“I just wanted to make people happy,” the sobbing 37-year-old defendant told the court in the Loire Valley city of Blois as the trial opened on Tuesday.
Using pseudonyms such as “little stork” and “sincere angel”, the defendant named only as Aurore landed her first successful contract in 2010 with a male homosexual couple in western France, agreeing to carry a child for them for €15,000 ($16,000).
The due date was March 21st, 2011, but when the time came she sent a text message to the couple claiming that the child was stillborn. In fact the baby boy was born in perfect health and sold for around €10,000 to another gay couple living in Luxembourg.
In 2012, she promised a baby to another male gay couple for €15,000, then told them it died. But, the baby was born healthy too, and she sold it to a straight couple in northern France.
By the time she was arrested in 2013 she was in contact with another three couples, and was charged with fraud and attempted fraud.
Experts said the defendant, who testified that she had been raped by her father as a teenager, suffered from “major emotional neglect” and low self-esteem.
“I would rather have been adopted by parents who would have loved me as I am,” she told the court, sobbing.
Her clients are being tried simultaneously for “incitement to the abandonment of children”.
“We realised it was illegal to use a surrogate mother, but when we went on the Internet we saw how easy it was,” one of them told the court.
Altruism initially led Aurore to help childless couples.
She already had four children in 2008 when she became pregnant with an unwanted fifth child, a baby girl that she offered for free to a Parisian couple.
That experience inspired her to earn money as a surrogate mother.
In August 2009, a British couple showed interest but non-professional efforts to inseminate her with the husband's sperm failed.
Deputy prosecutor Jean Dematteis has recommended that she be sentenced to a year in jail with nine months suspended and that all four couples in the case should be given suspended fines of 2,000 euros.
Surrogacy – even if altruistic – has been banned in France since 1994. The fate of the three children – the one she gave away and the two she sold – will be decided pending the outcome of the trial, with a verdict set for March 22nd.