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When Gloria Ruiz decided to become a gestational surrogate, she thought she was doing families struggling with infertility a favor. Now that she’s carried other people’s children twice, Ruiz doubts sacrificing her well-being for people who want to become parents by renting another woman’s body is as generous and kind as her fertility agency told her.

Ruiz, a stay-at-home military wife and mom of a child with special needs, initially saw renting her womb as beneficial to her family. They could have some extra cash but not lose their matriarch to a time-consuming desk job somewhere in a California high-rise.

Those benefits didn’t feel like a complete lie the first time she was paid to carry someone else’s child, Ruiz says, but that changed. Seven months after she delivered her first surrogate baby in March 2021, Ruiz’s agency onboarded her to be a gestational carrier for another couple.

“I kind of finally just gave in to the pressure,” Ruiz told The Federalist. “I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, but it needs to be just as perfect as the first one.’”

Unfortunately, it was anything but.

Emotionally and Physically Scarred

The married couple Ruiz’s agency matched her with lived about an hour up the road from her home, says Ruiz. They planned to use in vitro fertilization to join a purchased egg and the husband’s sperm or sperm purchased from an anonymous man. Ruiz’s surrogacy contract provided to The Federalist confirms this plan. Because the man was a citizen of Spain, where all forms of surrogacy are banned, they needed to rent a woman’s body in a country where surrogacy is legal, like the United States.

Ruiz said the couple agreed to her conditions, which included limited travel for appointments so she could care for her son. Shortly after signing contracts, however, Ruiz said, “things started going south.” The health insurance policy the people renting her body bought for Ruiz’s surrogacy-related medical expenses required her to travel about an hour away for some doctor’s appointments and check-ups, as several emails and medical documents Ruiz showed to The Federalist attest.

“That was when the doubt started setting in,” Ruiz said. “At that point, I didn’t really have a choice but to move forward because they had already paid for a policy and medical clearance. If I backed out, I was held liable for thousands of dollars, money which I didn’t have.”

Ruiz was caught off guard again when, she says, the intended mother told her at an IVF appointment that her husband was disappointed they only had boy embryos to implant.

“I remember calling the caseworker and I kept telling her, ‘This doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right.’ And she kept saying ‘Oh, no, it’s fine. Once they see the baby, they’re going to fall in love with it and it won’t matter,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz first met the father at the embryo transfer appointment, where she says he shared “uncomfortable and gross” details about his sperm extraction. At lunch the same day, Ruiz says she sat quietly by while the couple loudly argued about the sex of their baby.

“The minute I got home, I called the caseworker and told her what he said to me. And she goes, ‘Oh, he’s just being silly,’” Ruiz said. “And I was just like, ‘No, this is inappropriate. Why are you making excuses?’”

After her embryo transfer in July 2022, hospital documents show Ruiz was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe type of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that leads to extreme dehydration and weight loss. She became sick to the point of needing an IV, while her paid care for needs like these was an hour away.

Ruiz’s worst fears came true when she went to one of her distance appointments with the woman renting her body, only to get a call from her son’s school saying he was having a panic attack and needed his mom. Ruiz had to wait until the appointment was over to make the near-hour trek back to pick up her son. An email from the woman paying to use Ruiz’s body substantiates this incident.

Health records she shared with The Federalist show Ruiz went to the emergency room multiple times for pregnancy-related complications. She eventually went into preterm labor and rushed to the hospital she knew the secondary insurance would cover. Communications provided to The Federalist show she repeatedly asked to deliver the baby at a hospital closer to her home that she wasn’t sure would be covered by the surrogacy insurance.

A call with a surrogacy lawyer empowered Ruiz to go to a hospital nearby: “She goes, ‘You know what, this is your life on the line now. Sign yourself out and go to a hospital that’s actually willing to help you.’ And so I did,” Ruiz said.

