Hollywood divorce spat leaves surrogate baby in limbo

by Courtney Crandell
Posted 7/10/14, 12:00 pm

Former View host Sherri Shepherd has decided she no longer wants the unborn child she and her soon-to-be ex-husband hired a surrogate to bear. 

Although she initially requested custody when the couple first filed for divorce May 2, Shepherd said she no longer wants the child, due July 28, for financial reasons. Shepherd claims her TV writer husband, Lamar Sally, duped her into having a child so he could divorce her and claim child support, Hollywood news site TMZ reported. Shepherd wants a court to rule she has no parental rights or responsibilities. The couple used Sally’s sperm but a donor’s egg for the pregnancy, so Shepherd has no genetic connection to the baby.

Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, views the controversy surrounding Shepherd’s baby as further confirmation of broader problems associated with surrogacy. “When a baby is created as a purchased product, we should not be surprised when the merchandise is returned,” he noted in National Review. “Well, you can’t actually return a baby. But you can reject it.”

Shepherd reportedly attempted an in-vitro fertilization pregnancy before turning to gestational surrogacy, in which the surrogate has no genetic relation to the child. Couples like Shepherd and Sally contract surrogates out of a desire for children. But sometimes issues like divorce complicate an already questionably ethical practice by pushing them into uncharted legal waters. 

“These are highly speculative, very important questions people don’t think about before they enter into those [surrogacy] contracts,” Smith told me. “This area is rife with differing laws, differing values, differing views.”  

State laws and court precedents on surrogate motherhood vary widely. Delaware courts, for example, don’t recognize surrogacy agreements and New York has banned surrogacy altogether. Some states, like New Jersey, only recognize uncompensated gestational surrogacy. Although California hasn’t passed any surrogacy laws, its courts favor surrogacy contracts. Other states, like Mississippi, have no precedents or laws. 

Shepherd reportedly filed for divorce in New Jersey where the courts are less favorable toward surrogacy contracts than courts in California, where Sally filed for divorce.

Courtney Crandell

Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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