Same-sex couples raising children must stand ready to prove to
the world they are a family, just one that happens to have two mothers or two
This constant burden of proof is especially difficult for families like the
Muzingos, who live in a state that doesn’t allow them to establish legal ties to
each other. Michelle Muzingo was in the delivery room when her wife, Katrina,
gave birth to each of their three children, who are now 7, 4 and 1. She cut
their umbilical cords and was the first to hold the children, who call her
“mommy.” Yet because they live in Ohio, a state that does not allow gay couples
to adopt, she is unable to make that title official.
“We are always scanning the circle around us to see what we need to put in place
to protect ourselves,” said Katrina, 37.
A report released earlier this week illustrates just how vulnerable these
couples and their children are, both legally and financially. After all, 30
states do not have laws that allow same-sex parents to both adopt, while six
states restrict them or impose outright bans.
Even families who live in states that recognize their relationships can run into
trouble if they travel or move. And if something were to happen to a parent who
was unable to adopt or otherwise establish legal ties, the child might be denied
certain federal benefits — something that children of most heterosexual parents
“Outdated state laws really place children being raised by lesbian and gay
families at risk, whether they do so intentionally through antigay legislation
or whether they do so unintentionally because they haven’t updated their laws to
reflect modern and contemporary family structures,” said Laura Deaton, policy
research director of Movement Advancement Project, which wrote the report with
two other research and advocacy groups, the Family Equality Council and the
Center for American Progress.
The Muzingos, who live in Brunswick Hills, Ohio, but married in Canada in 2005,
know their children would be unable to collect Social Security death or
disability benefits on Michelle’s work record.
“We have way more life insurance than probably a typical middle-class family,”
said Katrina. “If something were to happen to Michelle, the sole breadwinner, we
would have zero rights to her Social Security, to her pension, to anything.”
They have to deal with smaller inconveniences, too. When the couple went to sign
up their son Carter for kindergarten, they had to get a notarized letter stating
that he lived in the family’s home in the school district because the home was
in Michelle’s name only (Michelle, 42, said she was unable to easily add Katrina
to the title at closing because their marriage wasn’t recognized and Katrina
wasn’t on the mortgage).
Michelle’s guardianship papers, which they drafted shortly after Katrina became
pregnant for the first time, weren’t enough. And as the couple has learned,
those papers — along with the powers of attorney, health care proxies and wills,
which together cost $2,000 — don’t guarantee that they’ll be recognized as a
The same goes for many of the estimated two million or more children being
raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents who are unable to
formalize relationships with both of their parents, according to the report.
These families bear a variety of financial, legal and emotional costs. A child
may be unable to receive insurance through the employer of a nonbiological
parent, for instance, a particularly big burden if that parent is the sole
breadwinner. (Even if the parent’s employer does provide coverage, the family
may owe extra taxes on the value of that insurance, unlike their heterosexual
married peers with children.)
The same parent may not have the authority to make routine or emergency medical
decisions for the child, or even sign a school permission slip. And in the event
of a breakup, both parent and child could be hurt: the child may be denied
financial support from a parent, or the parent may be denied visitation rights.
“When both parents have legal ties to their children, family court can award
custody and visitation to the most suitable parent or jointly to both parents
based on the interest of the child,” the report said, “as opposed to having to
exclude one parent from consideration.”
The inequities don’t end there. If the biological or legal parent were to die or
become disabled, the child could be placed with a distant relative or in foster
care instead of staying with the nonlegal parent. Having a legal relationship
also provides children with the right to sue over a parent’s wrongful death, and
it usually gives them the right to inherit from a parent who dies without a
So many families go to great lengths to establish strong legal relationships
where they can. Take, for instance, a lesbian couple with one spouse who is
pregnant. The report said that, with the exception of Iowa, all states that
recognized their union would allow the second mother to be listed on the child’s
birth certificate because the state’s statutes recognized her as the “presumed
parent.” This is an easy and free way to establish legal ties.
But some lawyers still advise the nonbiological parent to go through the
adoption process anyway. Why bother adopting your own child? If the family moves
or travels to a less friendly state, that state generally must honor another
state’s court judgments — but it is not obliged to honor birth certificates or
relationships borne from a state statute. Adoption also creates an independent
legal tie between parent and child, the report said, regardless of the parents’
And adoption is easy for most people to understand. “Most schools, churches,
summer camps and doctors understand adoption and adoption judgments,” Ms. Deaton
The road to adoption, however, can be more arduous and costly for same-sex
couples, depending on where they live. Fifteen states plus the District of
Columbia recognize same-sex unions — whether through marriage or a domestic
partnership — and permit the couples to adopt jointly. An individual who is
married to a child’s parent can usually adopt through a relatively streamlined
and simple process known as stepparent adoption.
