Thursday, March 26, 2009

Allison Quets: Birth-Mother? Surrogate Mother? No Mother?

Allison Quets, the Florida woman who pleaded guilty in 2007 to kidnapping the infant twins that she bore and gave up for adoption, was back in court today (3/25/09) before the North Carolina Court of Appeals seeking to have visitation rights reinstated. Quets was artificially inseminated with others' embryos and sperm, but maintains she was ill after severe medical problems during the pregnancy and signed the adoption papers under duress. She has fought the adoption for three years.

To make this very clear, as she is being called the twins' "birth-mother" on Wikipedia and elsewhere, Ms. Quets became impregnated with donated embryos and sperm. (Yet another way to be a birth-mother. With a hyphen; as almost or merely a surrogate.) As far as I can make out from the complicated chain of events, Ms. Quets planned to keep the children when she was impregnated at 47, but severe health issues forced her to relinquish the girls.

When her twin girls were 17 months old, she took them to Ottawa, following a visitation. She was apprehended in Canada a week later, and the twins were returned to the adoptive parents, Kevin and Denise Needham, in Apex, North Carolina, and her visitation rights were terminated. A Wake Country District Court judge dismissed her claims, saying she could not seek visitation because her parental rights have been terminated. She was also ordered to pay the Needham's legal fees. A ruling from the the North Carolina Court of Appeals typically takes about three months.

Ms. Quets had been a systems engineer for Lockheed, and is now working at a computer consultant and lives in Orlando.

When I first heard about this story, I thought she was the girls' biological mother; instead she is a woman who tried to become pregnant at a very late age, and ran into severe health issues during pregnancy, which is extremely common with pregnancies after 40. She spent five months on a feeding tube during the pregnancy. She had seizures shortly after the birth, and then came post-partum depression, during which she signed the surrender papers. The adoptive parents were recommended through a former boyfriend of Ms. Quets. At this point, she seems only to want visitation, but I can understand the Needhams' reluctance, as that is when she took the children to Ottawa in hopes, perhaps, of disappearing with them.

I don't know what to think about this mess. I do think that women who want to have children ought to realize there is a cut-off date to their fecundity, and 47 is past that. If more women did not wait until such a late age to get pregnant, single or coupled, there would be fewer families racing around the world looking for children to adopt, fewer children stolen off the streets in India and Nepal and you-name-the-Third-World-country to be placed in adoption agencies (holding pens) where babies are literally sold to anyone who can pay. The whole system is wacky. Stinks to high heaven. International adoption is often no better than baby-brokering.

My sympathy for Ms. Quets is not bottomless. In this last discussion of who is a birth mother, we did not include women such as Allison Quets, but that is what she is being called in the media. What do you, dear and gentle readers (yes, be gentle in your commentary, please) think? Of her? Of the situation?

11 comments :

  1. Like you, Lorraine, I don't know what to think, am a little queasy thinking about it, and have little sympathy for someone who waited that long to have kids. Like Octomom, this is one of those situations that involves what seems to be a selfish and disturbed woman, and only tangentially relates to adoption in the usual sense. What these cases really point out is the dire need for ethics and regulation in assisted reproduction.

    I really don't care what she is called! That is the least of this mess. In both this case and Octomom, poor kids! They are who I feel sorry for.

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  2. I don't know what to think either. I hate hate hate high tech repro and surrogacy. Anything beyond a baster between friends should be illegal. I have a certain amount of sympathy for Quets, but what was she thinking,. If one is going to breed, do it early and get it out of the way. Then get a life Not the other way around.

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  3. More thoughts; Quets is in no way genetically related to those children, and had them created with no regards to their genetic heritage. In that way she more resembles adoptive mothers who feel they are entitled to a child if they want one no matter what, than natural mothers who surrender.

    She HAD to have kids, even though she was too old physically, and had kids created that will never know their true heritage. These children will never resemble her in any way, nor will they see in her anything of themselves. The older they get, the more irrelevant she will be to them. The many little genetic connections we all see in reunion will never be there for her or the children.

    Yes, she did give birth, but that still puts her relationship to those children closer to that of a wet nurse or some kind of foster mother. They are no more related to her than to the adoptive parents.

    I don't see any point in even giving her visitation.

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  4. I hate hate hate hi tech repro myself, as you say, Marley, and that is why I as appalled a couple of years ago at AAC in Atlanta when a woman was there with a toddler. I couldn't figure out the reason for the little kid--the mother was in a wheelchair and had plenty of friends to have meals with, the kid was with her all the time. I thought she was ... i dunno, I could not figure her out. Or the reason to have the cute kid there.

