Surrogate Crystal Kelley refused monetary offer to abort baby with severe health abnormalities


When a woman is a gestational surrogate, what rights should she have if something goes wrong?

In 2011, 29-year-old surrogate Crystal Kelley was faced with this tough question after her five-month ultrasound revealed the baby she was hired to carry for a couple had several severe health problems including a cleft palate and lip, a brain cyst and serious heart defects. Doctors also couldn’t find the child’s spleen or stomach, and according to The Telegraph, gave the baby a 25% chance of living a normal life.

She was to be paid $22,000 to be a gestational carrier for a couple who had three children, and wanted a fourth they had been unable to conceive. Their three children had all been born prematurely and two still suffered from medical problems, so when they found out about the issues with the baby Crystal was carrying, they decided they wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

Cyrstal’s midwife received a letter from Hartford Hospital medical staff relaying the couples wishes: “Given the ultrasound findings, (the parents) feel that the interventions required to manage (the baby’s medical problems) are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination.”

According to a CNN report, although Crystal had signed a contract agreeing to have an abortion in the case of “severe fetus abnormality,” when faced with the real situation, she refused to abort the baby because of personal beliefs. When the couple offered her $10,000 to terminate the pregnancy, she countered back, asking for $15,000. When they responded that that amount was too high, Crystal said that she had already made up her mind to continue with the pregnancy, and obtained an anti-abortion lawyer, Michael DePrimo, to work pro bono for her case.

DePrimo argued that the contract she signed was not legal because “She still has the constitutional right that any woman has, to make decisions about her own body.” She decided to relocate herself and her two children Michigan because in that state the birth mother, and not the biological parents, is considered the legal guardian of the baby.

When the infant, called “Baby S,” was born, she had more medical problems than the doctors had initially found. Along with the problems listed above, Baby S suffers from holoprosencephaly (the brain does not divide into two hemispheres, heterotaxy (internal organs are in the wrong places,) a misshapen ear, and many heart problems. With such a plethora of issues, Crystal decided she couldn’t take care of “Baby S,” and put her up for adoption.

Thankfully she was placed with a family with experience caries for babies with high risk medical problems. The adoptive mother wrote CNN a letter about her life with Baby S:

“S. wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm,” the baby’s adoptive mother said in an e-mail to CNN. “Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing S. with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving.”

Crystal wrote in her personal blog this February an explanation about why she couldn’t terminate her pregnancy with Baby S. When she was a college student in 2001 she miscarried a baby she named “Miranda” at 19 weeks in a campus clinic, which left her devastated. When she was asked to terminate Baby S’ pregnancy, she felt she couldn’t bear to “voluntarily repeat my experience with Miranda. And here we are a year later. Baby S is a lively, thriving little girl. She is so much more than anybody expected her to be. When I look into her pretty blue(ish) eyes, I can see that sparkle that makes me know that I did the right thing by standing up for her. She’ll probably never know what I did for her; who knows what her mental capacity will be, but I have faith that a little bit of that baby that I never got to watch grow up, the child I wished for so much who wasn’t meant to be here with me now, is living on in that sweet baby that I saved from the same fate.”


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  • Kae

    A surrogate has NO…What’s the point of the surrogate going through all this legal nonsense, just to give the baby up, anyways? She didn’t want anyone to order her to get an abortion..She wanted to control things. What a scam artist she is..

    • jeff

      And now she says she ‘saved her’ no you condemed her to a low quality of life, her bio parents to greif, and tax payers to millions of dollars in bills. Get off your freakin high horse. What a nut job.

      • W

        Only a person who has been pregnant herself for several momths will be able to fully understand her decision. A pregnant woman is naturally extremely protective of her growing child due to the strong influence of hormones – you can’t expect rational thinking about abortion from a pregnant person, even if this person is very rational and unmotherly when not pregnant.

        In my personal opinion surrogacy can cause lots of problems and therefore I find it very strange that apparently every idiot with money can hire somebody to carry a child.

        • It doesn’t matter. It wasn’t her baby! She agreed to carry a child for someone else, as irrational as hormones make someone things should NEVER have gotten this far. Blaming the hormones is also a total cop-out.