Five additional states — Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Montana and Pennsylvania —
allow second-parent adoptions. This allows the partner of a legal parent to
adopt even if the adults aren’t considered married, though they usually have to
clear more hurdles.
In Colorado, second-parent adoptions require a background check, fingerprints
and a home study, under which a social worker evaluates the home and adoptive
parent. The cost can run $800 to $2,000, according to Erica Johnson, an estate
planning lawyer with Ambler & Keenan in Denver. If the couple decides to hire a
lawyer, they have to pay $1,400 to $2,000 more, she said, while stepparent
adoptions are much easier.
“If they were able to get married, they don’t have any of that intrusiveness,”
said Ms. Johnson, adding that the process can take months.
Beth Moloney, who lives with her wife, Barbara, in Providence, R.I., gave birth
to a daughter last September. And even though the couple was married in
Massachusetts in 2010 and their state recognizes civil unions, they were unable
to list Barbara as a parent on their daughter’s birth certificate.
So Barbara pursued a second-parent adoption, which she completed earlier this
year. “It’s like a bad movie in a lot of ways,” Ms. Moloney said. “Barbara was
there when she was conceived, when she was born, was the first to hold her, and
she swaddled better than I did. And here’s the state saying you’re not a
Since Barbara had to live with the baby for at least six months before the
adoption could be completed, Beth said they were afraid to visit friends out of
state until everything could be fully documented. “I understand in a regular
adoption why these things are important,” Ms. Moloney said. “But this is not a
regular adoption. There is no third person we are taking out of the picture.
There is just us.” And while some states offer new types of protections, the
lack of consistency across the country — depending on which courthouse you
visit, or even within states that have policies — means many children are left
with legal ties to only one parent.
Repealing the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman — part
of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA — wouldn’t solve these issues
either. It would help children become eligible for certain federal benefits in
states that allow same-sex couples to marry, and it would help families qualify
for child-related tax deductions and credits. But it wouldn’t oblige states to
perform second-parent adoptions, for instance.
Ms. Moloney said she hoped that by the time her daughter grew up, these
obstacles would be gone. “When I sit here and look at my daughter, I think, by
the time you are a young adult and you are out in the world, I hope that you
will be telling your friends, ‘Oh, my parents had to do this. Isn’t that silly?’
calls from her car: “I’m on my way to Cape Cod to scatter my mother’s ashes in
the bay, her favorite place.” Another, encountered on the street, mournfully
reports that he’s just “planted” his mother. A third e-mails news of her
mother’s death with a haunting phrase: “the sledgehammer of fatality.” It feels
strange. Why are so many of our mothers dying all at once?
As an actuarial phenomenon, the reason isn’t hard to grasp. My friends are in
their 60s now, some creeping up on 70; their mothers are in their 80s or 90s.
Ray Kurzweil, the author of “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend
Biology,” believes that we’re close to unlocking the key to immortality. Perhaps
within this century, he prophesies, “software-based humans” will be able to
survive indefinitely on the Web, “projecting bodies whenever they need or want
them, including virtual bodies in diverse realms of virtual reality.” Neat, huh?
But for now, it’s pretty much dust to dust, the way it’s always been — mothers
included. (Most of our fathers are long gone, alas. Women live longer than men.)
It’s the ones who aren’t dead who should baffle us. My own mother, for instance,
still goes to the Boston Symphony and attends a weekly current events class at
Brookhaven, her “lifecare living” center (can’t we find a less technocratic
word?) near Boston. She writes poems in iambic pentameter for every occasion. At
94, she’s hardly anomalous: there are plenty of nonagenarians at Brookhaven.
Ninety is the new old age. As Dr. Muriel Gillick, a specialist in geriatrics and
palliative care at Harvard Medical School, says, “If you’ve made it to 85 then
you have a reasonable chance of making it to 90.” That number has nearly tripled
in the last 30 years. And if you get that far... it’s been estimated that there
will be eight million centenarians by 2050.
It won’t end there. Scientists are closing in on the mechanism of what are
called “senescent cells,” which cause the tissue deterioration responsible for
aging. Studies of mice suggest that targeting these cells can slow down the
process. “Every component of cells gets damaged with age,” Leonard Guarente, a
biology professor at M.I.T., explained to me. “It’s like an old car. You have to
repair it.” We’re not talking about immortality, Professor Guarente cautions.