When Ruiz arrived, the obstetrician told her she needed to deliver. During labor, the baby’s heart rate began to drop, Ruiz says. Pushing at nine centimeters dilation to potentially save his life by delivering him faster, Ruiz said, “was one of the most painful things I had ever done.”

She says the hospital sent the baby to the nursery alone to wait for his parents while she received iron infusions for excessive bleeding. She had also taken the infusions for months leading up to the birth, hospital documents Ruiz showed The Federalist indicate. When she asked to see the baby to say goodbye, the intended parents denied her a visit, according to messages between Ruiz and agency staff.

Postpartum recovery for Ruiz was also difficult. She says she bled for 19 weeks, discovered her teeth were eroded, and had back pain. She says she was also diagnosed with secondary infertility, the inability to become pregnant or give birth after previously doing so, and tension with her husband increased.

She tried to take the couple who rented her body to small claims court to recover medical costs the couple’s insurance did not cover, but was deterred after they hired a personal injury attorney, shows an email with the attorney Ruiz sent The Federalist.

“I was admitted to a mental health facility for two months just from all the trauma and the stress of constantly having to fight them for money that part of the contract said was supposed to be mine regardless,” Ruiz said. Health care records she sent The Federalist confirm her two-month treatment.

When The Federalist asked the International Surrogacy Center (ISC) about Ruiz’s claims, Founder and Executive Chairman Maria Valencia refused to give a detailed response based on the agency’s confidentiality policy.

“We have a contract with all surrogates and intended parents who go through our program that prohibits disclosure as to whether they are (or were) our clients and also prohibits discussing confidential matters with the media,” she wrote in an email to The Federalist.

Instead, Valencia shared ISC’s generic policy on pregnancy complications.

“If there is a surrogate or intended parent who is going through complications, medical issues, or any kind of challenging time, we are in continuous contact with them several times a week (through texts, emails, phone calls, and video calls) to assist and support them in any way we can and connect them with resources,” Valencia continued.

Valencia also said financial arrangements between surrogates and intended parents are determined at the beginning of the surrogacy process.

“Surrogacy agreements stipulate that all medical bills related to the surrogacy journey will be reimbursed to the surrogate or paid directly by the intended parent within the agreed-upon timeframe through an escrow account that is established and fully funded before the journey begins,” Valencia concluded.

With Surrogacy, Everybody Loses

Ruiz said she’s in a better place now, but warns other women who may be enticed by fertility industry advertising and media coverage that downplays these kinds of risks. Surrogacy often manifests negative physical, mental, and emotional effects on gestational carriers, the babies they carry, and the intended parents.

“From the beginning, there’s going be trauma in those babies’ lives. I think that they are ripped apart from everything they’ve ever known from the beginning,” Ruiz said. “I do think that they have a rough road ahead of them because they are now going to be raised by strangers.”

Ruiz said she thinks children carried by surrogates also feel pressure to be “the perfect child” because their parents spent so much money on their conception and birth. She also said her experience has made her examine the motivations of people who use assisted reproductive technology (ART) and surrogacy to purchase children: “Adoption is very much a real thing. Adoption is a less expensive thing. So is it really that you want a child or that you want to design your child?”

When asked if she would ever do surrogacy again, Ruiz responded, “God, no.”

“And I would never, ever, ever encourage any other woman to do it,” she added. “The first time it worked out and then the second time, I obviously ended up spending most of that money on just trying to stay alive.”

Ruiz said she’s shocked that, despite publicly available information and stories like hers about the risks of surrogacy, California continues to be “a free-for-all all” for trade in human bodies and body parts.

“I think I have a hard time knowing that, in this day and age, the government is turning a blind eye to what’s really going on, which is trafficking under the guise of giving the gift of life to ‘deserving couple,’” Ruiz said.

[RELATED: The Conservative, Pro-Life Case Against Surrogacy]

Jordan Boyd is a staff writer at The Federalist and co-producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Her work has also been featured in The Daily Wire, Fox News, and RealClearPolitics. Jordan graduated from Baylor University where she majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @jordanboydtx.