  • jeff

    What a peice of crap. She wanted more money to abort the baby, when they said no, she had the baby and then gave it up for adoption because surprise surprise.. she has major issues. This is bull, what a selfish peice of scum. If she wasn’t willing to fofil the contract she shouldnt have been a surrogate. Just a cash grab from a mentally unstable woman. What a total peice of crap. That baby should have been terminated, now it’s going to have a crummy life, a crummy future and will cost tax payers millions and the bio parents tons of greif.
    All for one selfish P.O.S

  • K6

    It works both ways. Women who carry the child should NO MATTER WHAT be given the rights of the fetus or child she is carrying. I do think that those rights should withhold the option of the surrogate having an abortion (unless it is going to kill her…which I think they rule out before a woman even becomes a surrogate) but if the biological family asks for an abortion, it should not be their choice. It should be the woman carrying.
    But it is some bull crap that she wanted more money for an abortion. What an evil thing. (Accepting money for an abortion, that is. Not the abortion itself.)

    • Rebeccca

      She signed a contract and obviously had no intentions of standing by it. That makes her a liar and asking for $5,000 more makes her a scam. She should have to give all the money back to the bio parents and be sued for breaking the contract and mental distress for them.

    • bride of chucky

      Guess what? I don’t want an abortion. Guess what? I use birth control and I don’t sign up to have other people’s babies.

    • DeeDeDee

      So basically you’re saying that these people should fork over $20,000+ dollars… only to have the surrogate have fights over a child that isn’t biologically hers to begin with? That would give her the right to take that money and then have an abortion and keep collecting money from poor unsuspecting couples that have scrimped and saved to be able to do this.

  • Jc

    Great life this poor child will have your proud you fought for her? And then gave her up this surrogate sounds like a complete idiot to me asking for 15000 to abort what a disgusting person she had no right to refuse the abortion in the first place

    • Kristina S.

      Abortion is a very invasive procedure. She sure as heck had the right to refuse. Her body not yours!!

      • DeeDeDee

        Then she should have asked that the clause be left out of the contract or not agreed to the contract at all. There was a reason the family asked for an abortion in case of severe abnormalities, and it wasn’t because they didn’t care. It was because they had 3 children that already struggled with them and knew what it was like.

      • ME

        WTF invetro and delivery are invasive procedures. She knew what she was getting into.

  • tab

    this poor baby is going to have such a struggle in life. and then the woman gave her up for adoption? a very sad situation.

  • ImRightYourWrong

    Some people think killing a baby is bad…shocking! Good job, girl. Bet this little peanut grows into a wonderful, strong, independent woman.

    • Her medical conditions are so severe she will never be an independant woman, and thats if she lives to adult hood.

    • jeff

      You’re an idiot. She will not grow up to be a strong independant woman. She will either die an early death, one that was full of painful surgeries, probably PTSD from those surgeries, lots of sickness and pain. Or she will have to be cared for her entire life and have 0 independence. All because of one selfish woman. How far is your head in the sand? Get your rose tinted glasses off and live in the REAL WORLD. Happy endings to stories like these are not the norm. Are you really that deluded or just kinda stupid? The parents had every right to request an abortion of the fetus which will have a life of nothing but pain, dependence and abandonment now. And that horrible woman had no right to emotionally blackmail the parents and financially blackmail them. THEN give up the baby to what I would not call a life. You pro-lifers are insane. Unless you’re willing to give up all your independence, YOUR life as you know it, and care for this disabled child, and fork over millions as well for her care, shut up. Because you have no idea what this baby is going to have to go through now and her care givers.

      I dont even know why i bother replying to people like you. You have no grasp at reality. Ignorance is bliss.

    • bride of chucky

      P.S. A Fetus is not a baby, it is just that a fetus. Try asking someone with several degrees, ie. a doctor.

      I think the other comments below well covered that she will never be strong or independent.

      What is wrong with America is this surrogate and ImRightYourWrong living life in a bubble of stupidity, praying that a miracle will reverse all medical facts. I think the surrogate was stupid enough to gamble with the belief that she could have given birth to a semi-healthy baby and then would have received an outpour of support and money. She was playing the Octomom Lottery.

      • W

        Severe organ abnormalities are usually identified later during the pregnancy, so at that stage the unborn child is unfortunately quite far developed (doctors try and often can save premature babies who are just 24 or 25 weeks along). So a pregnant woman can’t have a normal abortion at a later stage. The fetus/baby will be killed inside her and then she has to deliver it naturally. No pregnant woman should be forced to endure this, only because there is a chance that the baby won’t be perfect (keep in mind that these prognoses are usually not 100% sure… in this case there was a 25% chance that the baby could live a normal life. Should one risk killing a baby that might have been okay?!)

