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‘Baby M’ case helps surrogate who wants custody of her brother’s twins

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

A unique custody battle will begin this spring between a gay couple and a surrogate mother who wants to keep the twins she gave birth to, thanks to a judge in Jersey City who cited the famous “Baby M” case in his decision. Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz deemed Angelia Robinson the legal mother of her brother’s girls despite not having a genetic relationship.

Robinson says she was coerced into a 2006 agreement with her brother, Donald, to carry the twins to term. Donor eggs had been fertilized by the sperm of her brother’s partner, Sean Hollingsworth, and the girls were born in October of that year, court papers show.

The twins were living at the Hollingsworths’s Jersey City home when Robinson filed suit in March 2007. Since then, they have spent three days a week with her.

Shultz’s ruling allows Robinson to seek primary custody at a trial expected to begin this spring, even though the unrelated embryos were created in a petri dish.

An attorney for the Hollingsworths said gay and lesbian couples needed a ruling in their favor because of their reliance on science to have children.

However, Robinson’s attorney called surrogacy an “exploitation of women,” according to The New York Times .

Nationwide, courts have not agreed on such matters. A judge in Michigan recently awarded custody of twins she was carrying to a surrogate, but other courts have sided with contracting couples.

Schultz, however, relied on the precedent established by the New Jersey Supreme Court, which ruled in 1988 that the courts couldn’t terminate surrogate mother Mary Beth Whitehead’s maternal rights to a genetic child created through artificial insemination, no matter what her contract with the adoptive couple said.

The Supremes said such contracts are “based on principles that are directly contrary to the objectives of our laws. It guarantees the separation of a child from its mother; it looks to adoption regardless of suitability; it totally ignores the child; it takes the child from the mother regardless of her wishes and maternal fitness.”

Robinson, of Keansburg, hired Harold J. Cassidy, the same attorney for Whitehead. He will represent her at the spring trial.

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