The recent abortion expansion bill isn’t the final word on how our state government views babies to be commodities that can be bought, sold, or discarded. The Governor, when he submitted his annual budget last month, snuck in a bill that would legalize commercial surrogate parenting. That is to say, it would legalize baby-selling
Way back in the 1990’s, when our present Governor’s father was in that office, New York State was a leader in banning commercial surrogacy. That move stemmed from the controversy over “Baby M”, a child conceived through surrogacy in New Jersey. Governor Mario Cuomo and the Legislature followed the unanimous recommendation of the Task Force on Life and the Law and banned the practice here in New York. It was clearly seen as an exploitation of women and degrading to human life
But now the current Governor has broken with his father and has managed to get the Task Force on Life and the Law to reverse their earlier recommendation. Nothing has really changed. The dangers of surrogacy are still just as real as they were in the 1990’s, as a powerful minority report from Task Force members pointed out. But the majority of the Task Force was moved, it seems, by the desire to open up parenthood to same-sex couples. This is a terrible example of how a special interest group can influence public officals who are more concerned with counting votes and rewarding supporters, regardless of the dangers to the common good.
Those dangers are self-evident from the way that commercial surrogacy works. A contract is agreed upon between “intended parents” and the “gestational carrier”. The “carrier” is not related to the “parents”, and she will become pregnant with an embryo that has been created in a laboratory through in vitro fertilization (IVF). The egg and sperm aren’t necessarily from the intended parents — they can come from complete strangers
The standard surrogacy contracts impose all sorts of obligations on the “carrier”, and there is a severe penalty if she doesn’t comply — if she violates any provision, she forfeits any payment under the agreement and has to reimburse the “parents” for any of their expenses. This could entail tens of thousands of dollars in penalties and lost income. Talk about coercion
The contract specifies that the “carrier” will completely relinquish all parental rights upon the birth of the child. It also gives the “parents” the power to control virtually every aspect of the “carrier’s” life, subjecting her to medical oversight by a doctor chosen by the “parents” and restrictions on her activities, including, believe it or not, her sexual activities with her husband
Even worse, the contract gives the “parents” complete discretion over whether the “carrier” will have an abortion, if the “parents” decide that the unborn child has a disability, or if it is a multiple pregnancy and they want to “reduce” the number. It is hard to believe, but it’s true — the “carrier” must submit to an abortion or pay a substantial financial penalty
Funny how we’re not hearing the Governor shout about “her body, her choice”. Instead it’s “have the abortion or pay up”
The economic imbalance of these arrangements should cause outrage among supposed “progressives” and feminists. Low-income women are certainly going to be more attracted to enter into these contracts, and the costs of IVF and the surrogacy arrangement ensures that only high-income people could afford to be “intended parents”. The minority report of the Task Force did the math, and found that the average “carrier” would be earning below minimum wage for her efforts. So much for the “progressive” commitment to economic justice and ending inequality
Our current laws still ban selling bodily organs, selling of babies, paying people to surrender parental rights, we set limits on payments to mothers giving children up for adoption. But this bill would shatter that consensus. I doubt it will stop here.
In other times, this would be seen as an appalling example of indentured servitude or even slavery, treating mothers and children as commodities to be bought and sold. Most countries, including all of Europe, have banned it as a violation of fundamental human rights. Developing countries have outlawed it because they don’t want their women being treated as mere incubators for rich Western “fertility tourists”. But here in the moral free-fire zone of America, it’s a supposedly enlightened practice celebrated by the media and vigorously promoted by gay rights groups
By including this bill in his budget, the Governor has corrupted the democratic process through a raw exercise of power. In our dysfunctional governmental process, it is extraordinarily difficult for an item in the budget to be removed by the Legislature. And given the influence of “progressives” and gay rights groups in the Democratic party that controls the Legislature, there appears to be little interest in removing or even debating this dangerous proposal
We can still try to hold back this measure, by contacting our legislators and urging them to oppose legalizing baby-selling. The New York State Catholic Conference has been leading this fight, and they have an alert in their Action Center that will allow us to send emails to our representatives. We also have more information on our website about the dangers of commercial surrogacy
With this bill, as with the abortion expansion law, the Governor has also sent a signal to the world that in New York, morality is obsolete. There is no apparent concern for the exploitation of poor women. None for the babies thrown away through economically-coerced “fetal reduction”. None for the “excess embryos” trapped in frozen limbo through IVF. None for the children who will be separated from their birth mother and perpetually confused by the question of who their parents really are
Powerful, influential and wealthy people want to buy babies, and our state government is going to open up the market place.