A new California lawsuit is revealing the sordid realities and ethical nightmares that lie behind so-called surrogate motherhood — the practice, legal in 22 states, in which women are allowed to sell their own or other women’s biological children in exchange for cash payments in the tens of thousands of dollars.

As revealed recently by PEOPLE Magazine and the New York Post, a Georgia sperm donor known in court papers only as “C.M.” is attempting to force a California woman to abort one of three triplets she is carrying because he paid for only one of them.

According to the article, “C.M.” paid a 47-year-old mother of four, Melissa Cook (photo), US$33,000 to bear for him a child conceived from his sperm and eggs donated by a 20-year-old woman.

In the past, so-called “surrogate motherhood” involved women selling their own biological children for money.

The women would conceive through artificial insemination (IVF), for a fee, and then turn their biological children over to whoever had paid for them — often to a male and female couple who could not conceive a child but increasingly, in recent years, to gay men who also want to raise children.

However, technology has advanced to the point that doctors can now implant eggs and sperm in a true surrogate mother — a third woman who is not genetically connected to the child but who carries it in her womb until birth.

However, one of the dirty secrets of IVF generally and of surrogate motherhood in particular is that doctors often create more embryos than can be safely carried to term. The doctors often destroy in the womb the “extra” embryos, weeding them out like carrots in a garden.

This is the dilemma in Cook’s case.

She ended up carrying triplets and the Georgia man who paid her — a 49-year-old postal worker who lives with his parents — wants only one of the children.

He wanted the court to force Cook, who is now 23 weeks pregnant, to kill one of the unborn children through abortion. He apparently planned on giving up the second child through adoption.

However, Cook replied that she wanted to seek custody of the third “extra” child, not kill it through abortion as “C.M.” wanted.

According to People, the Georgia postal worker’s attorney wrote to the pregnant woman, Cook, and said that “her refusal to undergo an abortion would make her liable ‘for large money damages.'”

The is the world that America’s callous abortion regime and legal culture has created. Children are not commodities that can be bought and sold on the open market — and killed at will in utero.

“I have a deep empathy for men who want children,” Cook said in a statement released to PEOPLE. “However, I now think that the basic concept of surrogacy arrangements must be re-examined, scrutinized and reconsidered.”

The New York Post, which claims to have broken the story about Cook, is campaigning against the sordid practices behind surrogate motherhood.

“It amounts to a human breeding industry, where women are paid anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 to give birth to other people’s children — not to mention the exorbitant fees for lawyers and ‘placement’ agencies,” wrote Jennifer Lahl in the Post right before Christmas.

Law added that, as in Cook’s case, “US contract law is being used to try to forcibly terminate healthy babies.”

She also pointed that the European Parliament, which has long been sceptical of baby selling through surrogacy, in late December condemned the practice, calling it an exploitation of mostly poor, vulnerable women.

Robert J. Hutchinson is the author, most recently, of Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth.  He lives in the United States.

Robert J. Hutchinson writes about the intersection of politics and ideas. He is the author of What...