In a case that has drawn national attention because of the multiplicity of issues it raises in surrogacy cases, a California Court of Appeal ruled today that a man and woman who contracted with a surrogate mother are the child's legal parents, even though the baby was born after the couple divorced.
The ACLU of Southern California had filed an amicus on behalf of the wife, Luanne Buzzanca, to ensure her legal status as the mother of the child, whom she has raised since birth and is now two years old.
The ACLU hailed the ruling as a victory for parents and children. "The court said it best," said ACLU/SC staff attorney Taylor Flynn. "The Buzzancas brought this child into the world. Mr. Buzzanca cannot claim that he is not responsible simply because technology made it possible for him to have a child using sperm and egg donation. Biological ties are not the exclusive definition of a family."
In overturning the Superior Court ruling from last September, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District said, in part, "The trial court then reached an extraordinary conclusion: Jaycee had no lawful parents. . . We disagree. Let us get right to the point: Jaycee would never have been born had not Luanne and John both agreed to have a fertilized egg implanted in a surrogate."
The Court of Appeal sent the case back to the Superior Court ordering the lower court to declare Luanne the lawful mother and giving her legal custody of her daughter. The Court also ordered the lower court to declare John Buzzanca the legal father and to establish appropriate permanent child support from him for his daughter.
The matter began when the Buzzancas engaged the services of a reproductive agency in 1994. The surrogate mother was implanted with a sperm and an egg from anonymous donors. The Buzzanca's are not the biological parents of their daughter. The couple divorced a month before their daughter was born in 1995.
Mr. Buzzanca sought to waive all responsibility for the child, and asked the Superior Court to declare that neither he nor his ex-wife were the legal parents of the baby girl. Last September Superior Court Judge Robert Monarch agreed with Mr. Buzzanca and ruled that the daughter, Jaycee, had no parents. Today's ruling overturns that decision.