A Pennsylvania appellate court recently ruled on a somewhat new issue facing surrogacy laws: when the intended mother no longer wishes to be a mother. Sherri Shepherd, former co-host of The View and TV personality, was the center of this recent ruling. She and former husband Lamar Sally entered into a contract with a gestational surrogate living in Pennsylvania in order to create a baby that they would parent. Shepherd and Sally obtained an anonymous egg donor who agreed to have no legal rights to the child. They then had this egg fertilized with Sally's sperm and implanted the embryo into the gestational surrogate, J.B. In the contract with J.B., Shepherd and Sally were to have automatic parentage rights upon birth and J.B. would have no legal rights whatsoever. Shepherd and Sally also would pay J.B. costs associated with the pregnancy and birth.
Eight months into the pregnancy, Shepherd and Sally began having marital problems and Shepherd no longer wished to be the mother of the child. She attempted to argue in court that the surrogacy contract was void as against public policy as Pennsylvania law does not explicitly allow for surrogacy. Upon birth of the child, Sally took the child and moved to California. Shepherd has had no contact with the child who was born one year ago. Despite Shepherd's actions and arguments, the appellate court disagreed with her. Although Pennsylvania, like many other states, have no law speaking to whether surrogacy is legal, they also have no law stating that it is illegal. Past Pennsylvania case law has declined to take a position on the state's laws, yet courts have ruled in such a way as to indicate that it is not illegal and that contracts for surrogacy are enforceable in Pennsylvania, as in Shepherd's case. Shepherd was ordered to remain the legal mother of the child, with all resulting responsiblities including child support.
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