Op-Ed

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Last year, a 47-year-old California woman named Melissa Cook decided to become a commercial surrogate. Cook is a mother of four, including a set of triplets, and had served as a surrogate once before, delivering a baby for a couple in 2013. According to her lawyer, Harold Cassidy, she’d found it to be a rewarding way to supplement the salary she earned at her office job. “Like other women in this situation, she was motivated by two things: One, it was a good thing to do for people, and two, she needed some money,” Cassidy says.

For her second surrogacy, Cook signed up with a broker called Surrogacy International. Robert Walmsley, a fertility attorney and part owner of the firm, says he was initially reluctant to work with her because of her age, but relented after she presented a clean bill of health from her doctor. Eventually, Surrogacy International matched her with a would-be father, known in court filings as C.M.

According to a lawsuit filed on Cook’s behalf in United States District Court in Los Angeles earlier...