Biotechnology has its limits. “We’re just extending the trend.” Extending the
trend? I can hear it now: 110 is the new 100.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? On the debit side, there’s the ... debit.
The old-age safety net is already frayed. According to some estimates, Social
Security benefits will run out by 2037; Medicare insurance is guaranteed only
through 2024. These projected shortfalls are in part the unintended consequence
of the American health fetish. The ad executives in “Mad Men” firing up Lucky
Strikes and dosing themselves with Canadian Club didn’t have to worry. They’d be
dead long before it was time to collect.
Then there’s the question of whether reaching 5 score and 10 is worth it — the
quality-of-life question. Who wants to end up — as Jaques intones in “As You
Like It” — “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”? You may live to
be as old as Methuselah, who lasted 969 years, but chances are you’ll feel it.
Worse — it’s no longer a rare event — you can outlive your children. Reading the
obituary of Christopher Ma, a Washington Post executive who had been a college
classmate of mine, I was especially sad to see that Chris was survived by his
wife, a daughter, a son, a brother, two sisters and “his mother, Margaret Ma of
Menlo Park, Calif.” Can anything more tragic befall a parent than to be
predeceased by a child?
These are the perils old people suffer. What about us, the boomers, now
ourselves elderly children? One challenge my entitled generation faces is that
many of our long-lived parents are running through their retirement money, which
leaves the burden of supporting them to us. (To their credit, it’s a burden that
often bothers our parents, too.) And the cost of end-stage health care is huge —
a giant portion of all medical expenses in this country are incurred in the last
months of life. Meanwhile, our prospects of retirement recede on the horizon.
Also, elder care is stressful and time consuming. The broken hips, the trips to
the E.R., the bill paying and insurance paperwork demand patience. A paper
titled “Personality Traits of Centenarians’ Offspring” suggests this cohort
scores high marks “extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.”
But even the well-adjusted find looking after old parents tough.
In the mid-’80s, when the idea of the “sandwich generation” was born — boomers
saddled with the care of aging parents while raising their own children — it
seemed like a problem we would eventually outgrow. Twenty-five years later,
we’re still sandwiched, and some of those caught in the middle feel the squeeze.
So what’s the good part? Time spent with an elderly parent can offer an
opportunity for the resolution of “unfinished business,” a chance to indulge in
last-act candor. A college classmate writes in our 40th-reunion book of
ministering to her chronically ill mother and being “moved by how the twists and
turns of complicated health care have deepened our relationship.” I hear a lot
about late-in-life bonding between parent and child.
My mother needs a minor operation. “I’ve outlasted my time,” she says as she’s
wheeled into surgery. “Anyway, you’re too old to have a mother.” Thanks, Ma.
What about Rupert Murdoch? His mother is 102. Also, if I’m too old to have a
mother, why do I still feel like a child?
Two weeks later, Mom comes to Vermont to recuperate. My father, who died a
decade ago at 87, is buried in the field behind our house (hope this is legal).
His gravestone reads “Donald Herman Atlas 1913-2001,” and it has an epitaph from
his favorite poet, T. S. Eliot, carved in italics: “I grow old ... I grow old
.../ I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” Mom likes to visit him
there. Standing over Dad’s grave, she carries on a dialogue of one. “I thought
I’d have joined you by now, Donny, but I’m a tough old bird.” As she heads back
up to the house, she turns and waves. “À bientôt.” See you soon.
Every time she answers her phone, Gloria Chait hopes no one
“Hello?” she says in a tremulous voice, her heart sinking when a caller
For more than 25 years, Ms. Chait drew hope from the mysterious phone calls to
her Queens home two or three times a year. They began on Mother’s Day 1972, two
months after her oldest son, Steven N. Chait, vanished from his dormitory at
Each call was the same. Ms. Chait’s greeting was met with silence. But she
stayed on the phone, listening to the crackle of static, sensing that her son
was on the other end. She told him she loved him. She begged him to come home.
Seconds passed, then minutes, before the caller finally hung up. Ms. Chait kept
a log of the calls on a pad of yellow lined paper until about 10 years ago, when
“I always said his name and heard silence,” Ms. Chait said recently in her
high-rise apartment in Fresh Meadows, her blue eyes heavy with sorrow. “But
someone was there.”