        • :))))))))

          dude you have no medical formation right, because before 23-24, the baby is not viable, so at your 5 week echo you’re between 20-22 weeks usually, sometime it’s even arround 18 week, so at you’re 5 month ultrasound it’s not to late to practice an abortion on a unviable baby. And for the delivery in a late abortion of a viable fetus, the labor is likely induced with pitocin and the baby die a few minutes after being delivered. Not inside of the mother womb. And the chance of living a normal life the doctor are talking about are the chance that the baby will be able to do day-life task and live a relatively normal life (like a dwarf) not the chance that the baby will be perfectly healthy.

          • ameliaBedelia76

            you act like having an induced abortion is a just a simple procedure.have you ever given birth? Have you ever had a pregnancy? Have you ever felt that baby move inside ur womb?Have you created a child out of love and then heard the hear beat? It isn’t a matter for some people what is “viable” it is about faith & love. it isn’t about science.

      • ameliaBedelia76

        you are wrong…a fetus is baby.

    • As serious as this baby’s condition is, I am doubting she will live through the surgeries. Her organs are in places they shoudn’t be. Her brain is messed up. Heart problems. I live with a chronic disease and dealing with being sick all the time, the last thing you are ever going to be is happy. I can’t believe that you think this s a wonderful thing. I would never want to see a baby aborted but in a situation like this, that poor little girl would have been better off. I just pray she lives a wonderful healthy life but the chances of that are slim to none.

      • I agree. I have two chronic diseases, and even though *I* can live life almost as a “normal” person I would NEVER wish this on anyone!

  • Looks can be corrected but health problems can last forever. If baby has to grow up with a chronic sickness, she’ll have no choice of living her life out suffering, because her surrogate mother had no regard/compassion as to what it would be like to have to go through this. For that baby’s sake, I hope that isn’t the case. Maybe she should of asked people who are bad off, if they had a choice if they could be alive or dead, which option would they take, before making such a selfish decision. Guarantee she wouldn’t get the answers she’d hope for. Can you imagine the pain that baby is going to have to wake up from, with one surgery after another? It’s going to take more than a few to fix all that. Surgeries I’ve had were pretty simple compared to this and it left me screeming my eyes out in pain. Imagine how terrible that baby is going to feel after being cut open time and time again. It’s against her personal belief to have the abortion but yet she can get herself pregnant by another couple and take money for it, and finds nothing sinful about that? Unbelievable.

    • Kristina S.

      Look at that baby for a moment. She looks alert and well. How do you know she’ll have surgery after surgery. I would much rather have a couple surgeries and have life then be dead!

      • spottedgiraffe

        Her brain hemispheres are not separated. She has tumors. She has some important organ (I think kidneys) that don’t work, she has an extreme heart defect. The doctors estimated she will not ever make it to adulthood. You sure you’d much rather “have a couple surgeries”?

        • ameliaBedelia76

          life is life…you are not God to decide when someone should die. That is what us wrong with humanity. Too many people trying to play God. let this child be born and live te life she was given. Her birth parents didnt want her but there is a loving family that does.

  • Charla

    It’s ok if she doesn’t want to abort her own child, but this wasn’t her child! And she signed a contract agreeing to abort the child if there were deformities, which there were! Definitely a weasel who wants everyone to feel sorry for what she’s gone through.

  • Rduckie

    Starcasm, I believe it should be hartford hospital, not hartfield.

    • starcasmnet

      Thank you! It’s been fixed.

  • DeeDeDee

    I look at this situation and all I can think is… those parents specifically chose a surrogate because they thought she would have a better chance at surviving inside somebody else’s womb. The abortion clause was in the contract because the bio parents knew what children with abnormalities and health issues went through on a daily basis because they already had 3! Could I look at this on the flip side and say I’m glad that she gave her to somebody that would care for her properly? Sure. Makes me wonder… was there a clause in the contract that said if she aborted the baby, no matter the terms, did she have to give the money back?

  • JustMe

    It said she was paid 22,000.00. She was? Just to carry the baby even though they didn’t end up with a baby? Makes me wonder if she still got paid when she took the parent’s rights away (didn’t follow the contract SHE signed) and moving to a state where SHE had all the rights because she was carring the baby…where she ended up placing the baby up for adoption. Does anyone know if she STILL got paid. Wow…She must not have been SO prolife because she did sign the contract and then lets not forget she said she would do it (abort) for 15000.00 more so if she was SO prolife/against abortion she would not have even considered or said she would consider it.

