' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Mother denied visitation with son conceived with her egg

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Mother denied visitation with son conceived with her egg

An Oregon woman who let her former boyfriend, wealthy Portland developer Jordan Schnitzer, use her eggs to create a son lost visiting rights to that son--now five--this week. Cory Sause, 38, had been able to visit her son since 2017 after a protracted court battle. 

In a 2-1 decision, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the lower court making Schnitzer, 70, the sole legal parent of the boy, Samuel. The majority opinion stated that Sause had not demonstrated a full commitment to parenting as required by Oregon's assisted-reproduction law to have parenting rights.

Sause plans to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court which hears only a small fraction of the cases brought to it. If the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, Sause will be barred from contact with Samuel until, as an adult, he is willing to see her. If the Supreme Court takes up the case, it may be another several years before a final decision is reached.  

Schnitzer has two adult daughters from a former marriage but he wanted a son. At the time she donated her eggs to be implanted into a surrogate--bringing another woman into the mix--Sause understood she would have visiting right to the boy. Schnitzer denied this, and prevented her from seeing Samuel until she won that right in 2017 when Samuel was two. 

Cory Sause with Samuel 

What the two justices who decided against Sause--Roger DeHoog and Josephine Mooney--ignored in their opinions is that Samuel is a human being, with feelings and needs, not a piece of property. They criticized the lower court judge for deciding that Sause is the boy's legal mother "based largely on Sause's genetic connection." Judge Jacqueline Kamins dissented, finding that Sause met the  requirements to be a legal parent to Sam. 

Samuel will not be able to grasp that he can no longer see Mommy--as he calls Sause--because she didn't quite do the right thing as the right time. When Samuel learns that his mother fought to stay in his life--but his father prevented her from doing so--what will he think of his father?  The boy might well become a legal orphan before he reaches his teen years. Who will care for him then? Schnitzer has said that his two daughters--now in their 20's--would care for him as well as a younger brother, also born to a surrogate with eggs from a different donor. They might, of course, but raising children is a huge responsibility for young women with their own goals. The boys could end up being shuttled from boarding school to summer camp and back again. 

This decision was critical not only to Schnitzer, but to the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Industry.  Robin Pope, a Portland fertility and adoption attorney (her tagline "Forming Families through Adoption" has been changed to "Family Formation Lawyer") wrote a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Schnitzer on behalf of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, formerly the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. The organization repurposed itself as the supply of adoptable infants decreased and ART took off. AAAA needed a win to assure people considering spending thousands of dollars on legal services that contracts with egg donors are inviolable, and that the purchaser of the eggs would be the sole parent of the resulting off-spring. An egg donor was just bit of genetic material, so insignificant that even using the word "mother" in reference to her as in "not a mother" was incorrect.   

Jordan Schnitzer
After I posted my disagreement with the decision on a discussion site, Pope assured me in an email that the assisted reproduction industry is not making the same mistake that the adoption industry made in the era of closed adoptions. "Most of my clients end up knowing their donors. They do it because they believe it's best for their child. There's much more openness in ART law than in adoption, even today."

That may be but, at least in adoption, the child already exists and may need a family. Some adoptive parents are motivated by altruism. The adoption industry is regulated--at least in theory--to meet the needs of children. The producer of the genetic material is recognized as a sentient human being, although dismissively referred to as a "birth mother." 

In donor contracts, children are created to meet the needs of the adults who pay big bucks for them. They are merely matter in a test tube, commodities to be bartered and sold, held to agreements over which they had no say that can cut a biological parent out of their lives. In ART the producer of genetic material is an egg donor, nothing else. Unlike adoptees who in many cases can learn the identities of their first parents through their original birth certificates, persons born from ART have no path to learn the source of their genetic material if the donor is anonymous.

The irony in ART cases cannot be overlooked. On the one hand, the law treats genetics as inconsequential--relationships, not genetic material, matter. On the other hand, men like Schnitzer resort to ART because they are convinced that having a child with their genes is essential.

Even assuming that, as the ART industry claims, It's relationships, not genetics that count--Sause had a relationship with Samuel. It's now fractured because two judges put a hyper-technical interpretation of a law above the needs of a five-year-old boy. 

Although now legally the sole parent, Schnitzer cannot wipe Sause out of Samuel's life. She is there every time Samuel looks in the mirror.--jane


  1. How awful. Can't anyone try and see things from the child's view? I saw a famous couple who used ART say their children don't have a mother. I disagree. Everyone has a mother. She may not have raised us, and now she may not have even bore us, but she still contributed half of our DNA, which makes her our mother. We also have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on our mother's side. We are still descended from her.

    This hurts me to read. Selfish adults who play with lives.

  2. I have to wonder... Men like Schnitzer buy and sell others without a thought. However, they forget that even with their "genetic material" the children that they create to buy or sell or whatever, they have the genetic material of other human beings - the mother - the biological matter of a completely different genetic pool (we hope). Do they not understand science enough to understand that their perfectly chosen children will never be what they want? They will not be a little them - not ever. How very sad for these children - born of sterile need and lacking the comfort of loving parents. This is worse than adoption... it is what writers have been trying to say for years - this building the "perfect" human. Sigh... how horrid.

  3. Why would anybody give their DNA away? They are forcing their child to live without them. Men and women need to stop, just stop setting their children up for failure.



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