Mr. Chait’s case is one of the New York Police Department’s oldest open missing
persons cases, a distinction that has won him little recognition. Like the bulk
of New York City’s 338 others, his is not a famous case, nor was his
disappearance widely grieved.
Mr. Chait never fueled the national intrigue that followed the disappearance of
Judge Joseph Force Crater, who stepped into a cab in Midtown Manhattan in 1930,
never to be seen again. Nor did he spark the massive emotional outpouring that
came after Etan Patz vanished, at the age of 6, on his way to the school bus
stop near his SoHo home in 1979. Etan, too, was never found.
Instead, history seemed to forget Mr. Chait almost as soon as he bade his
roommate goodbye 35 years ago. “Take it slow” was all he said before slipping
away, seemingly into thin air.
No intensive manhunt followed, no big poster campaign. His friends waited two
days before calling the Chaits and telling them that their son, who was 20, had
missed his classes as well as his shifts at Mama Joy’s, a now-shuttered
delicatessen on Broadway near 113th Street. Mr. Chait left behind no clues, just
a suddenly shattered family, and a gaping hole in his mother’s life.
“We knew, we knew, we knew this was very serious,” said Ms. Chait, of the moment
she learned that Steven was gone.
Looking back, Ms. Chait sees darkly portentous signs in her son that she thinks
she overlooked then. His moodiness. His perfectionism. His tendency to despair
if he felt the world had failed him, or that he had failed it.
Ms. Chait would never accept the possibility, though, that Steven might have
committed suicide. She believes he walked away from his life, but that he is
“I feel it in here,” she said, pressing a fist to her heart. “It’s very deep,
the deepest kind of feeling.”
Steven was born tiny, the first of Ms. Chait and her husband Harry’s three
children, but grew up sturdy and tall. He was exceptionally bright. By the age
of 9, he was reading The New York Times and U.S. News & World Report, and
earning top marks in school. He excelled in track, and his trophies, tarnished
by time, still line a shelf of his old bedroom. After he was accepted at
Columbia, he wore his student identification proudly, like a medal.
But after he got a C in a crucial engineering course, a devastating first, he
switched to art history. He had always been solemn but now seemed haunted by
“How are you doing, Steven?” Ms. Chait would ask him. “Living,” he would reply.
The last time Ms. Chait saw Steven, he was home for the weekend, asleep in the
bedroom he used to share with his little brother, Gary. His 5-feet-10-inch frame
was stretched long, facing away from the door. A tumble of dark curls spilled
across his pillow. Ms. Chait closed the door gently and left with her husband
for a party on Long Island.
Their son went back to Furnald Hall on campus that night and spent much of the
next morning lying in bed, listening to music, his roommate later said. Then he
pulled on a jacket, a knit hat and scarf, said goodbye to his roommate, and
At first, the police tried to assure the Chaits that Mr. Chait’s absence was
voluntary and temporary, so the couple searched for him on their own.
Ms. Chait said they went to an abandoned stadium on Randalls Island where Steven
had once raced. They traveled to Washington because Steven adored architecture,
and a new I. M. Pei building was going up.
Silence enveloped their home. Ms. Chait wept often, and her husband spent long
hours in an armchair, drinking endless glasses of wine. Gary left for college,
and would later fall into a deep depression of his own. Their youngest child,
Risa, then in the 10th grade, escaped the gloom by often staying with friends.
“They did the best they could for us,” said the daughter, now Risa Jampel, who
went on to Yale and is now a dermatologist in Baltimore. “But they couldn’t
The Chaits’ friends dropped away, unsure of what to say. Invitations to parties
and dinners dried up. Neighbors avoided them.
“People used to cringe when they saw me, like I was a witch,” Ms. Chait said.
“In this building, one man out of 92 families had the decency to spend an hour
with Harry and me.”
Harry Chait eventually surfaced from his depression and stopped drinking. He
told his wife he had come to peace with Steven’s disappearance.
But Ms. Chait could not. She wrote hundreds of letters to newspapers, magazines
and possible employers. She joined a support group for the parents of missing
children. She strained to catch sight of Steven in crowds. Gary and Risa would
scour the faces of homeless people, too, trying to see Steven in them. They
Harry Chait died of a brain hemorrhage in 2002.
The mysterious phone calls provided some comfort, though Ms. Chait never found
out who they were from.
In 2005, she finally cleared out Steven’s clothes. She donated the ones that did
not disintegrate in her hands.
