GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Imagine welcoming your newborn twins only to learn the law doesn't recognize you as their rightful parents. That's what a Grand Rapids couple is currently fighting.
Jordan and Tammy Myers spoke with 13 ON YOUR SIDE health reporter Val Lego about the 1954 law that is preventing them from gaining parental rights over their twins and forcing the Myers to instead, adopt their own children.
This story starts five years ago, when Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer and beat it. However, the battle left her unable to carry anymore children -- the Myers have an eight-year-old daughter. They were overjoyed when a woman answered their Facebook post seeking a surrogate.
That woman was Lauren VerMilye. She gave birth to the twins, Eames and Ellsion on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
According to the Myers, the twins are the combination of Tammy’s frozen eggs and Jordan's sperm. Tammy's eggs were were extracted before she underwent cancer treatment. The embryos were implanted into VerMilye via in vitro fertilization (IVF) at the Grand Rapids Fertility Center.
"We were kind of prepared that it could be tricky, it could definitely be expensive -- but it's all possible," Tammy explained.
In the fall of 2020, while VerMilye was pregnant, the Myers' tried to file as the twins' legal parents. However, navigating Michigan's anti-surrogacy law was going to prove trickier than anticipated.
Michigan's Surrogacy Parenting Act makes compensated surrogacy illegal for carriers and intended parents. Even if a surrogate isn't compensated, the law says that any agreement made between the parties won't be recognized in court.
The Myers said two different Kent County Family Court Judges dismissed their attorney's efforts to establish them as the twins' legal parents. Both judges cited the Surrogacy Parenting Act. The law deems surrogacy parentage contracts "void" and "unenforceable."
"No money is changing hands," the Myers' attorney Melissa Neckers said. "These people are doing it out of the goodness of their heart just because they want to help somebody have a baby who's already had so many struggles."
"We didn't know it would be this difficult," Tammy explained. "We were dreading the process, because we knew it would be a little tricky. But we didn't know that there would be this many steps required -- and we definitely did not know that we would be pushed to adopt, and maybe that's us being a little naïve."
Tammy and Jordan are the twins' biological parents, but the state of Michigan doesn't agree that the two are the legal parents.
The Myers said after being denied the chance to explain their situation in court, Neckers tried establish Jordan as the twins' father through the Michigan Paternity Act. That was also dismissed.
Now, the Myers are faced with only one solution: "It's looking like adoption is our only option," Tammy said. "We started looking into what that means and how long that process takes, and how much it costs."
►Watch the full interview here.
"Doing an adoption is probably the fastest," Neckers explained. However, adoptions means undergoing criminal background checks, getting finger printed, having a social worker inspecting their home for its safety, discussions about their family history and how they will discipline the twins in the future.
"Having to go through that process and having somebody come through your home and have to judge you based on that is kind of degrading," Jordan said. "This, obviously, is something that's not financially attainable for a lot of couples in a lot of different ways. We've saved and stretch where we possibly could, because we wanted to make this a reality for our family."
"The adoption system isn't really set up for this situation either," Neckers went on to say. "It's asking for information about people who are completely unrelated to the child they're adopting."
But despite roadblock after roadblock, the Myers said they are are prepared to keep working through the red tape in order legally become a family.
"Without a doubt we should be able to bring them home it's just how many hoops we have to jump through to get there," Tammy said.
Hoops Neckers believes no family should have to go through, "We need to get the law changed." Tammy said Michigan is years behind and by mid-February, will be the only state in the country that has not update its fertility laws to create a better process for intended parents in surrogacy to gain legal rights to their children.
Fortunately, the Myers' surrogate is supportive of them getting their parental rights.
"She signed up knowing what she was getting into," Tammy explained. "And she doesn't have any desire to raise these babies, she took on this journey and made more sacrifices than we can count to give them to us. And now, you know, we are very thankful that she's very on board with fighting for our rights and for the rights of any other couple that will be in our shoes someday."
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