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Couple fights for baby after gestational carrier agreement goes awry

Couple fights for baby after gestational carrier agreement goes awry

The traditional family is changing, whether the state chooses to allow it or not. And while surrogacy and gestational carrier agreements are becoming more common, they are still very ambiguous under the law and can go very wrong.

The law in this state addresses surrogacy, when the carrier has donated her egg, as well as her womb. But gestational carriers, when the surrogate has no genetic relationship to the baby, are even more complex.

Alan and Alicia Lundgren should be setting up a nursery and picking out baby names. After all, their baby is due next month.

"You try to think of it logically, and it doesn't make sense, so you start thinking of all these crazy things," Alan Lundgren said.

But instead, they don't even know where their child is. And according to Arizona law, they don't have a right to for now.

"Any mother or father would want to know where their baby is being born," Alicia Lundgren said.

When the Lundgrens got married three years ago, they knew they'd want to expand their family. But Alicia Lundgren couldn't carry a baby because of complications from her most recent pregnancy. That's where their friend - we'll call her Carrie - comes in.

"She was planning on being a gestational carrier, not for us, specifically, but because she said she likes to have babies," Alan Lundgren said.

They went to the Fertility Treatment Center and underwent medical and psychological tests. The center also told them to get an attorney, who drafted up a gestational carrier agreement. As compensation, they let Carrie live in their Gilbert house for free, paid her medical bills and health insurance, and gave her a credit card to use when she needed.

"We considered her legitimately part of our family and never in a million year did we expect it could go so awry," Alan Lundgren said.

Alan and Alicia Lundgren said a few weeks after the pregnancy was successful, Carrie started to detach and insisted on making all of the medical decisions.

"This isn't your baby, so we also have a say in what goes on during the process," Alicia Lundgren said. "It was at that point she got very angry with us and stood up and walked away."

That was in March, the last time they've seen her in person. Now they have no idea where Carrie or their baby are, and she has refused to sign legal documents where she would give up parental rights.

"We got a letter via her attorney that said, 'I'm not signing the papers. I might sign them later. I'll let you know if the baby has a heartbeat at 20 weeks,'" Alan Lundgren said.

Carrie cut financial ties with the couple. Then, she disappeared.

"It's just a soul-crushing experience," Alan Lundgren said. "I can't tell you how many nights I've laid awake thinking, 'Why is she doing this?'"

You may think the Lundgrens should have nothing to worry about, especially since they have that gestational carrier contract through their lawyer. But it turns out they're not enforceable in the state.

"Arizona says, 'don't do it but if you do, here's the rules,'" said family law attorney Billie Tarascio, who is not connected to this case. She said Arizona doesn't allow these kinds of agreements, but doing so anyway isn't considered a crime. The problem is, neither party is truly protected.

"If the surrogate or gestational carrier decided, 'This is my baby, and I don't want to give up my baby,' she has every right not to do that," Tarascio said.

She said the biological parent, whose sperm or egg was used, can go to court and fight for rights. But she warns people to know the risks beforehand.

"This is a risk for both parties because if the prospective parents decide they do not want to have the child. Let's say they get pregnant or their life changes or they lose a job, the surrogate is not protected," Tarascio said.

Since Carrie no longer lives in the Gilbert house, the station set out to find her in other ways,  poured through court record, looked for any trace of her online,reached out to her via social media and called the only number found for her several different times. Eventually, Carrie called back. She declined an on-camera interview, but said she has no intentions of keeping the baby and only wants to keep her distance from the couple because they were harassing her.

The Lundgrens said they still haven't heard from Carrie. They have no idea when or where she will deliver or even if they'll get their baby at all.

"If her intentions are to give us our healthy baby at birth, then why is she doing all of this?" Alicia Lundgren asked.

PHOENIX (CBS5)

http://www.kpho.com/story/26562824/couple-learns-az-laws-prohibit-surrogacies-the-hard-way

2014.10.06

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