The police investigated the case and kept it open because no body was ever
Determined that Steven Chait’s name not be forgotten, Dr. Jampel financed a
track scholarship at Columbia in his name, which will be awarded for the first
time this spring.
Ms. Chait, who is 78, has made new friends but rarely tells them about Steven.
The tragedy of what happened, and the pained joy his memory brings, is so deeply
ingrained in her that it has become almost too enormous to mention.
Tomorrow, on the 35th anniversary of his disappearance, Ms. Chait plans to start
her day as she always does. She will push her delicate frame through a series of
lunges and push-ups, which are called sun salutations in yoga.
And she will finish with the same posture she always ends with. One knee bent,
the other leg strong and straight. Arms wide, stretching in opposite directions.
Eyes gazing forward, soft and resolute. The warrior.
“I’m never going to give up,” she said. “He’s too precious to me.”
SOUTH BELOIT, Ill. — Doug Metcalfe cut the umbilical cord
immediately after Jen Betts gave birth to baby Sara. It had been a difficult
pregnancy, and everyone was relieved that the delivery, though a few weeks
early, had gone well.
"Then they put her on my tummy, and I cried, which I do with
all of them because I can't help it," Betts says. "Doug picked her up off my
tummy and hugged her. It was incredible."
After a week in intensive care, the baby was discharged from the hospital.
Except for photos, Betts hasn't seen Sara since.
Sara's story shows how the definition of family is being reshaped by science and
the yearning for parenthood. Betts, 26, is a gestational surrogate. Metcalfe and
Sara's other father, Brian Lahmann, are a gay couple. Sara is the result of an
anonymous donor's egg and sperm from one of the fathers; they haven't even told
their families which one. The embryo was transferred to Betts by in vitro
Since 1976, there have been about 25,000 surrogate births in the USA, says
Shirley Zager of the Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy, a non-profit
national support group. A few states ban paid surrogacy, she says, and the use
of surrogates by gay couples is rare but growing.
Surrogacy is complicated by emotions and debates about law and morality. Arthur
Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, says it
raises ethical questions: Do parents have a right to control surrogates'
exercise and alcohol or drug consumption? How do surrogates and parents feel a
decade later? Should surrogates get visitation rights?
"Most people would say, 'Wait a minute. If you can buy an egg and buy sperm and
buy a uterus, aren't we doing baby-buying?' " he says. "Is that right?"
Surrogacy could lead to genetic engineering, says Herbert Krimmel, a professor
at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles who has written about the issue. "I
don't think it's appropriate to create a child for compensation," he says. He
believes the practice is "potentially very psychologically damaging to the
child" and the surrogate.
Betts, who disagrees with such critics, won't say how much she was paid. She
says the fee is "a plus" but says it's not the reason she became a surrogate.
She never felt ownership of Sara, she says, or regret after the baby went from
her womb to her fathers' arms.
"She's not mine," she says.
Sara, who is now almost 4 months old, is thriving at home in Philadelphia with
Metcalfe, Lahmann and their other daughter, Helen, 4, who also is the result of
surrogacy. "We didn't go into this wanting to be trailblazers," Metcalfe says.
"We went into this wanting to be a family."
Betts has given birth five times: three children with her husband of almost
eight years, Ryan, 26, who is a pipe fitter, and the two she bore as a surrogate
— Sara, and another girl born in June 2004 for a married couple. Betts has
promised to carry one more baby for them.
'The real reason I do this'
Betts says she was self-centered until she got pregnant with her oldest son,
Devon, 7. "I realized it wasn't about me anymore," she says. "I'd never
experienced such love for anybody before."
Then son Ryley, 6, came along. Betts wanted a daughter, and Kaylen was born four
years ago. "When I had my girl, I was done," Betts says, but the fulfillment of
motherhood made her want to help infertile couples. She decided to donate eggs.
Then Frances Fox, managing director of A Woman's Gift, a New Jersey agency,
asked if she'd be interested in surrogacy.
"Initially I said no because I did try that before I had Kaylen, and it was a
horrible experience," Betts says. She went to Mexico to meet a couple and got
stuck with $5,000 in bills. "I was naive," she says.
Betts says surrogacy isn't about money. "If I go to work at McDonald's full
time, I'm going to make the same amount," she says.
"Is it a plus? Yes, it is. I'm not going to lie to you and say it's not. I'm not
going to share (the amount) because it takes away from the real reason I do
Zager says a typical surrogate fee after medical and travel expenses can range
from $20,000 for a first-time surrogate to $25,000 or more for one who already
has had a successful surrogacy. Egg donors can be paid $4,000 or more.
