A bachelor who paid $30,000 to have a baby by a surrogate mother pleaded guilty Monday to beating and shaking his 5-week-old son to death to stop him from crying.
James Alan Austin, a 26-year-old bank analyst, could get up to 25 years in prison for third-degree murder and endangering the welfare of the infant, named Jonathan. Sentencing was set for Sept. 28.
The case left ethicists blaming the largely unregulated business of surrogacy, and industry officials wondering how a single, fertile young man was granted a child by a method that many couples see as a last resort.
The Hanover Township man paid the Infertility Center of America in Indianapolis to inseminate Phyllis Ann Huddleston of Lafayette, Ind., with his sperm. Jonathan was born Dec. 8. Austin took the boy home a day later.
The baby was hospitalized a month later with a fractured skull and internal head injures. Austin acknowledged he beat the child and hit him with a plastic coat hanger to stop him from crying.
The baby died Jan. 17 after Huddleston agreed to let doctors shut off his respirator. An autopsy concluded the infant died of shaken baby syndrome.
Austin’s attorney, John Waldron, argued that the Infertility Center failed by not teaching Austin parenting skills.
But Karen Synesiou, director of the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Beverly Hills, Calif., said it is wrong to blame an agency for not providing adequate parental training.
Austin “was intelligent enough to find the agency and sign all the contracts,” Synesiou said. “It was his responsibility to take the next step. He could have gone to any hospital and joined a parenting class.”
Waldron said Austin wanted to become a father because several relatives and friends had children and he loved youngsters.
“He was a good uncle to his nephews and nieces, and he thought he could do the same if he had his own child. But being an uncle and seeing a child at Christmas or at a party at someone’s home is a lot different than being with them 24 hours a day as their sole caretaker,” Waldron said.