' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: A Modern Handmaid's Tale: Duping a woman to have your baby

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Modern Handmaid's Tale: Duping a woman to have your baby

In The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood introduces us to a future world in which fertility rates are low and the babies are often defective ("unbabies") due to environmental decay. To increase the population, the government assigns fertile women ("handmaids") to wealthy couples. The handmaids are forced to have sex with husbands ("Commanders"). The resulting children are given to the "Commander's Wives."

The Handmaid's Tale was written in 1985; if it had been written a decade later, it might have dispensed with the sex part of reproduction, and told a story like that unfolding in Texas where Cindy Close claims she was duped into producing twins for Marvin McMurrey and his partner, Phong Nguyen.

Close, Nguyen, & McMur
Close says that she and McMurrey, whom she thought was her friend, both wanted to have a child. They agreed that she would bear a child created through a purchased egg and his sperm. McMurrey, a wealthy man would foot the bill. His generosity supposedly included providing a house and supporting her so that she could be a stay-at-home mom. Shortly before the babies were born, she signed an affidavit (a sworn statement) at his request declaring McMurrey to be the biological father, admitting she was not biologically related to the children, and stating that she did not receive compensation for her services.

On the day the children were born, McMurrey told the hospital staff that the babies were his and that Close was a surrogate. He obtained a court order giving himself and Nguyen custody and allowing her only visitation with the twins two hours a day Monday through Friday, but barring her from breast-feeding them. She has hired an attorney and is suing for custody and support. The next court date is November 5. McMurrey is refusing to comment but Close is giving interviews and has set up a website, "CindysTwins."

We at First Mother Forum do not have a problem with gestational surrogacy provided by family members or close friends. However, we do find surrogacy for hire objectionable. But duping a woman to carry a child under false pretenses? Beyond the pale.

We don't envy the judge who has to decide this case. The judge could find there was a contract and grant full custody to McMurrey and Nguyen, but that seems unlikely, Not only are surrogacy contracts for unmarried couples not legal in Texas, same-sex couples are not allowed to marry there. Furthermore, there was no written contract between the parties.

The judge could base the decision on "the best interests" of the children, which might benefit McMurrey/Nguyen because they have custody already, and the judge might be reluctant to disturb the twins' living arrangement. They are McMurrey's biological children, after all, and he is wealthy. On the other hand, McMurrey's and Nguyen's shoddy behavior indicates they would not be good role models for the children. Close doesn't get any sympathy either. She used another woman's fertility for her own benefit, and did not have a custody and support agreement in place before going ahead and creating two lives. She's in her 40's, past her years for producing prime ova to be turned into healthy embryos.

The thing that stands out in this tale--with its soap opera plot line--is how greedy all the parties are, how the best interests of the children being created never seemed to be on their radar. The biological  mother--the egg donor--was willing to sell a piece of her body to strangers, willing to create a child without assuming any responsibility. Close was planning to live comfortably off McMurrey, presumably with the thought that he would come by and visit now and then, as well as pay her expenses and those of the babies.

According to media reports, neither McMurrey nor Close appear to have considered adopting a child who needed a home. McMurrey wanted biological children. Close wanted newborn children. Presumably she also desired the experience of nurturing the children in her womb and delivering them, even though they would be no more related to her than a foster child. I'm going to call her a Greedy Handmaid.

Now, the parties are putting their energies into dueling it out in court--and in Close's case running a website seeking sympathy--rather than on focusing on the needs of the children.

No matter how the judge decides, the real losers in this tale are the twins, created and surrounded by selfish adults. They're lucky to have each other to help them deal with the difficulties they will face, raised by this sorry collection of human beings--a Greedy Handmaid and Exploitative Commanders.
Is This Informal Surrogacy or Exploitation?

The Handmaid's Tale In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?  Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. Highly recommended.


  1. I think this is an excellent analysis Jane and I agree with every word. All of the adults involved disgust me, and I feel immensely sorry for those poor twins.


  2. I am not even surprised, not anymore. I have seen a lot of crap in the last few decades. I see the greed on the faces of young women that have discovered that they can keep their lovely "girly" figures, and still have babies that they needed get to involved with... I have seen grown women beg others to live in pain just because they are unable to realize that sometimes you have to fulfill yourself in ways other than breeding.

    It is disturbing and pathetic.

  3. Oh get over it ladies. As long as the technology exists to create babies, people will use it. And would the twins rather not be born? Of course not. AT LEAST according to what I read here, they will not be adopted.

  4. So, does this mean that every woman that chooses to carry a child in her womb a "Greedy Maid?" How do you know whether or not these people did or did not consider adoption? Did she not adopt the donor eggs when she agreed to use them on the advice of her doctor, considering the best interest of the twins? Everyone is entitled to their interpretation of this situation. The real issue is whether a court should be asked to determine if she is the mother having given birth to them when the current laws of the state of Texas is clear that she is, or are they motherless. - Dara

  5. "We at First Mother Forum do not have a problem with gestational surrogacy provided by family members or close friends"

    Can you please explain further what your position is on this? Does it matter who the child is related to biologically? Also, sometimes a person who is a close friend at one time is not at another. A dispute over custody and which individuals are considered the parents of the baby can cause enough conflict to end a friendship (as in this case). This all seems like a slippery slope to me. Also, as usual I see that the focus is not about how the child so conceived is going to feel about all of this. It's only about the wants and desires of the adults.

