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P.M. v. T.B. - 907 N.W.2d 522 (Iowa 2018)


The only Iowa legislation specifically mentioning surrogacy exempts traditional "surrogacy arrangements" from the criminal statute that prohibits selling babies. Iowa Code § 710.11 (2017). The Iowa Legislature tacitly approved of surrogacy arrangements by exempting them from potential criminal liability for selling children. Neither traditional nor gestational surrogacy contracts are prohibited under Section 710.11


The plaintiffs, the intended parents, were a married couple unable to conceive their own child. They signed a contract with the defendants, the surrogate mother and her husband, who, in exchange for future payments of up to $13,000 and medical expenses, agreed to have the surrogate mother impregnated with embryos fertilized with the plaintiff-father's sperm and the ova (eggs) of an anonymous donor. The defendants agreed to deliver the baby at birth to the intended parents. The surrogate mother became pregnant with twins, but after demanding additional payments, refused to honor the agreement. The babies were born prematurely, and one died. The intended parents sued to enforce the contract and gain custody of the surviving child. The district court, after genetic testing, ruled that the contract was enforceable, terminated the presumptive parental rights of the surrogate mother and her husband, established paternity in the biological father, and awarded him permanent legal and physical custody. The defendants appealed.


Was the gestational surrogacy contract enforceable under Iowa law?




The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court found that the gestational surrogacy contract was legally enforceable in favor of the intended, biological father against a surrogate mother and her husband who were not the child's genetic parents. The intended parents would not have entrusted their embryos to the surrogate mother, and the child would not have been born, without their reliance on the surrogate's contractual commitment. A contrary holding invalidating surrogacy contracts would deprive infertile couples of the opportunity to raise their own biological children and would limit the personal autonomy of women willing to serve as surrogates to carry and deliver a baby to be raised by other loving parents. The district court properly established paternity in the biological father based on the undisputed DNA evidence and terminated the presumptive parental rights of the surrogate mother and her husband. The district court correctly awarded permanent custody of the child to the biological, intended father.

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