Hilary Neiman has become the first defendant to be sentenced in the Theresa Erickson/Hilary Neiman baby-selling case. I wrote about it last summer from the perspective of a former Intended Parent, but here’s a quick refresher: the attorneys (Erickson and Neiman) created embryos from egg and sperm donors, hired gestational carriers to carry the embryos and then told prospective parents that the original surrogacy arrangement had fallen apart and for a large fee, created documents that alleged that the new parents had entered into a pre-pregnancy agreement with the gestational carrier, allowing the parents’ names to be on the birth certificate.
In other words, baby selling.
Neiman has been sentenced to 5 months in prison, to seven months of home detention, to forfeit $133,000 in profits and to set aside $20,000 for restitution. Erickson and Chambers will be sentenced in 2012.
I have no legal training, so I don’t know if the sentence is appropriate, especially when it comes to baby selling and human trafficking. I am glad to see that Neiman will receive prison time. Even though it’s only a few months, the crime seems to warrant incarceration to send a message.
I also wonder if the sentence is enough to make up for all the damage that she and Erickson have caused the surrogacy and infertility community. Thanks to them, the stereotype of desperate infertiles, hungry for a baby at any cost has been upheld. Thanks to them, gestational carriers are portrayed as money-hungry. And thanks to them, the practice of surrogacy again appears far outside the mainstream and of dubious ethics.
Perhaps I’m not giving the public the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their ability to understand the nuances of this case but based on what I read every time an article comes about infertility or surrogacy, I don’t think my assumptions are off track.
Thanks, ladies. I can’t wait for the inevitable Lifetime movie.