The Catholic Church has long stood against commercial surrogacy, saying
that the process exploits vulnerable and low income women.
The Catholic Church has long stood against commercial surrogacy, saying that the process exploits vulnerable and low income women.

As the state legislative session nears its end, the fight to continue the current ban on commercial surrogacy in New York appears to be ending.

A newly proposed bill (A.1071-B/S.2071-A.) is being readied for passage by both houses, and would legalize surrogate motherhood in the state.

Unlike altruistic surrogacy, where women are not compensated for their time as surrogate mothers, commercial surrogacy refers to any arrangement where the surrogate mother is compensated for her services and reimbursed for medical expenses while pregnant.

New York is one of only three states, alongside Louisiana and Michigan, that currently bans commercial surrogacy outright. 

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for state lawmakers to approve the new bill while speaking at a LGBTQ fundraiser. Cuomo promised to get the bill passed by the end of the legislative session, which is due to conclude on June 19. 

The Catholic Church has long stood against commercial surrogacy, saying that the process exploits vulnerable and low income women and puts a price on human life.

Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, said that commercial surrogacy “really is the legislature playing God.”

“We think that both women and children will be exploited under this bill,” said Gallagher. “This will be opening a Pandora’s box of potential consequences.”

Commercial surrogacy has been a controversial topic for decades. Advocates for its legalization argue that the procedure would be safer if regulated, and the new bill allows for surrogate mothers to receive compensation for their time while pregnant.

Those opposed — which includes many feminist groups — argue that monetary compensation would pressure low-income women into becoming surrogates for cash, and objectifies women and their children as products to be bought and sold. 

“This isn’t going to be rich women (acting as surrogates),” Gallagher said. “It’s going to be economically poor women.”

On May 22, the NYSCC released an alert about the likelihood of the bill’s passage. Only a day later, over 3,000 messages had been sent to the state legislature opposing the bill. 

“The female womb is a life-giving gift from God,” Gallagher said, and is not to be regarded as a mass “reproductive machine.”

On May 28, the NYSCC released a memorandum of opposition against the bill, saying that New York State is fighting to legalize commercial surrogacy “at precisely the time when other nations are reversing course and outlawing the procedure.”

“The international commercial surrogacy trade has been exposed, and several countries such as India, Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia, where brokers found access to impoverished women willing to serve as surrogates, have banned the practice.”

The practice of commercial surrogacy is almost entirely banned by European nations where the process is deemed a “human trafficking issue.”

The memorandum also listed four primary harms of commercial surrogacy:

• It treats children as commodities to be manufactured, bought and sold
• It exploits women, particularly poor women
• Insufficient evidence of safety for women involved
• It intentionally fractures families

The Catholic Conference has also noted strong opposition in the language used in the newly amended bill, which states “No fertilized egg, embryo or fetus shall have any independent rights under the laws of this state, nor shall any fertilized egg, embryo or fetus be viewed as a child under the laws of this state.”

“We most certainly understand the intention of this language, since this legislation is being promoted by the assisted fertility industry, with the potential for lucrative profit in this state,” said the NYSCC. “However, we will never cease in our advocacy to protect the rights of the unborn members of our human family.

“We strongly urge you to examine all facets of this legislation while keeping in mind the best interests of women, children, families and society. We believe this bill, if enacted, will foster grave violations of human rights and human dignity, and will reap many dangerous consequences. We urge you to oppose it.”