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The Voice of The Surrogates in The Theresa Erickson Baby Selling Scandal

Andrew Vorzimer Esq just posted an incredible blog on his site The Spin Doctor where he gives insight into what has been going on for the surrogates in the Theresa Erickson baby selling ring.  That blog, resulted in Andy and I connecting this morning to talk about the case – and his biggest concern – the victims in his care (several of the surrogates) the safety of the children and the intended parents.

Andy is a well known and highly respected reproductive lawyer specializing in surrogacy and egg donation (third party reproduction). His  voice was full of passion as he expressed to me the pain of the surrogates that he is currently representing – and their fear that their voices are not being heard.  Andy has been representing the surrogates for the last 13 months, which according to Andy is how long the investigation has been going on. As Andy tells it….

“I was originally approached by two well known attorneys in the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)  community who were contacted by a surrogate caught up in the baby selling ring. This surrogate was in her third trimester  and was not introduced to her any couple. Of course alarms bells were going off in her head. She was being blown off by Theresa Erickson, Hilary Neiman and Carla Chambers – and was panicked.  And so contacted two separate lawyers who both contacted me to give the lawyers advice.  I was retained to give advice to the attorneys – and then they transferred their clients to me for representation.

So, now I am representing these women since July 2010 and they are distraught and feel vilified by the media. They are reliving the trauma that they went through. It’s been completely awful for them.  People have called them names – and accused them of being money grubbing. These women by the way have received no compensation at all for these services – but that is besides the point. At first I didn’t want them to speak to the  media – but they have felt so strongly that their voices are not being heard – that I have finally decided to sanction limited appearances in the media – and I am finally willing to talk myself.

One of the surrogates who had a miscarriage in the second trimester and in addition to losing the baby she almost bleed to death. She wasn’t matched with an intended family – as would have been the case if her surrogacy arrangement was done lawfully – she was completely abandoned by Erickson, Neiman and Chambers.  This poor woman was  left with her medical bills, the burial experiences of the baby and was given no psychological support. Worst of all, she was ignored by  the people that were supposed to be taking care of her – except for one email telling her that this was her responsibility!”

At this point in my conversation with Andy – I had so sit down as Andy continued to speak about the surrogates in his care.

“The bottom line for the lose questioning the integrity and intelligence of these surrogates is to understand that at every step in the process when questions were asked  by these women, they were directed to speak to Theresa Erickson and Hilary Neiman – two of the most prominent and well respected attorneys in the fertility industry. The presence of Erickson and Neiman gave this entire operation the necessary legitimacy it needed to dupe these unsuspecting women to serve as surrogates”

Damn. That is the part that really hurts – when I speak to intended parents and women who are now nervous about proceeding with surrogacy. It is this fear – that if this group of highly respected professionals could do this – where is a person supposed to turn? I think that this is something that I will keep exploring in the weeks to come on this blog.  But this was Andrew Vorzimer’s answer…

“There are criminals in every industry – and this was aberrational incident – that in no way reflects on he surrogacy community. People should not be deterred from pursuing their dreams of a family because of the misconduct of a few rogue individuals.  At the end of the day – it is like saying that this case is as much a statement of the field of surrogacy as Casey Anthony is an indictment of all mothers. That’s just nonsense.

Erickson, Neiman and Chambers corrupted the system. They used legitimate surrogacy laws illegally to sanitize the commodification of babies.

I couldn’t help but asked Andy what he hoped for the surrogates? And his answer was simple.

“I hope that they can now begin to move forward with their lives. They took a great risk coming forward, and frankly they have been vilified. These surrogates never got compensated – one almost died. These women are as much victims as the babies that were created for financial gain”.

And what about the babies?

“I am thrilled to be able to say that all of the babies have been placed in loving homes. They have all be legally adopted, and they are doing beautifully.”

And for my last question – I asked Andy what he would say to intended parents?

“For those intended parents questioning whether to go forward, what I can say is this – I have worked with over 8000 surrogacy arrangements and never have I had a situation where a surrogate changed her mind or where there have been any allegations of impropriety – these arrangements work as long as you work with reputable professionals.”

 

Thank you Andrew!

 

Tune in tomorrow – when Tom Pickerton Esq of Reproductive Law Center answers many of the questions that I raised in my blog yesterday!