  6. Robin:

    Jane will probably come in on this when she sees this comment, but I do not have a problem with a mother or a sister or someone closely related carrying a fetus (with the egg of the mother who will raise the child) to term. What we recognize is that as long as the technology exists it will be used. The genie is not going back in the bottle. Our problem lies with the purchasing of wombs, eggs, sperm, and the child not being biologically related to the parents who raise the child. Payment for such services ought to be outlawed; that certainly would end the transfer of ova, sperm cells, and embryos.

  7. I think the entire "do you think they'd rather not be born" argument is ridiculous. People born in the natural way and raised by their rightful biological parents are never expected to be thankful they were born. I mean, I've just never thought to myself, "I am so grateful I wasn't aborted." I've also never thought the following: "I am so grateful my mother didn't miscarry me, I wasn't a still birth, I didn't die as an infant of a childhood disease, my dad didn't wear a condom and my mother was fertile after dinner and a movie!" Why should people being manufactured by the fertility industry or who were purchased through the adoption industry be expected to think those thoughts?

    It seems a very defensive reaction by people that couldn't get over their infertility and baby lust.

  8. Anyone that makes money from the birth of a child whether it's an egg donor or the surrogate Is wrong. A child should not be a business venture to ANYONE not even the wealthy dad in this case.

    I don't consider the surrogate the mother. It's not her egg
    she gave birth to another woman's baby. Like I have
    heard from adopter's before "giving" birth does not make a woman a mother. It certainly does but only if it's her egg does it make her the mother.

    Ps Twinkle I have heard those words too " get over it"
    very sad one day these kids will want to know their mom.

  9. When are they going to be on the Jeff Probst show and what is your source of information on the bully's claiming that this woman was a mere surrogate for their selfishness?

  10. This article is rather inflamatory. Although it sticts mostly to the facts, I can find no documents or statements to support the following:

    1. Neither McMurrey nor Close appear to have considered adopting a child who needed a home.

    2. Close wanted newborn children.

    Were I either Mr. McMurrey or Ms. Close and I read these statements, I'd be making a call to my attorney.

  11. Oh sorry...I mean "a" gay couple; not these two people.

  12. I just want to scream. Now the Jeff Probst show is featuring a gay couple who are tormented by having to wait to find out if they can keep the baby...it's all about their pain, nothing about the mother's/ or the child's in the future.

  13. @Paige,
    I appreciate your comment.

    "Why should people being manufactured by the fertility industry or who were purchased through the adoption industry be expected to think those thoughts?"

    I think it is because most people assume that if a child was given up for adoption, s/he was unwanted and would most likely have been aborted. I could not possibly have been more wanted by my natural mother. She had no interest in having an abortion. She wanted her child (moi). It was society who denied her the opportunity to raise me because she wasn't sanctioned by a man. Her love for me and desire to keep me had nothing whatsoever to do with her marital status. I think this is another reason for the closed adoption area. So that all of those PAPs wouldn't know how much most of the mothers really wanted their babies.

  14. Hey Anon,
    They can call attorneys all they want but there's nothing wrong with what I wrote. Media reports do not show they attempted to adopt children from foster care. They spent several years planning and creating these babies, enough time to adopt foster children if they met eligibility criteria such as no criminal record, no substance abuse, and so on.

    If I'm wrong about anything I wrote, they can email me with specifics through this blog and I'll make a correction. Fellow blogger Lorraine and I pride ourselves on factual accuracy. And of course, they can post comments.

    Even if there is an error, it's unlikely that they could bring a successful lawsuit. The US Supreme Court ruled in the 1960's that the First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the media from libel suits absent malicious intent if the persons written about are public figures. These two have made themselves into public figures.

  15. Apparently the Jef Probst show I am talking about was on the 11th of October.

    and I am such a fan of Survivor.

  16. I am sure that both parties are talking to their attorneys very frequently, they are in litigation. I doubt they have the appetite for additional litigation not connected to their child custody battle and if they did, I am sure their attorneys would advise them against it. Its better not to try the case in two courts.

    As for the truth or specifics in the case, we don't know what many of them really are. The only biological parent we know about is McMurrey. Under Florida law, Close appears to also be a legal parent. We don't know what they agreed to prior to the custody battle but people lie all the time in child custody cases.

  17. First and foremost, you are kidding right? Children born into a world with only one bio-parent and a huge amount of idiocy surrounding them.... What part of this sounds healthy? And why would a woman agree to carry twins on the grounds that she get one of them - though they are not related to her in anyway?

    Where is this not sick and greedy?

    I have no issue with a relative carrying a child for someone (with an egg and sperm that are from the people that are raising the child). I just think that if you are going to do something that difficult (you still get all the lovely hormonal crap and attach to the baby), you need to be connected in a way that is more than a rental and med bills.

    People, this is sick.... truly.

  18. Robin,

    To add to what Lorraine wrote about the difference between being a surrogate for hire for a stranger and a surrogate for a relative to me is like the difference between selling a kidney to a stranger and donating one to a relative. The first is exploitative; the second is loving.



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