A surrogate has revealed she was offered $10,000 to abort the baby she was carrying when its biological parents found out it was severely disabled.
Crystal Kelley was 29 when she contacted a surrogacy agency to enquire about carrying a child for a couple struggling with fertility issues.
The agency put her in contact with a couple who had three children and were desperate to have a fourth.
Kelley and the couple met and on October 8, 2011, two embryos were implanted in Kelley's uterus. Ten days later, a test revealed Kelley was pregnant.
The couple were in constant contact with Kelley over the next few weeks but everything changed when the expectant mother went for a routine five-month scan.
An ultrasound struggled to pick up the baby's heartbeat. The following week, another ultrasound revealed serious abnormalities in the foetus.
The unborn baby, a girl, had a cleft lip and palate, a brain cyst and serious heart defects. She would likely survive the birth, but would need immediate heart surgery and many more surgeries in the months after that. Her chance of going on to lead a "normal" life was less than 25 per cent.
The grim prognosis horrified the baby's parents, who had their doctor write to Kelley's midwife saying they considered termination to be the most "humane" option.
Kelley disagreed, insisting the child should be given a chance.
"They were both visibly upset. The mother was crying," Kelley told CNN. "They said they didn't want to bring a baby into the world only for that child to suffer. They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go.
"I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do. I told them it wasn't their decision to play God."
After several emotionally-fraught days, Kelley received an email from the surrogacy agency. The couple were offering her $10,000 to have an abortion. When she refused they threatened to sue her for a breach of her surrogacy contract.
Kelley got her own lawyer and days later, he told her the parents had changed their minds. They were planning to take custody of the baby when it was born, then immediately surrender her as a ward of the state.
Kelley was desperate to avoid this fate for the unborn child, so she moved to Michigan, a state that doesn't recognise surrogacy agreements, declaring the child to be the legal responsibility of the woman who gives birth to it.
"Once I realised that I was going to be the only person really fighting for her, that Mama bear instinct kicked in, and there was no way I was giving up without a fight," Kelley said.
In the last few weeks of her pregnancy Kelley agonised over what to do with the child inside her. As a single mother of two kids with no job, savings or fixed address, she decided she couldn't raise the baby — but she knew someone who could.
While researching children with special needs online, Kelley found a woman who raised several children — both her own and those she had adopted — with medical problems. Kelley asked if she would adopt the baby in her stomach, and the woman said yes.
The baby's biological parents launched another legal challenge, which wasn't resolved by the time the child was born on June 25, 2012.
Her condition was much worse than expected. She had a long list of complex and serious birth defects and needed open heart surgery within hours of her birth and will need many more operations in her lifetime.
Three weeks after the birth, Kelley and the biological parents struck a deal. They agreed to give up their parental rights and allow the adoption as long as they could stay in touch with the baby's adoptive parents.
Kelley has been bombarded with criticism for the way she acted, but she believes she did the right thing.
"I can't tell you how many people told me that I was bad, that I was wrong, that I should go have an abortion, that I would be damned to hell," she said.
"No one else was feeling this pregnancy the way that I was. No one else could feel her kicking and moving around inside.
"I knew from the beginning that this little girl had an amazing fighting spirit, and whatever challenges were thrown at her, she would go at them with every ounce of spirit that she could possibly have."
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