    Then I went to a panel on sperm-bank babies and their search for identity, and there she was, the panel's star. Turns out the kid trailing her around, up on the stage with her, was born from donated sperm. And while the woman knew some basic facts about him, such as cultural heritage, she did not have his identity and would not be able to give it to the child. She basically wanted our support--you know, woman in wheelchair, how can we criticize? I wanted to have a kid and isn't she cute? !@#$! I thought, this just sucks. While sperm-bank grownups were at the conference, this woman was there as a speaker we are supposed to respect?

    I said nothing--there are times when I sit back--and everybody was being quite polite. Finally Annette Baran spoke and called her to task for doing this. Basically told her that she was no better than adopters who want kids in closed adoptions. I could have kissed her. So that's the side of the Annette Baran I know.

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  5. This is one of those cases I almost don't even like thinking about. But when I do, I find I have an uncomfortably limited amount of pity for Allison Quets. My sympathy goes all to the kids.

    'Birth mother' as a term to describe gestational surrogates is something that has been squicking me out for a long time. Though technically I suppose it's accurate.
    I think this is another good reason not to care for the term as applied to women who have lost their biological children to adoption.
    In that respect, if it ever had any meaning at all, that meaning has become redundant.

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  6. A couple years ago I attended the annual 1-day Wells Conference at Capital University Law School sponsored by the Center for Adoption Policy. It's rather a big deal and people come from all over the country. That year the subject was high tech repro.

    All but about three people, many of whom should have known better, were in love with the idea. We had a fundie State Rep. who had 2 Snowflakes and a raft of feminist scholars who couldn't or wouldn't have a baybee the usual way. One California "liberal" lawyer/law school professor was particularly odious. She'd had a kid through an anon sperm donor. She had close to 100 pages of non-ID on him, she'd shared with her daughter. The kid loved the idea of having no daddy. (Can I make this up?) Apparently their whole social crowd consisted of academic mommies and their IV baybees, and they just couldn't imagine why any of their kids would want to know who their fathers are!!! And she simply could not imagine that any mommie (or 2 parents) would not tell Baybee Dumpling that they were conceived via baster or test tube.Why would they hide it? It's something to be proud of. And what does a name mean anyway. Daddy just jacked off in a cup.

    I thought I'd loose it. During the Q&A I brought up the topic of LDAs. If people don't tell their kdis they're adopted, why would they tell them they owe their existance to weird science? Oh, that's the old day. Nobody keeps those secrets anymore. All I can expect from somebody from Berkeley I guess.

    The only people who stood up for the right to identity and history besides me was David Smolin and a woman (whose name I've forgotten) who was a law professor from Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School, of all people who gave a staight BN line.

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  7. If you are looking for a sperm donor or a co-parenting match: this website to find your co-parenting partners (gay, straight, singles, couples...) www.co-parents.net

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  8. If Allison Quets is a surrogate, then that makes all birth mothers who adopt their children "traditional surrogate mothers." Traditional surrogates carry a child that is their genetic offspring but don't mother the child.

    Think of the famous Baby M case!

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  9. I spoke with Allison back in 2008 for the story I wrote about her situation. She was very nice and clearly very intelligent. I was very impressed with her.

    As far as the issue of whether she is truly the mother, I would suggest that the term "mother" has many meanings. Allison had every intention of raising her children. The fact that they are unrelated genetically is irrelevant. They exist because she wanted them.

    Allison had the misfortune of being extremely ill and vulnerable. The boyfriend you refer to insisted that she couldn't care for the babies and wanted his cousin to have the children. Allison tried to stop the adoption immediately after signing the papers. The Needham's did not even physically have the babies in their custody at this point. They knew Allison wanted to keep her babies and insisted on fighting her. One of these days her kids, Tyler and Holly will understand how hard she fought for them.

    http://www.loonybinblog.com/2008/10/allison-quets-is-someone-who-has-always.html

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  10. The birth-mother of the children certainly with all of her education had other altenatives like nanny, family, friends to help her. To me this is a drastic measure. It does not sound as if the adoptive couple came to her and asked for the kids, she initiated the chain of events. At 17 months and then 4 years old when these legal decisions were rendered, my concern is only for the children. Smaller events in life have caused life-long negative impact on the pscyhe and development of an individual, so let the children continue where they are. Just consider the children. When they becaome adults, or older looking for a connection with her, she should concentrate on being the best person she can be so they will know they did not come from someone they wish they were not a part of. Helen Wichita

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