Sherri Shepherd Ruled Legal Mother of Baby Born via Surrogate

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After months of battling her ex-husband in court over financial responsibility for their baby born via surrogate last August, Sherri Shepherd is now officially listed as the mother of the 8-month-old.

“It’s bittersweet,” Lamar Sally told PEOPLE outside the courtroom on Tuesday. “I’m glad it’s over, but I feel sad what it had to come to. Now I can go back to L.A. and tend to my son.”

Since the birth of Lamar Sally Jr., the formerly married pair had been locked in a legal battle after Sally said the couple had agreed to pursue surrogacy before Shepherd had a drastic change of heart months into the surrogate’s pregnancy.
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Well, here we go again. What another rotten mess this is. For those who missed it, just last week I wrote about Sofia Vergara Sued By Ex-Fiance Nick Loeb Over Frozen Embryos and I raised the question about surrogate motherhood and whether or not this was necessarily a good thing. As I said, sometimes it feels like our technology has advanced faster than our society has, so we’re capable of doing things before we’ve thought-out and planned for all the implications of the act.

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I actually hadn’t heard of this Sherri Shepherd situation until after I posted that previous article, and was discussing it with my brother, who mentioned this to me. So I looked it up. In 2011 Shepherd and Sally got married. According to Sally, Shepherd pushed for the idea of them having a child, but Shepherd, who was 44 when they married, proved to be infertile (she already has one son, who was born prematurely, from her first marriage, and before that had given birth to a stillborn daughter), so they took a donated egg from another woman, implanted that into a 3rd woman, and fertilized it with Sally’s sperm, and the surrogate got pregnant. Six months into the pregnancy Shepherd filed for divorce from Sally, and renounced all claim to the baby. 8 months ago, the child was born, a boy named Lamar Sally Jr., and Sally sued to have Shepherd named the legal mother and file for child support, despite the fact that she has had nothing to do with the boy since he was born.

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This is even more complicated than the Vergara/Loeb case, due to the fact that this time there is an actual child, not just an embryo. And Shepherd is not biologically related to this boy. And I know that there are plenty out there who will question Sally’s motives, thinking he’s just using this child to get money from her (she is a millionaire), and perhaps there is some of that going on here. But does that make a difference? This child was conceived while they were married, they both agreed to this, can she just randomly change her mind like this? Is that fair to the child? As Sally claims, he loved Shepherd’s son like his own since they got married, even though they’re not biologically related, so how can Shepherd, who always makes a big deal about what a devout christian she supposedly is just turn her back on and walk away from this child?

But this is why I say that we as a society may need to rethink this whole concept of surrogate motherhood. Like I said, Shepherd was 44 when she got married this second time, I don’t know how old Lamar Sally is, but he looks around that age too. If natural conception wasn’t possible at this stage in their lives, maybe that was just a sign that this shouldn’t have happened? You can’t have children, too bad. Maybe just accept that instead of going through these extreme measures to create a new child, just so they could have one together? Now we’ve got this mess.

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I’m reminded of another case that I wrote about over a year ago. There was a lesbian couple that wanted to have a child, so they advertised for a sperm donor on Craigslist. A man responded and donated sperm, he also signed a waiver giving up his parental rights to the child. The women inseminated the sperm into one of them, and one got pregnant and gave birth. But then the couple split and the non-biological woman didn’t want anything to do with the baby, so the other woman was left as a single mother and applied for Welfare. The state demanded she list father and then went after the sperm donor for child support. Because of various laws, like the two women being unable to get married in their state, since gay marriage was illegal, and that the sperm donation and insimination was done in private instead of via a doctor, means that the law does not recognize that the other woman as the “mother” and the donor is unable to legally give up his right. He’s the father, whether he likes it or not. Read: SAVE YOUR SPERM!

Again, it’s a messed up situation because the law doesn’t account for every situation. If that lesbian couple was together at the time of conception then that 2nd woman should be considered the mother, just like Shepherd. But that didn’t happen. If these couples had applied for adoption together this mess could likely have been avoided (although in the lesbian case they may be unable to legally adopt together, which is another problem), but here we are. What’s such a shame now is that there’s no good resolution. The law can only force Shepherd to spend money on the child, they can’t force her to bond with him and act like a good mother to him. And let’s say she does? This is still all public record, that boy is eventually going to be old enough to read all about this and know that his “mother” did not want him. How effed up is he going to feel about that?

What a mess.

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  4 comments for “Sherri Shepherd Ruled Legal Mother of Baby Born via Surrogate

  1. April 22, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    My head hurts. Did anyone put together a flowchart explaining how everyone in this case is connected?

    By the way, I definitely agree that for many years now science & technology has been developing much more rapidly than our legal system and our evolving societal norms, and we’re struggling to deal with the consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 22, 2015 at 9:59 AM

      Well, the flowchart is actually pretty simple, it just sounds more complicated that it should be, because of the technology.
      Sherri and Lamar got married and planned to have a child (according to Lamar, she pressed the issue the hardest, and was the most enthusiastic about it).
      Sherri is physically unable to get pregnant (her eggs don’t work). So they got a donor egg from an anonymous woman and implanted that egg inside of another woman, and then fertilized it via in-vitro fertilization with Lamar’s sperm, and that woman got pregnant with a boy who is the biological son of Lamar and the anonymous woman, but is not biologically related to Sherri (or to the woman who carried the baby to term and gave birth to him). Sherri left Lamar while the surrogate mother was 6 months pregnant and disavowed any claim to the boy, but Lamar, who has full custody, sued Sherri for child support, which she tried to fight on the basis that the boy is not her child, but the court just ruled in his favor, declaring Sherri the legal mother of the boy, making her liable for child support (and, presumably, able to file for visitation and custody if she so chooses).

      The Sofia Vergara case seems even weirder to me, because that has even deeper implications. Sofia and her ex-fiancé Nick planned to have children, but Sofia is either unable or unwilling (it’s not clear which) to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. So they took an egg from her and sperm from him and used it to create several embryos which could be implanted into a second woman who would then carry the baby and give birth. Apparently, they tried with several of them but it didn’t work, the surrogate choses didn’t get pregnant (it doesn’t always work) and then Sofia and Nick broke up, but there are two embryos left. They even know that they’re both female. Sofia wants the embryos destroyed, but Nick doesn’t.

      The thing with that one is, if Nick wins and gets the right to keep the embryos the theoretically he would have the right to hire a surrogate mother to carry them, and if works one or two children could be born that would be Sofia Vergara’s biological daughters. So she would become a mother against her will. So then what responsibilities would she have, both legally and morally? That’s what’s so messed up about this situations, and why I think the whole concept of surrogate motherhood needs to be thought out more.

      Liked by 1 person

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