Who Are the Parents of Jaycee Buzzanca?

The strange case of an in-vitro orphan is defining the hazy area of surrogacy rights

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.— Adorable, chubby-cheeked Jaycee Buzzanca will turn four years old April 26, yet due to the bizarre circumstances surrounding her birth, an Orange County, Calif., Superior Court determined last May that she was without legal parents.

However, a March 10 Appeals Court ruling overthrew the Superior Court decision and determined that John and Luanne Buzzanca are Jaycee's legal parents because they contracted to bring her into existence—literally.

As reported in the Nov. 23, 1997 issue of the Register, the Buzzancas, a married couple unable to conceive a child, contracted to use donor sperm, a donor egg, and a surrogate mother to “have” a child of their own. A month before Jaycee was born, however, John Buzzanca filed for divorce.

In February 1996, 10 months after the child's birth, the 4th District Court of Appeals issued a temporary ruling that John must pay child support pending the divorce case. In September of that year, the surrogate mother entered the law suit, filing for custody of Jaycee with the claim that she agreed to bring a child into a loving family, not a legal struggle that would force Luanne to formally adopt the child she and her husband contracted to bring into existence.

In May 1997, Superior Court Judge Robert Monarch ruled that Jaycee had no legal parents and relieved John of child support responsibilities. The recent Appeals Court decision overturned that ruling and required that both the Buzzancas be identified as parents on Jaycee's birth certificate. The court also ordered John Buzzanca to support Jaycee until she turns 18.

Legal experts are calling this a landmark case in surrogacy rights because it is the first case tried in which none of the parties involved has a genetic link to the child. The court decision emphasized the responsibility of people who undertake to create children using scientific technology.

“A child cannot be ignored,” read the decision. “Jaycee never would have been born had not Luanne and John both agreed to have a fertilized egg implanted in a surrogate.”

Robert Walmsley, Luanne Buzzanca's attorney said the case “carries significant ramifications because in the arena of surrogacy there are literally hundreds of folks ... where the genetic material has been donated from one place or another.”

While legislators and civil lawyers discuss the far-reaching ramifications of this case and what should be done to ensure that artificially conceived children grow up with clear parental identity, the Catholic Church stands firm in her declaration that such artificial tampering with human birth is immoral.

In its 1987 instruction on respect for human life in its origin and the dignity of procreation, Donum Vitae (Gift of Life), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote: “The inviolable right to life of every innocent human individual and the rights of the family and of the institution of marriage constitute fundamental moral values, because they concern the natural condition and integral vocation of the human person; at the same time they are constitutive elements of civil society and its order....

“Heterologous artificial fertilization,” the document continues, “is contrary to the unity of marriage, to the dignity of the spouses, to the vocation proper to parents and to the child's right to be conceived and brought into the world in marriage and from marriage.... [I]t brings about and manifests a rupture between genetic parenthood, gestational parenthood, and responsibility for upbringing. Such damage to the personal relationships within the family has repercussions on civil society: What threatens the unity and stability of the family is a source of dissension, disorder, and injustice in the whole of social life.”

Karen Walker writes from Corona del Mar, Calif.