Betts could find a job easily, she says, but being a surrogate enables her to
stay home with her kids.
She's critical of surrogates who insist on contracts that add fees if they have
cesarean sections or other invasive procedures. "There are some surrogates,
unfortunately, who do it for the money," she says.
Not an easy pregnancy
When she met the couple who became parents of the first baby she had as a
surrogate, Betts says, "I had never felt a connection with people like that. I
truly 100% believe it was meant to be."
She also needed her husband's support. "After the problems we had the first
time, he was more cautious," Betts says. "The second time, we had a conversation
for a good six hours before he said OK. I couldn't do it without him. You
literally give your life away for a year."
After her first surrogacy, Betts tried to get pregnant for another couple. It
didn't work. They adopted instead. Then Fox asked her how she felt about helping
a gay couple. "I'm open-minded to the fact that people live different lives,"
Betts says. "Who am I to judge?"
Betts spoke with the men on the phone. In October 2005, Metcalfe and Lahmann
flew here. "I knew immediately when I saw them: This is going to work," Betts
Metcalfe says it "felt like a comfortable, good fit" to them as well.
"When you go into this, you do need to know the person," Lahmann says. "You have
to be able to ask them hard questions."
Metcalfe, 40, manages a Ronald McDonald House; Lahmann, also 40, is a doctor.
They have been a couple for almost 15 years. They considered adoption, foster
children and traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate's own egg is used,
but decided gestational surrogacy was best for them.
Next came the lawyers and the contract — "the worst part," Betts says — and
medical tests. Betts regulated her menstrual cycle to match the egg donor's. She
took medication that stopped her ovaries from producing eggs and took hormones
to prepare the lining of her uterus. Everyone was tested for sexually
By Christmas 2005, the contract was signed. In February, Betts flew east for the
transfer of three embryos and stayed at the prospective fathers' home in
Betts knew almost immediately she was pregnant. She waited until the blood test
confirmed it to tell Lahmann and Metcalfe. "I knew it was going to be positive,
so I sent flowers and balloons to be delivered the day of the test," she says.
She told them it was their pregnancy, not hers. "Don't treat me like I'm a
business associate, because that's not what I'm looking for," she told them.
"I'm doing it to gain people in my life that are going to be close to me."
There were some scary moments over the next few months. Five weeks into the
pregnancy, Betts experienced searing pain and went to the hospital. A second
embryo had lodged in her fallopian tube. She had emergency surgery.
Everyone worried the trauma of the surgery would hurt the fetus. A few days
later, an ultrasound showed that it was fine.
At 20 weeks, there was another crisis. An ultrasound showed a pool of blood
beneath the placenta. The cord was incorrectly attached to the placenta. So
after the 32-week ultrasound, Betts was admitted to the hospital. If she went
into labor early, the cord might detach, and the fetus could die. Two days
later, Betts went home for strict bed rest.
Betts' mother and other family members helped take care of her children. When
her husband took time off to help, he was compensated for lost pay under the
After two weeks, Betts went back to the hospital to await Sara's birth. She was
admitted on Sept. 18 and hoped to have the baby on Oct. 4; the original due date
was Oct. 26. Sara was born Sept. 26.
The pregnancy was an emotional roller coaster, Metcalfe says. The worry that
Betts might be reluctant to give up the baby was "always there in the back of
your mind," he says, "but we never doubted that Jen was … truly doing this for
Lahmann says both couples "were true partners in this, meaning there was nothing
hidden. We could always ask and talk."
Betts loves the babies she carried for others like nieces, but she lets the
parents decide how much contact she has. "It's their child," she says. "If they
feel comfortable enough to send me pictures and give me updates, I'm thrilled."
Photos of Sara and the girl born in Betts' first surrogacy with their families
are on Betts' mantel. She has been invited to visit both families this year.
Asked if she'd like to be part of the children's lives forever, Betts says, "I
hope so. I can't expect anything, but I hope so."
Lahmann says he expects his family will stay in touch with Betts. "We try and
put ourselves in her shoes: What would she want? How would we want to be
Eventually, Lahmann and Metcalfe will explain to Sara how she was conceived.
Helen asked not long ago, "Whose uterus did I grow in?" Metcalfe says. "We
answered the question, and she was like, 'Oh, OK,' and we moved on."
