Making money from childless couples desperate to start a family is contemptible. It is even more disturbing when the scheme is designed by lawyers specializing in the law of reproductive technology who purport to help their forlorn and frantic clients, but are themselves blinded by greed.
California lawyer Theresa Erickson and Maryland lawyer, Hilary Neiman paid American women an average of $40,000 to travel to the Ukraine to be implanted with embryos. This was necessary because no doctor in California would do the in vitro procedure under the circumstances presented by the surrogates.
Under a unique California law, a woman can enter into a surrogacy agreement with prospective parents, but the agreement must be signed and finalized prior to the fertilization. Where there is a surrogacy agreement, the prospective parents do not need to go through an adoption to become the child’s legal parents as the child’s birth certificate will record the names of the prospective parents, not the surrogate’s name.
Ms. Erickson got around the requirement for an executed agreement prior to fertilization by submitting forged documents to the Court which attested to the agreement being signed as required by the law.
Ms. Erickson with Hilary Neiman’s help, accumulated a stable of new-born babies ready to be sold to unsuspecting couples for $100,000 to $150,000 each.
In the twelfth week of their pregnancy the women, referred to as “gestational carriers”, flew back to the United States where the lawyers would find a couple who were told that a surrogacy agreement with another couple had fallen through after the couple backed out.
For couples who had tried numerous procedures over many years without the blessing of a child, the prospects of a new-born baby was like winning the lottery.
Ms. Erickson’s deception included forging documents to enable her carriers to obtain benefits from a California health care insurance program they otherwise would not be entitled to, and distributing fertility drugs to aid the scam.
Erickson and Neiman, both plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy,involving the sale of twelve babies commencing in 2005. Although lawyers for the State and Ms. Neiman agreed to a plea bargain of nine months of home confinement, the Court would have no part of that and sentenced Neiman to five months in federal prison and seven months of home confinement.
Erickson still awaits sentencing and despite her guilty plea, she justifies her behavior on Facebook and asks her friends not to judge her, denying that her actions hurt anybody.
She seems to forget that greed drove her black-market business, while children became commodities; pregnant women were reduced to “carriers”; and childless couples drained their savings or acquired substantial debt.
The only thing she cared about was her bank balance.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang