October 25, 2011 ( – After a CNN report this week condemned an illegal surrogacy ring run by high-profile fertility lawyers, one expert says that media and the pro-life community alike still fail to acknowledge the corruption endemic in the entire “baby trafficking” business – whether legal or not.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Sandra Endo this week reported on the surrogacy business of Hilary Neiman and Theresa Erickson, two of the most prestigious reproductive law attorneys in the world, who impregnated surrogates before adoptive parents were found. If the baby survived to the second trimester, the attorneys auctioned him or her off to the highest bidder, up to $180,000 per baby.

The line between legal and illegal surrogacy is not always clear: the CNN story notes that the attorneys offered “designer babies in race and gender,” an option advertised by several U.S. IVF clinics legally. The business’s only legal foul was its non-compliance with California law requiring adoptive parents to sign up before the baby – already created in a laboratory – was implanted in a surrogate, instead of after.


“Trafficking in human life without having a parent ahead of time is really, I think, quite troubling,” FBI agent Keith Slaughter told CNN.

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But Jennifer Lahl, the founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, said the chilling aspects of Neiman and Erickson’s “baby trafficking” don’t only belong to illegal fertility operations. “Ms. Erickson and her co-conspirators violated a legal distinction without a difference,” said Lahl.

“Erickson broke the law by having the surrogate impregnated before the contracts were signed. But commercial surrogacy, whether done legally or Erickson’s way, is still selling babies. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical.”

Lahl pointed out to LSN that the particular California statute violated by Neiman and Erickson was not universal, and that the loose network of surrogacy laws around the world “change[s] all the time.”

“Babies are being bought and sold. Women are being exploited. Non-traditional families are being made with no consideration for the children created by these technologies,” said Lahl. “And in this specific case, we see that greed trumps all.”

The IVF industry operates with a presumption that babies prior to viability are expendable, a viewpoint found in the CNN story: one surrogate mom complained that she wanted out of the deal, but could not end the situation because she was near viability.

“I wanted to separate myself form the situation and you can’t do that when you’re pregnant—with a baby that’s almost viable,” she said. “She’s kicking, she’s moving, she’s a constant reminder.’

Lahl is the creator of Eggsploitation, a documentary on the victims of underregulation in the fertility industry, a movie which Erickson had strongly attacked as agenda-driven against fertility treatments before she was arrested.

“She has hammered me personally again and again in her TV show, because she put herself forward as such an ethical, above-board person,” Lahl told in a telephone interview this week.

“The truth has now come out and as it turns out, it is Erickson who has been doing the lying,” she wrote in August. “The public relations damage to the industry has been done, and who better to do it than the industry darling.”

Lahl told LSN that prior to Erickson’s arrest, “everybody wanted her on their board, and the moment she was busted everybody pretended they didn’t know her.” “Needless to say, the fertility industry is reeling,” she said.