The specter of a custody fight
The first national debate over surrogacy was in 1986. Mary Beth Whitehead, a
surrogate who had been artificially inseminated with William Stern's sperm,
refused to give up the child, known as "Baby M," to Stern and his wife,
Elizabeth. After a long legal fight, William Stern was awarded custody.
Whitehead was given visitation rights.
In a 1993 California case, courts ruled against a gestational surrogate who
wanted to keep the baby.
The infertility industry should be regulated, and the physical and emotional
impact on surrogates should be studied, says Jaydee Hanson of the non-profit
International Center for Technology Assessment.
Zager says most agencies carefully screen surrogates, who are usually 21 to 37
years old, married and have their own children. Fewer than one-tenth of 1% of
surrogacies end up in court battles, she says.
Betts says most surrogate stories, like hers, have happy endings: "More often
than not, the journeys work out like they're supposed to, with parents becoming
parents and surrogates accomplishing a goal."
Report says people should also
right to know
if sex offenders live in their area
Friday November 17, 2006
social affairs correspondent
Single mothers will be able to ask
the police to check the background of a new partner to find out whether he is a
sex offender under moves being considered by the Home Office, the Guardian can
An interim report of a government
taskforce will propose allowing individuals to request criminal record
information directly. Currently, it is up to police and other agencies to warn
women that their children could be at risk from a boyfriend.
Mothers would have to have grounds for suspicion and would face tough penalties
if they abused the information, including by making it public. Establishing a
relationship with a single mother is a common strategy used by predatory
paedophiles to gain access to children. Such men represent about a fifth of
child sex offenders; the rest are relatives or otherwise known to the victim.
A further proposal would give people in a community the right to be told by
police or other authorities whether there are any child sex offenders living in
their area, but not where they lived.
The proposals are contained in a paper overseen by Home Office minister Gerry
Sutcliffe which will be sent to police, the probation service and other agencies
early next month. They are seen as an attempt by the government to respond to
demands for greater disclosure of the whereabouts of paedophiles, triggered by a
number of high profile cases such as the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne.
However, despite tabloid pressure, the "emerging findings" document will not
recommend full public disclosure of the names and addresses of released sex
offenders along the lines of Megan's Law in the US, though sources said the
option had not yet been entirely ruled out.
The home secretary, John Reid, said last June that he would consider introducing
a British version of the law, introduced in the US after the murder of
seven-year-old Megan Kanka in July 1994 by a known paedophile, Jesse
Timmendequas, and sent Mr Sutcliffe to the US to investigate.
However, ministers now argue such a move could encourage vigilantes and would
drive paedophiles underground, making them far harder to manage and ultimately
putting children at greater risk. This view is endorsed by child protection
charities including Barnardo's.
At present, those on the sex offences register - nearly 30,000 across England
and Wales - have to tell police where they are living. More than 95% comply
according to Home Office figures. Since 2005, courts have also been able impose
public protection sentences, under which offenders can be kept in prison until
they are regarded as safe for release.
Under the new proposals, members of the public asking about paedophiles in their
own area would be told whether any offenders were living locally and how they
were being managed but would not be given details of how many nor any names or
The moves are intended to reform the current one way disclosure, in which the
police or other agencies have for the last five years been able to alert a
mother that a new partner is a sex offender.
A Home Office source close to the inquiry, due to be completed in January, said
the aim was to ensure "a balance is struck so that people who have a just and
reasonable concern or cause for concern can find out reasonable information."
The detail of exactly what grounds would be needed in order for police to
disclose information is still to be worked out. Ministers are also likely to
have to justify confining a new right to know to partners and not close
neighbours who might also claim their children are potentially at risk.
The disclosures come as some of Britain's most wanted child sex offenders will
be identified publicly today on a new website dedicated to tracking them down.
It is thought to be the first time that details of convicted paedophiles have
been published nationwide by Britain's law enforcement agencies.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has set up the site,
at www.ceop.gov.uk/wanted , to
appeal for information about child sex offenders who have disappeared off the
Jane Wyatt, who reigned as America’s
ideal suburban mom during the 1950’s when she starred with Robert Young in the
television sitcom “Father Knows Best” and who nearly lured Ronald Colman away
from diplomacy and into a lamasery in Frank Capra’s 1937 film “Lost Horizon,”
died on Friday at her home in Bel Air, Calif. She was 95.
