Family Matters

Baby-Selling Scam Focuses Attention on Surrogacy

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The surrogates were promised $38,000 in payment, considerably more than the going rate. “What a lot of people are really worried about is this is terrible for surrogacy,” says Shapiro. “It looks awful. No doctor in the U.S. would do this without seeing a surrogacy agreement. It’s a bit like building a house on spec.”

Erickson, a former egg donor herself, had forged a name for herself as a widely respected legal expert, who drew up contracts for donors, would-be parents and surrogates. I quoted her in July in a Healthland article about the debate surrounding anonymity for sperm and egg donors. “Opening up completely is just not going to work,” she said. “There are a lot of men and women that just don’t want their information out there.”

Erickson also spoke candidly about how she doesn’t view children conceived with her donor eggs as her own: “If those children walked up to my door and said, ‘Hey, Mom,’ I’d say, ‘We have to talk.'”

Nonetheless, she told me she remains in contact with at least one couple who used an egg of hers. They contact Erickson each year near her birthday, sending videos of their daughter playing the violin, Erickson says, “like she should be in a symphony.” She’s convinced the girl’s musical ability comes from her. “My son is 19 and he picked up the guitar two years ago and is a virtuoso,” she says.

MORE: Grandma Gives Birth to her Grandchild: Weird or Wonderful?

Beginning when the younger of her two children turned 1, Erickson donated eggs more than 20 times, partially to make money while she was in law school but also because she liked the idea of helping another family have children. “I got so hooked on it,” she says. “If a couple didn’t get pregnant with my eggs, I would be upset.”

At the time, she acknowledged some of the potential pitfalls of helping others build families, either through gamete donation or surrogacy. “I have been contacted by parents of triplets who are about 17 because they saw me on the Today Show years ago and figured out who I was,” says Erickson. “I was shocked at first. I was a little scared. I didn’t sign up for this.”

Bonnie Rochman is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @brochman. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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