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Michigan couple denied parental rights to biological twins because of decades-old surrogacy law

Couple forced to adopt their biological twins
Couple who used surrogate must adopt biological twins because of 1988 Michigan law 05:17

A Michigan couple is being forced to adopt their biological babies after they were born through surrogacy because of a decades-old anti-surrogacy law in the state. Jordan and Tammy Myers' twins were born two weeks ago, but two judges denied them the legal rights to the infants, citing the law.

Jordan and Tammy hoped for a sibling for their 2-year-old daughter when Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly six years ago. 

"Initially I thought, I'm too young and there's no way it could be breast cancer," Tammy told CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste. "My first two questions for her were, how long do I have? And my second question was, can I have more children? Can I still have another baby?"

Her medical treatment left her unable to go through another pregnancy, so Tammy froze her eggs and in 2019, she and Jordan turned to gestational surrogacy.

Asked if they ever thought they would be in a situation where they had to adopt their own children, Tammy said, "We really, truly didn't believe that someone could hear the history and not give us rights."

Tammy and Jordan found their surrogate Lauren Vermilye after posting on Facebook. Vermilye, who is married with two children of her own, lived nearby and volunteered to carry the Meyers' child for free.

"I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer 11 years ago. And just, I know what cancer can take away from you. And just to be able to help bring that hope back to somebody just really, really appealed to me and my husband," Vermilye said.

Soon after two of the Myers' embryos were transferred to Vermilye, they learned they were having twins. The process was going well, until the couple tried to get legal parental rights.

They were denied the pre-birth rights and Jordan was denied his rights as a father as well. 

Two judges in Kent County, Michigan, dismissed the Myers' efforts to be named the legal parents. They cited Michigan's Surrogate Parenting Act of 1988, which states surrogacy contracts are "void and unenforceable." One judge wrote that there are genuine concerns about the 1988 act, but those concerns are better left to the legislative and political arena.

"I just sobbed. It's all I could do. I don't understand it. It doesn't make any sense," Jordan said.

Eames and Ellison Myers were born on January 11, a few weeks premature. Their birth certificate names the surrogate, Vermilye, and her husband as the parents.

"Michigan law states that I am a married woman. And so, of course, my husband would be the father of my children, which they're not my children either," Vermilye said.

Melissa Neckers, the Myers' attorney, said since 2005, there have been at least 72 cases in Michigan where judges have granted parents in similar situations pre-birth legal rights to their biological children.

"They knew that there was risk," Neckers said of the Myers. "But they really believed that no judge would actually hear their story, which had so many additional layers of heartache and trauma, that a judge wouldn't just want to do the right thing."

Only two other states have similar strict surrogacy laws – Nebraska and Louisiana.

"Michigan would be the riskiest state to ever try and do a surrogacy contract," Michigan family law attorney Barbra Homier said.

The Myers may have been able to avoid this situation if they went to another state, she said.

"It's also very expensive to go out of state, hire lawyers and find surrogates and do everything else, right, to go out of state," Homier told Battiste.

To adopt their children, the Myers will now have to go through months of home inspections, paperwork and even an FBI background check. They're speaking out to help others.

"We just want the law to be updated," Jordan said. 

"Our hope is that we will be the last family in Michigan in this situation where we are being denied our own biological children," Tammy said.

The Myers' still cannot get the twins on their health insurance. The babies are still in the newborn ICU, but they're doing well, and hopefully will get to go home soon to their parents and big sister Corryn.

CBS News reached out to a clerk for both judges for comment, but did not hear back.

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