A surrogate in California is alleging that she was pressured into terminating her second trimester pregnancy by a gay couple after the prospective fathers were informed of her aggressive breast cancer diagnosis.
Brittney Pearson, a 37-year-old from Sacramento, California, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, 2023. Pearson was 25 weeks pregnant at the time of the diagnosis for the purposes of fulfilling a surrogacy contract.
Pearson sought treatment from Sutter Health Medical Center in Sacramento, where doctors believed she could begin a form of chemotherapy treatment that could be used during pregnancy without harming the unborn child. The plan of treatment included inducing Pearson at 34 weeks gestation, which would give the child a high chance of survival without long-term health issues.
The two fathers, who are from Southern California, were supposedly initially happy for her to receive treatment and continue with the pregnancy as planned.
However, things took a turn for the worse when Pearson’s cancer, which was found to be more aggressive than other forms of breast cancer, had spread further than doctors initially expected.
According to Pearson, after a full-body MRI that revealed the severity of the cancer, her relationship with the surrogate fathers began to fall apart. The couple quickly threatened legal action if Pearson did not terminate the pregnancy. They argued that they did not want a premature child, concerned it would have health conditions they would then be expected to care for.
The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, an anti-surrogacy think tank which first reported on Pearson’s case, reported that “the fathers refused to entertain the idea of allowing the baby, if delivered alive, to be adopted by the surrogate or someone else. The fathers stated they didn’t want their ‘DNA out there’ being raised by someone else.”
During an interview with The Daily Mail, Pearson expressed her distress after she was allegedly told by the fathers of their intent to “sue anyone” who attempted to save the pregnancy, including her medical team. Pearson said that her oncology team was threatened with legal action and at one point stated they were not sure they could continue her treatment without first consulting with their own attorneys.
“It was frustrating because I wanted to give them a family,” she said. “They said they cared but they didn’t. I felt betrayed and heartbroken.”
Pearson told The Daily Mail that the “first thing” she had thought about after her breast cancer diagnosis was that she wanted to keep the baby safe.
“I would have been there, I would have given him every chance of survival , I had people ready to help.”
During the interview with the mother conducted by The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, Pearson explained that she had been “left feeling like a rented-out uterus” by the experience. She noted that the fathers would text her and tell her to let them know if there was anything she needed, but that their behavior and attitude was very different towards her doctors.
Pearson gave birth on Father’s Day morning. Her hospital stay was extended due to continuous bleeding and low iron levels. Pearson did not reveal whether or not the pregnancy was induced or terminated, or if the child was born alive. She did confirm that the child is no longer living.
Pearson told The Daily Mail that her “mother was able to hold him and take pictures but he did not survive.”
The mother-of-4 also revealed that the gay couple seized the remains of the child and decided to cremate him, leaving her confused as “they didn’t see him as a baby at all.”
Pearson said she is speaking out about her experience because she “never wants anyone else to feel like this.” She has also decided to end her career in surrogacy, which had previously given children to one other family.
Pearson said her surrogacy agency was very supportive following the loss of the child, but that the gay couple has not contacted her since seizing the child’s remains.
Jennifer Lahl, president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network commented that the case characterized her many issues with the surrogacy industry.
“I often say, there are plenty of reasons to get people to see how surrogacy is wrong, is harmful, and is bad for women and for children. This case highlights many of the problems with contracted, largely commercial, pregnancy.”
Pearson’s family has established a GoFundMe to accept donations for her in an effort to assist her with living costs as she is unable to work while going through her aggressive breast cancer treatment.