Kelly Martinez’ Testimony on South Dakota Surrogacy Bill

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on January 30, 2020

Post image for Kelly Martinez’ Testimony on South Dakota Surrogacy Bill

Good morning. My name is Kelly Martinez and I’m a mother.  I have three children at home, and I also am a mother to five babies through three surrogate pregnancies.  I gave birth to twins for a couple from France, a single birth to a couple in the US, and my last surrogacy was another set of twins for a couple in Spain.  I was a commercial gestational surrogate each time and my decision to be a surrogate has changed me forever — and not for the better.

I no longer support commercial surrogacy and here’s why. I used to be a very proud, independent and open-minded woman. I was proud because I’ve been through so much: like losing my brother to suicide.  And yet still I had a purpose: I was driven, being pregnant fulfilled my need to be independent and relied upon by others — I loved being pregnant knowing that the life that inside me depends on me 24/7.

After my brother committed suicide, I was living in rural Iowa at the time, and I saw an ad for surrogacy.  I remembered writing a paper in high school on surrogacy and at that time I debated it. But after having two of my own children and seeing people struggling with infertility, I thought I could help these couples. I called the agency and spoke with a wonderful woman there and completed their application to be a surrogate. The agency called me and said that they had matched me with a couple in Paris who longed for a child and were having difficulty finding someone to help them.  I felt bad for them, so I agreed to be their surrogate. The agency gave me a video to watch on the joys of surrogacy, and I was told I could claim the money I was going to be paid on my taxes or not. I was told my maternity clothes allowance could be spent on anything I wanted. I was also told that my name would not go on the birth certificate for the children.

Went to Oregon and met the couple in person. They were very sweet. We got along great. My husband and I were under the impression they were married and that was how this was possible for them to use surrogacy.  Two embryos were transferred and I became pregnant with the twins on the very first try.

Closer to my delivery date, the agency called to tell me that immediately after the birth of the twins, I would have to go to Des Moines to get the birth certificates.  This was a surprise. This trip was difficult for me to make as I delivered one twin vaginally and the other by C section and was still recovering. But I did what the agency asked.  And then I received another call from them saying I would now need to go to Chicago because something unexpected had happened and the couple couldn’t leave the US without the passports for the babies.

I was fighting infection post-delivery but my husband and I loaded up our car with our two small children and made the trip to Chicago. When we got to Chicago, the couple met us at Denny’s to tell us that surrogacy is illegal in Paris and that I would have to go to the French consulate the following morning.  They told me that one of them was going to lie about our relationship, that the babies were the result of our affair. I tried to call my attorney but it was 9pm and I couldn’t reach them or the agency. I went to the French consulate the next day and everything was spoken in French. I do not speak or understand French. I was asked to sign a seven-page document that I have no idea what it said. No one translated anything for me and I was scared to death and shaking as I held the baby.  I was terrified. I signed the papers and left. Once I was back home, I terminated my parental rights immediately.

 I was seeing a counselor in Iowa to help me with deal with things, and after seeing the counselor for a while, my counselor suggested I meet with another couple she was counseling who was struggling with infertility.  I was sympathetic and money was still very tight for us as a family and I thought this could help us. I agreed to help them. Very soon I after I gave birth to a little girl for them, they divorced, a very messy divorce.

Time went on and our own family continued to grow as we had our own third child, and finances were still an issue.  We just moved back to South Dakota. Pregnancies had been relatively easy for me to this point. So, this final commercial surrogacy was for a couple in Spain.  At that time, I did not know surrogacy is illegal in Spain. Things were going very well with the couple until they found out that they were having two boys. They had paid the fertility clinic extra to put in a girl and a boy embryo so when they found out it was two boys, things changed.  They became very angry.

This pregnancy was very difficult as I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.  At 30 weeks my doctor in Rapid City admitted me to the hospital due to dangerously high blood pressure, borderline for stroke.  After a few days in the hospital my doctor said we needed to do an emergency c-section or I might have a stroke die. The boys were delivered 10 weeks premature.   The Spanish couple came to the hospital and the first thing they wanted to know was if it was still two boys. They hoped that the ultrasound was somehow wrong and that it was really a boy and a girl.   After the twins were taken back to Spain, I then found out that they did not pay my medical bills. I had collectors coming after me for $8,000 in medical bills and the agency told me there was nothing they could do.  The agency said they represented both of us, but they were not responsible. I then reached out to Jennifer Lahl, who is here with me today, for help. 

Now, I’m a broken woman who has been used, lied to, and exploited.  I very much regret my decision to serve as a commercial surrogate. I thought by my being a surrogate I could continue what I love being pregnant, help others, while making money. 

If it sounds too good to be true, most likely it is.  I have now had my eyes opened to the fact that this is really about money, not about what’s best for children.  I have been exploited, lied to, and have had so much suffering and heartache. I’m speaking out today so that I might save others from the disappointments and hurts that I have had to let you know that there’s no protection for commercial surrogates against exploitation and vulnerability. 

My life and my family will never be the same. If I could take back my journeys, I would, because it’s changed me for the worse.  The agencies didn’t care about me. I didn’t extend my family as I’d hoped. I feel used and tossed to the side and my heart is forever broken, my family forever changed.

The first couple reached out to me a few years back saying I needed to do an adoption proceeding with them now to remove my name from the Paris birth certificate.  The little girl I gave birth to is now torn between two people, not in a loving home. No one knows how the second twins in Spain are doing or if the parents accepted them for being two boys rather than a boy and a girl, or even if they even have them.  I think about them daily and wish I could tell them how sorry I am for bringing them into this whole situation. I don’t know if they will ever know about me and I just pray that they’re loved and accepted.

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