An American surrogate mother is suing the British Surrogacy Centre, set up by millionaire businessmen Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow who made history by becoming the first gay couple named on a surrogate baby’s birth certificate. Megan Hoffner, who was contracted by their company, claims that she was left thousands of dollars out of pocket and stands to lose her home thanks to their incompetence.
Ms Hoffner, a 35 year old mother of two had previously offered her services as a surrogate to a Spanish couple, for whom she delivered twins. In 2013 she decided that she would like to bring joy to another family, and so signed a contract with the British Surrogacy Centre, set up by the Drewitt-Barlows in 2012.
“I wanted to bring the joy of children to a family who might not otherwise experience that happiness. You get paid to be a surrogate, but this was never about making money,” Ms Hoffner, who lives in San Diego, told the Mail on Sunday.
“The British Surrogacy Centre leapt out at me. Barrie and Tony sounded like remarkable men. I got in touch with their local office in LA. I thought I was in for another magical journey. Instead it turned into the worst experience of my life.”
Ms Hoffner signed a 24 page surrogacy agreement on the 21st November 2013, agreeing to carry a child or multiple children for a Brazilian couple, Marco Aurelio Lucas and Roberto De Souza Silva. The document stipulates that she be paid £22,500 for one child or £27,500 for twins, with extra expenses such as lost wages, childcare medical bills and “extra baby” clauses also included.
But Megan, who works as a PA for her father who is a legal advisor for US army veterans said that problems began almost immediately. “At my first appointment they told me I was carrying twins. I was very sick so the doctor ordered me to take total bed rest. I couldn’t work. The bills started piling up,” she said.
According to Ms Hoffman, the BSC failed to provide a translator so that she could communicate with the intended parents in Brazil. “I tried to do everything through the BSC, but they were grossly incompetent.
“I kept submitting bills for expenses and the payments would be late. The BSC told me there were issues in Brazil and that because surrogacy was illegal in Brazil they’d had their bank account flagged up. I emailed Barrie Drewitt-Barlow at the end of last year, begging him to help to get my bills paid. In return he sent me emails full of abuse.”
Ms Hoffman has shown the Mail on Sunday emails from the Drewitt-Barlow’s reading: “I advised your Ips [Intended Parents] NOT to pay you anything at all because you are a crazy bitch who deserves to be locked up! Your Ips will not be paying you one more penny! I am so happy that they ran from you!’
Another says: “U (sic) should be ashamed of urself (sic) you utterly selfish cow! You are just trailer trash woman and I want nothing more to do with u! (sic) I will dig up all ur (sic) dirt including all the lawyers u p****d off on this case! You will not get one more penny, let’s face it ur (sic) contract will not stand up in any court in Brazil! Lol.”
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow claims that the emails shown to the Mail were doctored – a claim that Ms Hoffman vehemently denies.
However, she does admit to making mistakes of her own, including writing an angry email to the Brazilian couple asking whether they really wanted the babies and explaining that she would have to put them up for adoption; a email which she says she deeply regrets.
“I blame BSC for all the problems,” she says. “The Brazilians didn’t realise that the costs could escalate as they did.”
On the 30th August last year Ms Hoffman went into labour. “I was doubled over in pain and rushed to the nearest hospital. I was heavily sedated. When I woke up the babies were gone and nobody would tell me if they were alive or dead as I had signed over my rights.” It was an experience which she describes as “the low point”, adding “I still have anxiety attacks to this day”.
She has since gone to court to try to get some of the outstanding bills paid. A Californian judge ordered £16,000 to be put in bond, but Ms Hoffman says the money was never paid as the Brazilian couple left America before handing over the cash.
Last night Reece Statham, vice-president of the BSC, said: “The majority of the money Megan claims is owed is medical fees incurred because she insisted on using a hospital not covered by her medical insurance. She was advised of this but refused to change.” Ms Hoffman has refuted this claim, pointing out that she needed an emergency caesarean and was therefore unable to change hospitals.
According to Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, Ms Hoffman had proved extremely difficult to deal with and her lifestyle made her unsuitable as a surrogate. “She actually is as mad as a hatter,” he said, but was unable to explain why, if she was so unsuitable as a surrogate, she was contracted by his company as a surrogate in the first place.
Curiously, the British Surrogacy Centre is now denying any involvement in brokering or administering the contract at all, saying that it was negotiated by both sides’ legal representatives.
Meanwhile, the Drewitt-Barlow’s have made quite a name for themselves as gay family rights poster boys. They already have five children from three surrogate mothers, and are planning as sixth. The couple also made headlines as they are taking legal action to force their local church to marry them. They have vowed to take the case all the way to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Regarding the ban on churches marrying gay couples, Barrie, who claims to be a practicing Christian told the Daily Mail “It upsets me because I want it so much – a big lavish ceremony, the whole works.” And his partner Tony, commenting on the legal case to local paper the Essex Chronicle, added “The hope is that one day, the fact that a child has two mums or two dads is not even being talked about because it’s considered the norm.”