 

 

 

 

About Pam Madsen
Talking, writing, educating and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. Unfortunately, this is horrible news for the industry; however, as an insider to the ART industry and parent of twins that I had through the legal assistance of Theresa Erickson and other professionals; persons with half an idea of what happened here need to also consider that this may just be that a few greedy people used a generous and caring individual that was at the forefront of this industry to work under to hide their devious plans.
    One thing to think about is that she too has a story and unfortunately cannot share it due to the pending sentencing, but the truth about the involvement shall be told in time as she stated in the lone statement made thus far by Mrs. Erickson.
    Many that jump on the band wagon and go out on a witch hunt for a person that has helped create thousands of families over the years may want to wait to judge her. Has anyone thought that this whole situation may be a case of her taking the plea to protect those thousands of legitimate families that were created from having their personal lives dragged out into the public forum? I know I would be highly upset to have my private life dragged through the public eye and have judgmental people ridiculing my wife and I for using not only a sperm donor and egg donor, but for using a surrogate too; all years after my family was created. Yes, we were in an arrangement based out of San Diego with all parties (egg donor, sperm donor and surrogate) all through different agencies/companies that were local along with the fertility Dr. I am sure many would want to ridicule me as well since neither my wife nor I are genetically related to our children, yet we love them more than life itself and don’t care that the DNA doesn’t match ours. My children know who their parents are and know they are the center of our lives and are very much loved. Oh, and by the way, the final amount spent in achieving my family was not around $100k. We spent well over $150K and gave up keeping track there. When doing the math, Surrogate, Egg Donor, Sperm Donor, Insurance for our surrogate, IVF Fees (the most expensive part of the whole arrangement), agency fees (for merely matching you with your egg donor, surrogate and sperm donor) and attorney fees, it’s easy to surpass $100K. My only thought on this is where is this profit to make it worth it for an attorney that had a thriving firm with hundreds of clients a year that would pay her for the legal side which is by far the cheapest part of the whole arrangement (yet also the most important)?
    As far as the other codefendants, it is my understanding that one was a serial surrogate that was not physically capable of being a surrogate any longer due to her own reproductive health issues and turned into a “coordinator” that bounced around with residences inside and outside the US while the other (who was also a well known attorney in the ART field) was also a major part of the arrangements and from what it sounds like from individuals closely related was a key person and instrumental in the early stages of these questionable arrangements.
    Also, they say one of the whistle blowers was a competitor… hmmm kind of odd that a competitor would do so something like this without their own personal interests involved since everyone is saying Theresa was the top attorney in the field and known for such around the world. I’m sure they only had the best intentions in mind and in no way thought about how they may benefit from trying to take down the top attorney in the country.
    So far the story in the media has changed multiple times from when they first got wind of it Tuesday afternoon. The FBI and AG have only made limited statements without giving any details of the plea agreement and only list the charges and potential maximum penalties. As anyone with limited legal knowledge may know… charges are basically a list of elements and criteria that must be met before charging a person with a crime. No one said she was indicted. She merely pled guilty and it is typical that there should have been a statement of facts in support of the plea. To not be indicted or have her office raided, she must have been very forthcoming with the FBI and was very cooperative as to her role (if any in the scheme).
    I am looking forward to hearing the full story and not contributing to the hysteria that the internet message boards and blogs are doing to fuel the fire that the media has set. All of these people that are uninvolved or not knowing the industry and/or facts involved are achieving by voicing their opinions are what is making everything worse for everyone else that do business in the ART industry and those families that were built through the amazing work of an ENTIRE team of professionals that make such a thing possible.
    The media loves to report on juicy topics and tend to stretch a 2 line statement into a 2 page story of unverified statements or ideas. I believe this is what’s happening here. Just stop for a second and look at how much new information is coming out since Tuesday? None… except people looking for face time on camera or to create mass hysteria with their OMG’s and I knew she was shady without even knowing the true person/ professional that has helped so many. I must say this as well to all the people writing without any purpose than to just gossip… bloggers do not have the greatest credibility either since they just type whatever they feel or believe and in most cases don’t go out and obtain the facts before posting something that could be damaging to the industry they are so-called “trying to protect.”

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