A woman who sold her eggs has parental rights to the resulting triplets, an Ohio appeals court said in the latest twist to a custody battle that has crossed into courts in several U.S. states.
The court ordered a new custody hearing in Ohio for the now-22-month-old boys, overturning a Summit County, Ohio judge's decision against parental rights for Jennifer Michelle Rice of Arlington, Texas.
It also contradicted a Pennsylvania court, which in January awarded primary custody to the surrogate mother, a rarity in such cases, and weekend visitation to the father.
The Ohio appeals court said Wednesday that the Pennsylvania court was wrong by not giving Rice a chance to fight for custody and by terminating her parental rights. It also said that court's ruling did not apply in Ohio.
The surrogate, Danielle Bimber of Corry, Pennsylvania, had signed a contract through an Indiana surrogacy agency that matched her with James Flynn of Kirtland, Ohio. Embryos of his sperm and Rice's eggs were implanted, and Bimber gave birth to the triplets in 2003.
Bimber took the babies home from the hospital against Flynn's wishes eight days after they were born. Bimber has said in court records that she did that because Flynn and his fiancee didn't name the children or visit them for six days after seeing them when they were born.
Bimber's attorney, Douglas Godshall, said Rice should not be considered a prospective parent for the boys. Rice's attorney, Elizabeth Dobbins, says her client wants to be involved with them.
Flynn did not return messages left Thursday at his office.
Other lawsuits involving the triplets continue in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana.