A California woman is reportedly on the brink of financial ruin after becoming a surrogate for an agency owned by a millionaire gay couple in Britain.
35-year-old Megan Hoffner, a San Diego native, had been the surrogate for a family in Spain and enjoyed the experience so much that in late 2013, she decided to do it again. “I wanted to bring the joy of children to a family who might not otherwise experience that happiness. You get paid to be a surrogate, but this was never about making money,” Hoffner said.
That’s when she discovered the British Surrogacy Centre (BSC), an agency owned by millionaire couple Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow that had an office in California. Barrie and Tony, known as the first gay couple named on a surrogate child’s birth certificate, were the stars of British reality show The Parent Makers, which documented the couple’s experiences running the agency and raising their five surrogate children.
“The British Surrogacy Centre leapt out at me. Barrie and Tony sounded like remarkable men. I got in touch with their local office in L.A. I thought I was in for another magical journey. Instead it turned into the worst experience of my life,” Hoffner said.
Hoffner was hired, and signed an agreement to carry twins for a Brazilian couple. She was to be compensated $33,000 in total for the surrogacy, and gave up all parental rights. The agreement also stated that the agency would cover additional expenses such as medical bills and lost wages. Hoffner said there were problems from the very beginning.
“At my first appointment they told me I was carrying twins. I was very sick so the doctor ordered me to take total bed rest. I couldn’t work. The bills started piling up,” Hoffner claimed. The woman also said that she attempted to hire a translator through the BSC so she could correspond with the couple, but said the agency was “grossly incompetent.”
“I kept submitting bills for expenses and the payments would be late. The BSC told me there were issues in Brazil and that because surrogacy was illegal in Brazil they’d had their bank account flagged up. I emailed Barrie Drewitt-Barlow at the end of last year, begging him to help to get my bills paid. In return he sent me emails full of abuse.”
Drewitt-Barlow’s response to Hoffner’s request for assistance was, according to reports, less than understanding. “I advised your Ips (Intended Parents) NOT to pay you anything at all because you are a crazy b**ch who deserves to be locked up!” Drewitt-Barlow allegedly wrote in one email.
“U should be ashamed of urself you utterly selfish cow! You are just trailer trash woman and I want nothing more to do with u! I will dig up all ur dirt including all the lawyers u p****d off on this case! You will not get one more penny, let’s face it ur contract will not stand up in any court in Brazil! Lol,” another read. Drewitt-Barlow claimed that his emails were “doctored.”
Hoffner delivered the babies on August 30th of last year, but said she never even had the chance to see them. “I was doubled over in pain and rushed to the nearest hospital. I was heavily sedated. When I woke up the babies were gone and nobody would tell me if they were alive or dead as I had signed over my rights,” she said.
Hoffner said she was forced to court because she couldn’t pay some of the bills that had piled up from the surrogacy, and is now over $70,000 in debt. She points the finger of blame at the BSC.
“I blame BSC for all the problems. The Brazilians didn’t realise that the costs could escalate as they did.”
A representative for the Drewitt-Barlows’ agency responded to the controversy, shifting the blame to Hoffner.
“The majority of the money Megan claims is owed is medical fees incurred because she insisted on using a hospital not covered by her medical insurance,” BSC Vice President Reece Statham said. “She was advised of this but refused to change.”