Surrogate loses custody fight in California

May 21, 1993|By Susan Peterson | Susan Peterson,Orange County Register

TUSTIN, Calif. -- Holding Christopher Michael on his hip, a buzzy portable phone scrunched in his right ear, Mark Calvert strained yesterday morning to hear the news:

Nearly three years after their quiet lives exploded in headlines worldwide, Mr. Calvert and his wife, Crispina, were named the only legal parents of Christopher in a ruling by the California Supreme Court. Christopher was created from the Calverts' sperm and egg and gestated by surrogate Anna Johnson.

"What? What did you say?" Mr. Calvert said into the phone. "We won? We won the decision! It's affirmed! We won everything!"

"Oooh my," said Mrs. Calvert, clapping her hands together and jumping for joy.

She took Christopher, 2 1/2 , and clutched him to her chest, jumping up and down in the kitchen: "Yaay Christopher! Yaay Christopher! Yaay Christopher!"

Mr. Calvert hugged them both.

"Hey guy. We are a family now! Kiss Daddy! Kiss Mommy!

"I love you, Daddy," Christopher Michael said.

In a 28-page decision, the court ruled that under California law, when two potential mothers are involved in creating a child, the ++ woman who intended to procreate and raise the child is the child's legal mother.

Ms. Johnson can petition the U.S. Supreme Court for an appeal. But the federal court declined to hear an appeal on the nation's first famous surrogacy dispute, the Baby M case brought by surrogate mother Mary Beth Whitehead, and tends to yield family law matters to state courts, said John Dodd, attorney representing the child's interests.

"We've lost years of sleep over this. We've cried a river of tears," Mr. Calvert said. "We're in counseling to help us get on with our lives. We were the victims."

The quiet couple stayed at home yesterday, with "No Trespassing" signs posted on their front driveway to keep reporters and camera crews away.

"It's been a long, strange trip. It's a hell of an interesting story, but we never wanted this. We just wanted to live our lives and be a family," Mr. Calvert said.

"We just pray that everyone will leave us alone now. We've had enough of attorneys. We've had enough of the media lurking outside our house and hiding in the bushes. We've had enough of the legal system."

Surrogacy is a blessing in that it gave them their son, the Calverts said. But they warned other infertile couples to take heed of the disaster that befell them.

They purchased a surrogacy agreement from attorney William Handel, co-director for the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Beverly Hills, and used it to contract with Ms. Johnson for the pregnancy.

The couple are suing Mr. Handel and Ms. Johnson for fraud and breach of contract.

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