Most people would easily acknowledge that a woman who gives birth to a baby is that infant's mother. But a child custody case in Texas is calling that seemingly simple fact into question. Is a mother still a mother if she's genetically unrelated to the child to whom she gave birth?
The case involves a man and a woman who dated several years ago but ultimately decided they worked better as friends. Sometime after that acknowledgement, they began talking with each other about their mutual desire to have children, though the woman had learned she wasn't able to conceive. The recurring discussion eventually developed into an agreement to have a child together by using his sperm and eggs from an anonymous donor. She would be impregnated and give birth to the baby, whom the close friends would raise together.
It wasn't until the woman gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, that she learned her friend was gay and had planned all along to raise the child with his partner. The father claimed the woman who gave birth to the twins was just a surrogate with no genetic relation to them -- and therefore, no parental rights. The ensuing court battle continues, with attorneys on either side arguing what it means to be a mother and whether women who give birth to biologically unrelated children should be considered legal parents.
One of the many wrinkles in this highly unusual case is the lack of a written agreement saying that they agreed to raise the children together; there's also nothing in writing that says she agreed to be a surrogate. Under Texas law, a woman who gives birth to a child is either considered a mother or a surrogate, but since the donor of the eggs is anonymous, the woman who gave birth is the only mother the twins have.
The woman says that despite the legal wrangling, if she is declared the twins' legal mother, she still wants her old friend in their lives. Because, she says, he is their father.
Most child custody cases don't unfold this way, but can be just as logistically and emotionally difficult. Whether you're a mother or a father, a good family law attorney can be a strong advocate for you in any custody battle you face.
Source: ABC Local, "Parental rights lawsuit may be landmark case in motherhood," Tom Abrahams, Sept. 21, 2012