Editorials

Commercial Surrogacy Exploits Women

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget contains a policy proposal unrelated to the state’s finances, which repeals New York’s long-standing prohibition on commercial reproductive surrogacy.

The proposal, misleadingly named the “Child-Parent Security Act,” would effectively legalize payments to women who agree to rent out their wombs to carry a child for a third party, to whom the infant will be relinquished at birth.

We strongly oppose this proposal and urge the state Senate to exclude it from the final 2019-2020 state budget, and to reject the free-standing legislation of the same name. 

Currently, New York Domestic Relations Law declares surrogacy contracts contrary to public policy, void and unenforceable. Vendors who assist in arranging such contracts are liable for a civil penalty of up to $10,000 and forfeiture of the fee received in brokering the contract; a second violation constitutes a felony. This policy was signed into law in 1992 by then-Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, with broad bipartisan support. 

The proposal in the executive budget would undo this policy and allow contractual profit-making arrangements for the purpose of breeding children.

Reproductive commerce is human exploitation. Commercialization denigrates the dignity of women by degrading pregnancy to a service.

In states where surrogacy is permitted, surrogate services are advertised, surrogates are recruited—most often on college campuses, in poor neighborhoods, and on military bases—and operating agencies make large profits. Yet the process of surrogacy entails invasive, often burdensome, medical procedures and serious health risks for women— including, in many cases, a multiple embryo pregnancy. 

Women who live in dire poverty do not have genuine freedom of choice in making a decision to carry another’s child. Many egg donors and surrogate “carriers” are economically vulnerable women who are desperate for income. In states where surrogacy is permitted, it is estimated that gestational surrogates are paid between $20,000 and $30,000 for “reasonable living expenses,” in addition to medical expenses. Egg donors are typically paid $5,000 to $10,000 for each “donation.” Alarmingly, vulnerable women are sometimes exploited repeatedly for their eggs or their wombs, even though the long-term health dangers to these women are unknown. 

A human baby is not a consumer product to be bought or sold based on supply and demand.

For that reason, we believe that the surrogacy policy proposed in the executive budget fosters grave violations of human rights and human dignity, and will reap many dangerous consequences.

It is not in the best interests of women, children, families or society, and our legislative leaders should firmly reject it. 

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