I first wrote about Cindy Close and her custody battle for her children in 2012. Cindy’s story is also featured in our film Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, and I have been following her case since the beginning, waiting for justice to be served.
A brief recap: Cindy and Marvin McMurrey III were long-time friends who both longed to have children. Per Cindy, they agreed to have children via IVF and share parenting without entering into a marriage. At the time of the birth of the twins—while Cindy and the babies were still in the hospital—Marvin and his partner, Phong Nguyen, alleged that they had a surrogacy agreement with Cindy. There was never a signed contract. McMurrey states it was just an arrangement, and that Cindy was also not the mother of the children because they had used anonymous donor eggs.
The babies were discharged home to McMurrey and Nguyen. The nightmare for Cindy began as she had to battle for visitation rights with the children she had carried during her pregnancy. The courts ruled that absent a valid gestational surrogacy contract, Cindy was indeed the mother because Texas law states, “The mother-child relationship is established between a woman and a child by: (1) the woman giving birth to the child.” (Tex. Fam. Code “Establishment of Parent-Child Relationship”).
Still, even with her maternity clearly established, Cindy had only limited visitation with her babies and could not even have the children for overnight visits. She filed for custody, but the custody battle was put on hold because McMurray filed an appeal challenging the decision that Cindy is the mother of the children.
On June 5, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court denied hearing the petition. In my communication with Cindy’s attorney, Grady Reiff, he told me that; “the court of appeals’ opinion stands after having been reviewed by the Supreme Court, giving it greater legal precedence throughout the state.”
This is very good news for Cindy, who can now turn her focus back to her custody battle. Her babies will be three years old next month and she still has very little visitation with them. She is allowed to see them two hours one evening, two hours another evening, and six hours on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays and Sundays. Because she lives so far away, her visits during the week typically take place someplace close to McMurrey’s home so she isn’t spending all her time driving the children in the car.
These last three years have been critical years for the development of young children. Cindy never wanted to deny the children a father and only wanted to “be a mommy.” It is sad that McMurrey doesn’t think his children need a mother and that it is fine to use a woman as a “breeder.” Let’s hope her custody battle is swift and just, and that Cindy will soon be awarded custody of her children.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.
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