Court: Egg donor has some parental rights
Three states are involved in hearings over triplet boys.
AKRON (AP) -- An Ohio appeals court has ruled that a Texas woman who sold her eggs does have some parental rights to the resulting triplets delivered by a surrogate mother, the latest twist in a convoluted custody case involving three states.
In its ruling on Wednesday, the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals overturned a Summit County court ruling finding that Jennifer Michelle Rice, a 23-year-old Arlington, Texas, university student, had no parental rights. The appeals court ordered a new custody hearing, which was not immediately scheduled.
The ruling also disagrees with Pennsylvania's Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Shad Connelly who in January said Rice did not have the right to fight for the triplet boys delivered by surrogate Danielle Bimber, 31, of Corry, Pa.
The custody battle began just after the boys were born in Nov. 19, 2003, at an Erie hospital.
Bimber agreed to become a surrogate mother with the Indiana-based agency Surrogate Mothers Inc. in 2001. The agency matched Bimber with Cleveland State University business professor James Flynn, 64, of Kirtland, and they signed a $20,000 contract.
The agency arranged for Rice's eggs to be fertilized with Flynn's sperm. The embryos were implanted into Bimber, who delivered the triplets slightly prematurely.
Bimber took the children home from the hospital against Flynn's wishes eight days after they were born. Bimber has said in court records that she did that because Flynn and his fianc & eacute;e didn't name the children or visit them for six days after seeing them when they were born.
Bimber in that January ruling was awarded primary custody, a rarity in surrogate custody cases. Flynn was granted weekend visitation.
Rice filed a complaint in Summit County Domestic Relations Court in 2004 seeking rights to the boys. That court denied Rice's request, saying the Pennsylvania court had jurisdiction.
The appeals decision said the Pennsylvania court was wrong by not giving Rice a chance to fight for the babies and terminating her parental rights.
Because the Pennsylvania court terminated Rice's parental rights months after the Akron domestic relations court case and because the appeals court believes the Erie County custody decision was wrong, the Pennsylvania court's ruling does not apply in Ohio, the appeals court wrote.
A message was left Thursday with Judge Connelly.
Bimber's attorney, Douglas Godshall of Akron, said Rice should not be considered a prospective parent for the boys.
"She has no interest in them whatsoever," Godshall said.
Rice's attorney, Elizabeth Dobbins of Akron, says her client wants to be involved with the boys. "You can't disregard genetics," Dobbins said.
Flynn did not immediately return messages left Thursday at his office. Directory assistance had no home listing under his name in Kirtland.
Other lawsuits involving the triplets continue in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana.