Opponents of Commercial Surrogacy Say It Exploits Women and Children

The state of Washington last week legalized commercial surrogacy. Opponents argued the measure exploits women and children by commodifying the womb, but advocates in February successfully pushed the bill through the state House and Senate by narrow margins. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed it into law on March 6.

The measure updates the Uniform Parentage Act that governs how legal parent-child relationships are established or challenged. The law previously prohibited surrogacy contracts that included compensation.

No federal laws govern surrogacy, and less than half of states have clear legislation on the issue. Even fewer have a clearly regulated surrogacy industry. Washington’s new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019, establishes just that.

It sets guidelines for the contractual arrangement of surrogacy: Surrogates must be over 21 years old and have already delivered at least one child. Medical and mental health evaluations are required for both surrogates and the intended parents. Surrogates can be compensated for a total of two surrogacy agreements that result in children; there is no limit to how many surrogates a person can hire.

Surrogates have no claim to the children they carry. The law states they have the right to “make all health and welfare decisions regarding [their] pregnancy,” — an odd stipulation in light of the fact that almost all surrogates agree to contracts with a “termination clause” requiring them to abort the baby or babies at the request of the intended parents. The intended parents are the exclusive parents and assume financial responsibility for children once they are born.

Advocates for commercial surrogacy describe it as an altruistic act that helps infertile couples, but they also call for regulations to protect all parties.

But there is no way to regulate the rental of a womb and the sale of a child, according to Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Lahl testified against the bill before members of the Washington legislature in February. She urged the committee to abandon efforts to regulate the industry and instead abolish surrogacy: “Commercial surrogacy is indistinguishable from the buying and selling of babies. What is a surrogate being paid to do? Gestate a baby and hand that baby over in exchange for money.”

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Source: Baptist Press