Her death was confirmed by her publicist Meg McDonald, The Associated Press
A petite, attractive brunette, Ms. Wyatt found it hard to avoid being typecast
and wound up playing quite a few of what she described as “good wives of good
men,” though she confessed she would have been happier “playing the murderer or
the heavy.” She did get to play a few offbeat roles on stage and screen. In
Philip Barry’s wryly titled play “The Joyous Season” (1934), she was a moody
member of a family seething with petty feuds. As the wife of an attorney (Dana
Andrews) in the 1947 film “Boomerang,” she became embroiled in the corruption
surrounding a notorious murder. And in Lillian Hellman’s “Autumn Garden,” on
Broadway in 1951, she was married to an indolent drifter (Fredric March) for
whom she felt nothing but contempt.
For the most part, however, as she shuttled between Hollywood and Broadway, she
was called upon to be loyal, loving and courageous. In “None but the Lonely
Heart,” a 1944 film starring Cary Grant and Ethel Barrymore, she was an adoring
musician who pined for an indifferent Grant. She was cast as a courageous nurse
in “Canadian Pacific” (1949); as the faithful, supportive wife of a naval airman
(Gary Cooper) in “Task Force” (1949); and as a happily married (to David Wayne)
mother of five in “My Blue Heaven” (1950).
Her Broadway credits included “Night Music” (1940), by Clifford Odets, a Group
Theater production directed by Harold Clurman, in which she played a young woman
who finds the love of her life in New York; and “Hope for the Best” (1945), by
William McCleery, with Ms. Wyatt as a factory worker who helps a popular
columnist (Franchot Tone) see the light of liberalism.
Jane Waddington Wyatt was born on Aug. 12, 1911, in Campgaw, N.J., into a family
of distinguished lineage and grew up in New York City. Her father was an
investment banker, her mother a writer for Commonweal and other publications.
She attended the Chapin School and studied at Barnard College for two years
before joining the apprentice school at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge,
Mass. Back in New York she found work as an understudy in a Broadway show, and
her name was removed from the New York Social Register. Clearly, the wicked
stage was no place for proper young ladies.
Not daunted, she continued to audition and soon made her Broadway debut in 1931
in A. A. Milne’s “Give Me Yesterday,” as the daughter of an ambitious British
politician (Louis Calhern). She achieved a breakthrough of sorts in 1933 when
she succeeded Margaret Sullavan in “Dinner at Eight,” the hit comedy by George
S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, and then toured in the show, leading to a contract
offer from Universal and her Hollywood debut in “One More River” (1934), based
on John Galsworthy’s last novel.
Ms. Wyatt said at one point that her favorite film role had been in “Task
Force,” opposite Gary Cooper, but she is probably best remembered for her work
in “Lost Horizon,” based on the novel by James Hilton and directed by Frank
Capra. Most of the film’s action takes place in Tibet in a fabled region called
Shangri-La, ruled by an ancient High Lama. A plane crash brings a small group of
Westerners led by a British diplomat Bob Conway (Ronald Colman) to the lamasery.
There, Colman meets and is entranced by Sondra (Ms. Wyatt), an attractive young
woman who has grown up in Shangri-La. The High Lama is looking for a successor,
Sondra is looking for love, and the Colman character must choose whether to stay
or return to the war-torn world beyond the mountains. Critics agreed that Ms.
Wyatt was luminous in the role.
Ms. Wyatt had already made a number of appearances in television dramas before
she joined the cast of “Father Knows Best” in 1954. The show followed the lives
of the Anderson family in the Midwestern town of Springfield, with Robert Young
as Jim Anderson, Ms. Wyatt as his wife, Margaret, and their three children, two
of them teenagers. Family crises arose — a son’s first dance, a daughter’s first
crush — and were firmly but lovingly resolved. When CBS dropped the show in 1955
there were so many protests from viewers that NBC was persuaded to pick it up.
“Father Knows Best” returned to CBS for the 1959-1960 season, its final run of
new episodes. The show brought Ms. Wyatt three Emmy Awards. In 1977 she returned
to the role, this time as a grandmother, in two made-for-television movies, “The
Father Knows Best Reunion” and “Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas.”
Ms. Wyatt married Edgar Bethune Ward in 1935. He died in 2000. She is survived
by their two sons, Christopher Ward of Piedmont, Calif., and Michael Ward of Los
Angeles; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
One of her more offbeat television parts was that of Amanda, the human mother of
Mr. Spock, the pointy-eared Vulcan member of the “Star Trek” crew of space
voyagers in the late 1960’s. She reprised the role in the 1986 film, “Star Trek
IV: The Voyage Home.”