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Posted in: Motherhood & Custody, Feminism

Published on Jun 13, 2019 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for New York Daily News

Commercial surrogacy should stay illegal in N.Y.: A feminist’s perspective


One has to hand it to NYS legislators, the sponsors of the legislation they have titled The Child-Parent Security Act. I prefer to think of it as a bill that legalizes the sale of children, strip-mines female biology and eviscerates motherhood as we have known it.

With Gov. Cuomo’s support, and that of gay male celebrities, the state Senate has just passed this bill, and the Assembly is poised to vote on it. Here’s why the much touted bill remains dangerous, even as amended.

Like all commercial surrogacy contracts, this state version legally memorializes sperm and egg donation as more important than nine months of pregnancy and childbirth. In cases of gestational surrogacy, when a woman carries someone else’s fertilized egg in her womb, it disappears the birth mother’s contribution and calls her the “surrogate.” Troublingly, it views a fetus or a child contained within a woman’s womb as property that belongs to someone else.

This language serves the interests of the “intended parents,” who are primarily wealthy celebrities, gay men or those who suffer from infertility — and who choose not to adopt.

One wonders why we should bend over backwards to codify the desire of a few privileged people to have genetically similar offspring. There are many newborns and infants available in New York State for gay, single and infertile individuals and couples. However, they are mainly black or Hispanic and may not resemble the adoptive parents.

There is another reason some people might choose commercial surrogacy over adoption. Were the “intended parents” to adopt, they would have to be carefully vetted. Their past histories would be scrutinized by mental health professionals. The amended bill only provides for vetting the birthmother-surrogates, no one else.

Why? Doesn’t it matter if the “intended parents” have criminal records; are pedophiles, alcoholics or drug addicts; run brothels here or abroad; engage in trafficking, or are simply incapable of providing a stable and loving home for a child? It should.

In response to justified concerns about New York State becoming a global reproductive trafficking center, the amended bill states that one member of the “intended” couple must be “an American citizen” or a “permanent lawful resident.” That is not the same as being a permanent resident of New York State. What about the other “intended” parent? What if they reside in countries where the treatment or mis-treatment of children is not monitored as it might be in New York State?

That’s another thing. I thought we had abolished the sale of human beings.

Despite the hair-splitting insistence that the birthmother-surrogate is not selling the baby — she is merely renting out her womb — if she does not turn over, i.e. sell the baby at birth, she is violating the contract and will receive no money. Indeed, if the birthmother-surrogate decides to keep the baby she has carried for eight months, she will face a lawsuit which she is totally ill-equipped to wage.

It is predominantly economically vulnerable girls and women who sign on to be egg donors (a high-risk procedure medically speaking), and to be birthmother-surrogates. How would they be able to afford a lawsuit for extended, long-term post-pregnancy health coverage?

While the bill now allows the birthmother-surrogate to make a series of decisions about her pregnancy, there is no mechanism in place that covers the cost of such choices if they are contrary to the wishes of the intended parents. And while the bill states that the “intended parents agree to accept custody of all resulting children” no matter their condition, if a wealthy couple decide to walk away, what financial provisions are in place to pay for the birthmother’s lawyer? I see none.

I was recently involved in a California case in which the purchaser/genetic father of triplets turned out to be a single man in his 50s who worked for the post office and lived with his aging parents. Hospital personnel became alarmed by his inability to bottle-feed or diaper his three sons. Nevertheless, he was allowed to take the boys back to Georgia. CPS is keeping a close eye on this father. I fear that other such unvetted purchasers will come to New York State as the East Coast’s reproductive capital of the country and of the world.

If the Assembly passes this bill, we, the taxpayer, may be stuck with another kind of bill for the neglected, abused or unwanted children born of commercial surrogacy and for the long-term health care needs of birthmothers whose pregnancies led to complicated medical conditions.

Chesler is the author of “Women and Madness," “Sacred Bond: The Legacy of Baby M,” “A Politically Incorrect Feminist” and other books.


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