    • starcasmnet

      The Telegraph said she “was” paid, but their source was CNN, who only said she “would” get the $22,000 fee, so it looks like she was probably not paid the fee. The article above was updated to reflect CNN’s report.

  • I don’t know exactly how to feel about this. I read this woman’s blog and I am shocked that there was no psychological evaluation done before she was asked to be a surrogate. It was obvious that she wasn’t in a mental state to fulfill her obligations to the real parents of this little girl. Do I think they were right? I don’t know, I’ve never been in their position. But in reading this woman call the baby MY CHILD even after placing her up for adoption, I think she needs some therapy. The baby never was HERS, but she felt it was the entire time and in those feelings she ran away to a state where she could essentially take the baby for herself then gave it up… That is not fair to bring this child into the world after the parents decided that the issues were too severe and then just give her away. Now there are two people who have a biological child in the world that is going to suffer for her entire life, and they have no choice in the matter.

  • Lalala

    I have mixed feelings, aborting a baby at 5 months is so wrong in my opinion i dont think i could, but no one truly knows what theyd do until faced with the situation, and on the other hand the baby wont have a normal life.

    • Joy

      I agree with you. No one knows what they would do until they were in this situation. I was born with a facial deformity along with a heart defect, a cancer gene and a lung defect. I have been ill for a lot of my life. None of that compares to the gratitude I have for my parents who have loved me just the way I am. I can’t speak for anybody but myself. If someone had given me a choice, I would still live this life. Obviously, baby S. has health problems that are far, far worse than anything I have experienced. The decision has already been made for her, whether its right or wrong. Laws need to be changed so the right people are making those decisions.

  • pro-choice

    It makes me sick that when you find out your potential child has some birth defects that it makes it a-okay to abort, but before knowing that it’s looked at as a crime.

    • bride of chucky

      I don’t know how old a fart you are, but it’s not a crime to abort a healthy or unhealthy fetus.

      • DeeDeDee

        @disqus_XSgsf8huX6:disqus -that’s what she was point out. A lot of people will claim that she should have been able to abort the baby if it had issues like the one mentioned in the story, but are totally against aborting a fetus for reasons that aren’t this.

      • pro-choice

        They are trying to make it be.

  • Heather

    Two things bug me about this story. One is that if you have moral problems and past issues with abortion you shouldn’t be a surrogate. The second thing is that she just put the baby up for adoption. Like she made a big deal about keeping it but doesn’t actually want to take responsibility for it.

  • Oh my gad, I’m glad everyone sees what a nut this woman is lol. I read this same story on Yahoo and some people were actually praising her,…did you not read the details?!

  • Moon

    Wow…you guys are sick. Who says the baby’s life will be “low-quality”?! Her surrogate mother–whether or not she has the legal “right” to do that–SAVED HER LIFE, her adoptive mother loves her dearly, and with a starting point that “low,” where else is there to go but up?

    Most of you guys sound like a bunch of heartless quitters! Boo-hoo, life will be hard! Guess what? There was never a guarantee that life would be easy! Not for her or anyone else! Even so, it seems she’s happy, and those who are grateful for what they have can find the good in all circumstances. As long as you’re ALIVE, things can improve.

    It’s disturbing how many of you are not only willing but DESIRE to have killed a fellow human being because her life won’t be perfect. Sick, pathetic, and disgusting. I lack words for just how loathsome such behavior is. Before you go complaining about how someone should DIE, look at your own lives and be thankful that no one did the same to you. Turn and repent of your sins, before it’s too late. Do not hate and mock what you don’t understand, but seek to understand it with eyes wide open. I pray that those who read this will be heartbroken over their sin, and repent of their hatred and murder. Amen.

    • DeeDeDee

      “Do not hate and mock what you don’t understand.”

      Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing to everybody that disagrees with you?

    • jeff

      aka: my baseless opinion is better than yours BECAUSE I SAID SO! Get off your faulty moral high ground. You got nothing lady. Like I’ve said many times Ignorance is bliss, and you must be real real happy lol. Moral ideals does not equal reality. Learn it.

