ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, November 24, 2008

Contracts Limerick of the Week: Baby M

Embryo_8_cellsI taught Baby M for the first time this year. The image at left shows Baby M, at eight cells. Well, it might be Baby M. I'm not really sure. There's not a lot of contracts doctrine in the case, but there is some. By including it in the syllabus, one places oneself in danger of having to mediate a dispute on reproductive rights, but it certainly does arouse student passions. I literally had two students screaming at each other from across the room. Fortunately, they were doing so with smiles on their faces. As occurred during the original Baby M controversy, much of the controversy in my classroom hinged on the question of May Beth Whitehead's fitness as a mother. She had, after all, threatened to kill the baby while she was hiding out in Florida. The New Jersey Supreme Court cut through all the confusion and simplified matters by declaring the case to be about the sale of a child. Such a sale violated both New Jersey's statutory scheme governing lawful adoptions and public policy. As the sale was impermissible, the Stern family's surrogacy contract with Ms. Whitehead could not be enforced. The future of Baby M was to be determined according to the traditional standard of the best interests of the child.

Baby M Limerick

"Illegal, criminal and void!"
Cried the court, more than slightly annoyed.
"Let's put a lid
On this sale of a kid."
But who'll pay for her sessions with Freud?

Things turned out better than the Limerick predicts for Baby M, at least according to this report. At the time of the report, Melissa Stern was a 21-year-old college student majoring in religion and contemplating a ministry. She found it "strange" when the Baby M case came up in her bioethics class. She also spoke with great warmth of her parents, the Sterns:

“I love my family very much and am very happy to be with them,” Melissa Stern says, referring to the Sterns. “I’m very happy I ended up with them. I love them, they’re my best friends in the whole world, and that’s all I have to say about it.”

[Jeremy Telman]

Famous Cases, Limericks, Teaching | Permalink

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