S.17-A, Hoylman / A.6959-A, Paulin: In relation to gestational surrogacy agreements or “collaborative reproduction”
Published on May 22nd, 2017
Memorandum of Opposition
The above-referenced bill would undo New York’s longstanding prohibition of compensated surrogate parenting contracts. It would thereby encourage the buying and selling of children and the outsourcing of motherhood. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.
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 up to a civil penalty of $10,000 and forfeiture of the fee received in brokering the contract; a second violation constitutes a felony.
Importantly, this policy was signed into law in 1992 by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo, at the unanimous recommendation of the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law, with bipartisan legislative support and endorsements from advocacy organizations as disparate as the National Organization of Women and the State Catholic Conference.
What distinguishes surrogacy from other reproductive technologies is not the technology itself but the circumstances of its application – it is a contractual arrangement whereby a woman bears a child for another, with the intent of relinquishing that infant at birth. The arrangement compels an unnatural act: telling a mother not to bond with the baby she bears in her womb. In all other areas, society requires parents to take full responsibility for their children. Parents are obligated by law to provide for the financial, educational, social and health-related security of their children.
We believe that undoing New York’s ban on commercial surrogacy contracts will lead to:
- The treatment of human beings as commodities. A baby is not a consumer product to be bought or sold based on the supply and demand of the economy.
- Increased fracturing of families. The very term “collaborative reproduction,” defined in this legislation, undermines the dignity of marriage and the sacredness of the family. When any sperm, egg and uterus can be ‘combined’ to ‘make’ a baby, the potential exists for a child to have up to five parents. Donor-conceived children may never know their true biological origins or experience the natural parent-child bond. The personal testimonies found at www.anonymousus.org highlight the confusion, pain, loss and abandonment felt by many of these children.
- Abuse of the poor. New York State law prohibits donating an organ for profit; why is renting a womb and purchasing the “reproductive product” any different? Those who live in dire poverty do not have genuine “freedom of choice” in making a decision to carry another’s child. Many are vulnerable women who are desperate for financial 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.
- The exploitation of women. 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 surrogacy is not without serious health risks to women, who must receive multiple injections of synthetic hormones for embryonic implantation, some of which have not been approved by the FDA for fertility use. It would be shameful for New York, which has made great strides in combatting the scourge of sex trafficking, to give the green light to yet another form of human trafficking.
- Economic considerations overriding all others. As assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are increasingly commercialized, there is increased likelihood that economic incentives will override the practical and moral considerations of these practices. We believe that commercialization will lead to an increased drive for “made-to-order babies,” an increased drive to pre-select the sex of infants, and an increased reliance on “fetal reduction,” (the practice of eliminating too many infants in the womb in multiple pregnancies), even as the medical community is moving in the opposite direction, to decrease the number of embryos transferred in any one ART cycle.
Moreover, it is our understanding that the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law is currently re-examining this issue. At a minimum, it would be premature for the legislature to act prior to the recommendations of the Task Force.
The Catholic Church recognizes the legitimacy of the desire for a child and empathizes with married couples struggling with infertility. We continue to promote morally acceptable fertility techniques, to encourage and facilitate adoptions, and to hold these families in prayer. But, as outlined in the consequences listed above, we believe that this legislation fosters grave violations of human rights and human dignity. It is not in the best interests of children, marriage, families or society. We urge you to oppose it.