In this matter the Court is asked to determine the validity of a contract that
purports to provide a new way of bringing children into a family. For a fee of
$10,000, a woman agrees to be artificially inseminated with the semen of
another woman’s husband; she is to conceive a child, carry it to term, and after
its birth surrender it to the natural father and his wife. The intent of the
contract is that the child’s natural mother will thereafter be forever separated
from her child. The wife is to adopt the child, and she and the natural father
are to be regarded as its parents for all purposes. The contract providing for
this is called a “surrogacy contract,” the natural mother inappropriately called
the “surrogate” mother.
In February 1985, William Stern and Mary Beth Whitehead entered into a
surrogacy contract. It recited that Stern’s wife, Elizabeth, was infertile, that
they wanted a child, and that Mrs. Whitehead was willing to provide that child
as the mother with Mr. Stern as the father.
The contract provided that through artificial insemination using Mr. Stern’s
sperm, Mrs. Whitehead would become pregnant, carry the child to term, bear
it, deliver it to the Sterns, and thereafter do whatever was necessary to
terminate her maternal rights so that Mrs. Stern could thereafter adopt the
child. Mrs. Whitehead’s husband, Richard, was also a party to the contract;
Mrs. Stern was not. Mr. Whitehead promised to do all acts necessary to rebut
the presumption of paternity under the Parentage Act. Although Mrs. Stern was
not a party to the surrogacy agreement, the contract gave her sole custody of
the child in the event of Mr. Stern’s death. Mrs. Stern’s status as a nonparty to
the surrogate parenting agreement presumably was to avoid the application of
the baby- selling statute to this arrangement.
Mr. Stern, on his part, agreed to attempt the artificial insemination and to pay
Mrs. Whitehead $10,000 after the child’s birth, on its delivery to him. In a
separate contract, Mr. Stern agreed to pay $7,500 to the Infertility Center of
New York (“ICNY”). The Center’s advertising campaigns solicit surrogate
mothers and encourage infertile couples to consider surrogacy. ICNY arranged
for the surrogacy contract by bringing the parties together, explaining the
process to them, furnishing the contractual form, and providing legal counsel.