    • :))))))))

      Like someone said in a upper comment : ignorance is bliss. What colour is your neck ? Uhm let me guess : red.

    • janvier25

      I’m going to make a wild guess that you probably don’t want to give lots of money for government subsidized health care, child care, special education or anything else that would help this kid now that she’s born.

  • DeeDeDee

    I just read something else that didn’t sit right with me… she “miscarried” a baby at 19 weeks along in a campus clinic. I don’t know anybody that knew they were pregnant, wanted to keep the baby, and didn’t go to a hospital to try and stop labor (that’s exactly what it is.) Not to mention the fact the baby is about the size of a small watermelon at that point, the dead baby would technically be bio-waste, so you would have dispose of it properly, which I don’t think campus clinics are equipped for. The whole story just seems like a sham to me.

  • christee

    As sad as this situation is for almost everyone involved, the only thing I can say is, I hope this child, whether she lives to be 3 or 30, is now in a stable, loving home, with people who are equipped financially, emotionally and physically, to care for her. Having worked in a home for people with moderate to severe physical/mental disabilities, I can say her life could be much worse. There are people in places like those that have a quality of life veal calves would have pity on. Some of them are the most delightful people you could hope to meet. Others much less so. I think the surrogate should be fined, banned from any future surrogacy, and do community service in a group home for severely disabled people. While being closely monitored, of course, because lord knows she’d probably kidnap a resident and then pawn him/her off on someone else.

  • atheist

    If she felt so strongly about abortion she should not have entered into an agreement that could potentially require to her to do so.

  • What an idiot. Knowing her past experience she should have NEVER agreed to be a surrogate. She just wanted the money, and then when she couldn’t get it she wanted to hurt the parents.

  • ScarletBegonia

    That baby (if it even lives that long) is going to be absolutely miserable and in pain for the rest of its life. Even ignoring the medical problems, you know that kid is going to get teased to hell its entire life and will likely be in constant pain and feel terrible all the time. Also, although she looks alert now, the older she gets the more obvious her mental defects will be and its likely she will be unable to care for herself of go into normal schooling.

    And this disgusting woman tried to get some more money out of the parents to abort, and then gave up the child so she didn’t have to deal with it AND is proud enough of her actions that she goes on national T.V. to boast about abandoning a (somebody else’s) baby knowing that she had a million health problems?

    And there are still people justifying her actions? Anybody who thinks this is okay has no experience with mentally disabled children. I work with special needs children on a daily basis and I honestly believe that some of the more handicapped children should have been aborted. Sad, but it is no way to live and nobody should ever hear a child wish for their own suicide.

  • Amanda

    It doesn’t matter what rights she has. She signed a contract that stated she would get an abortion in the event the child was deformed. She didn’t fulfill that — the parents should sue her and get all of their money back from that sleaze. “I’ll get an abortion for 15k, not 10k!” And yes, I’m sure she totally didn’t mean her offer, as she claims she never actually intended to get an abortion and regrets it. She regrets it after she was caught. I can’t believe that slimy woman even fled the state! She didn’t even keep the child either, passed it on to someone else to care for. Yeah, a real hero in my book.

  • Danni

    I was a gestational surrogate recently, and I gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl in December. I said in my contract that if there were any severe defects with the baby and it was the parents wish to terminate the pregnancy I would. I became a surrogate to help another couple complete their family. Money was never a factor, and I felt called to be a surrogate. I think if the parents want a healthy child, then they deserve one. They already had kids with medical problems, forcing them to have another was selfish. This was their child and not hers. Ultimately if she had a problem with abortion this should have been stated early on. I think this woman should have to pay back everything. The money she received up until she refused to terminate and all the IVF costs. People drain every cent they have trying to get pregnant or pay for a surrogate and this woman betrayed them and their wishes. I hope she doesn’t get the chance to scam another family.

  • ameliaBedelia76

    Let’s talk about how sick these birth parents were. They obviously create mutated children since they have children with medical problems and could not create another child. They paid money to get another woman pregnant and when things didn’t turn out the way they wanted they wanted to pay even more $$$$$ to end the pregnancy. How sick. This a major problem this country has, they pay to get surrogates pregnant..get it trough your head…you can’t get pregnant…deal with it!! This country has gone science crazy with trying to have babies this way & it creates consequences. This is a story of such a gross family who wanted only a perfect baby and when they didn’t get that, they wanted to pay for that baby to be killed. That is murder!!!