A California woman paid by a gay couple to carry an unborn baby to term for them was pressured by the men to end that child’s life after she received a breast cancer diagnosis during her second trimester.
“It was frustrating because I wanted to give them a family,” second-time surrogate Brittney Pearson, 37, told the Daily Mail. “They said they cared but they didn’t. I felt betrayed and heartbroken.”
Pearson’s doctors initially found a chemotherapy treatment that would allow her to safely carry the child until weeks into her third trimester.
“They said that the pregnancy could have saved my life too because when you’re pregnant, all your cells are growing more rapidly, so the cancer grew a lot faster, and that’s how we found it. So it could have stayed smaller and dormant for way longer and been way worse before we found it,” Pearson explained in an interview with Jennifer Lahl of The Center For Bioethics and Culture Network.
If the baby boy was still unwanted at the time of the projected 34-week delivery post-chemo, Pearson noted that there were even several families lined up who were willing to adopt him after birth.
“The first thing I thought after I was diagnosed was I want to keep this baby safe and bring it earthside,” Pearson explained. “I would have been there, I would have given him every chance of survival. I had people ready to help.”
Pearson said her medical team tried “literally everything they could because they cared about me and the baby both and they just — they didn’t want this to be the outcome at all” but to no avail. The womb renters still demanded to the hospital and Pearson that the unborn baby be “immediately terminated” and “erased” because they didn’t want their DNA “out there,” according to Pearson.
“They were very loud and vocal and ruffled a lot of feathers and made a lot of noise, enough to scare people into being like ‘Oh, I don’t know,’” she said.
After doctors determined the cancer would demand a more aggressive chemo regimen than previously hoped, the child was delivered just a few weeks past what doctors consider an unborn baby’s point of viability. It’s unclear whether Pearson, whose contract reportedly gave her final say over the baby until he was born, gave the final word to deliver the baby at 25 weeks. She did, however repeatedly state that she felt coerced by the parents to choose termination if there was any risk of early delivery. He did not survive the premature evacuation from the womb.
Pearson said her mom took pictures of the baby once he was born. It was Father’s Day, but Pearson said both the child’s biological father and his partner refused to be present for the birth.
“With medical advancements, babies survive and have, by the time they’re like three, four or five, they are going to be perfectly healthy. But [the fathers] just refused any type of medical intervention. They wanted nothing. They just wanted their baby’s remains and to move on with life,” Pearson explained.
The clients also haven’t contacted Pearson, who is still undergoing cancer treatments and on track to lose the insurance provided through her surrogacy contract, since birth.
“I felt like just a rented uterus,” Pearson said.
Someone Always Pays a Price
It’s unclear exactly what happened in the delivery room on Father’s Day but there is no doubt that Pearson is still obviously reeling from it.
Women who are pressured into ending life in the womb, one January 2023 study found, reported a host of negative emotional issues including “more disruptions of their daily life, work, or relationships; more frequent dreams, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts about their abortions; more frequent feelings of loss, grief, or sadness about their abortions; more moral and maternal conflict over their abortion decisions; a perceived decline in their overall mental health that they attribute to their abortions; and a higher degree of desire or need for help to cope with negative feelings about their abortions.”
The forced termination of pregnancy can also leave physical scars on women whose bodies were not ready to deliver a child. For Pearson, who has four children of her own, the blood and iron loss that occurred during the baby’s premature delivery caused her to become “so sick” during her first round of chemo.
This kind of trauma is a direct result of the commodification of women through the fertility industry. In many cases, attempting to monetize baby-making and carrying results in legal horror stories that leave parents and surrogates hurt and children dead.
Even Pearson, who claims that she thinks surrogacy “has a great time and place,” understands that there is something incredibly offputting about two men deciding who lives and who dies based on a piece of paper signed months ago.
When it comes to commercial surrogacy, at least one of the parties always suffers trauma and heartbreak. Intended parents can often struggle to connect with a child they didn’t create or carry. Surrogates who spend months nurturing infants in the womb only to part ways at birth have a “three-fold risk of developing hypertension and pre-eclampsia” and report feeling heightened anxiety. In some cases, they are forced to undergo “selective reduction,” the abortion of unwanted multiples in the womb. Babies who are separated from the woman who carried them for nine months often suffer from increased stress and even brain structure alterations.
Surrogacy, which is only possible because the nearly billion-dollar fertility industry is fine preying on the poor and unfortunate and exploiting them for profit, deliberately severs important physical and emotional bonds of children and women to fulfill the desires of adults. Renting a womb violates not just the divinely created act of reproduction and the dignity of biological and birth mothers, but it also hurts the child whose rights and needs are pushed aside.
In this case, an innocent baby’s life was sacrificed after two men deliberately chose not to give him a chance. That decision will leave a permanent scar on the surrogate mother.
Even if the baby she carried for more than 20 weeks did not die, Pearson would have been forcibly separated from him eventually. Surrogacy is transactional which means that, regardless of the outcome, someone is always paying a price.