states require
genetic parents to go to court before birth to obtain a
“pre-birth order” to have their names on the
original birth certificate, without the name of the surrogate.
Others require DNA testing after birth to document the child’s
parentage before genetic parents can be listed on the birth
Andrew Vorzimer, a lawyer in Beverly Hills, Calif., who
specializes in reproductive law, notes lawmakers in many
states are reluctant to pass legislation that changes traditional
notions of motherhood.