MHB warns of irresponsible attacks on surrogacy families

As we wrote before, a bill in Albany has the potential to finally make surrogacy legal (only 2 other states still do not allow this…). It is the best legislation we have ever seen, with a “Surrogate Bill of Rights,” measures to make sure women are not exploited, and protections to all involved. However a vocal opposition may prevent it from even getting a vote in the Assembly, vilifying surrogacy as “baby selling”, “child trafficking," etc. Their irresponsible and false attacks may not just lead to a missed opportunity, but also to lasting stigmatization of our families.

After finally ending years of Republican control, the NY Senate just passed the Child Parent Security Act (CPSA), sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman. The bill is the most comprehensive, thoughtful and ethical surrogacy legislation we’ve seen. The vote was 40 - 21, with only one Democrat opposed (Senator Liz Krueger), and two Republicans in favor. Almost all (80%) of women in the Senate voted for the bill, and that numerous women’s organizations, activists and researchers advocate for it.

Nevertheless a small vocal group led by Gloria Steinem is attacking the bill as anti-women. They have yet to provide one example of a US based surrogate who opposes it, or who can testify for having been exploited. In a June 13 letter, RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association), rebutted these outdated and misleading attacks point-by-point.

Michelle Pine, a two-time surrogate and a member of the board of Men Having Babies, points out that the opposition in the name of feminism is puzzling: "One foundation of feminism is autonomy over our own bodies. Just as we can be trusted to make the right choice when it comes to abortions, we must be considered responsible and informed enough to decide to carry a pregnancy for infertile or same-sex prospective parents."

Beyond the missed opportunity if this bill fails, it may also have lasting implications for our families. It is one thing to have an anachronistic bill from the 1980s that prohibits surrogacy, but quite another for a legislature of one of the most progressive states to reject a bill on the grounds that surrogacy is inherently a morally repugnant practice. It is humiliating for our surrogates, it stigmatizes our families, and could expose our children to bullying.

It is especially worrisome that an LGBTQ elected representative, like Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, is balking from supporting the bill. Assembly Member Deborah Glick went further to call surrogacy "pregnancy for a fee" and the "commodification of women."

Let's be clear: compensating surrogates is not inconsistent with ethical surrogacy. On the contrary. As the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch recently stated: "People acting as surrogates... may receive compensation that constitutes fair recompense for lost wages and other opportunity costs, health care and nutrition expenses, and restitution for the significant burdens and risks associated with pregnancy. We submit that such arrangements do not and should not in and of themselves constitute sale of children".

This is consistent with the MHB position. Surrogates are not the employees of the intended parents or the agencies. They do not "sell" or "rent" anything. They deserve a compensation for the risk (even if minimized through good screening), physical discomfort, and the disruption this process causes to their lives. The CPSA ensures that the compensation is not tied to any specific outcomes (surrogates get compensated the same even in the unfortunate case of a stillborn).

Think of this analogy: Should you be saved by someone from a deep dark hole you were stuck in, let's say the hole of childlessness… Would you emerge out and reimburse them for the rope? Or would you feel you owe to compensate them for the risk, physical beating, and emotional stress this might have caused them and their families? This compensation would make them whole, at least to some degree. It would not make them morally tainted for "selling their bodies".

And at all time it is important to recognize the surrogates for the altruistic nature of their act, regardless of the compensation.

Do we doubt the bravery of firefighters just because they are compensated? Do we doubt the patriotism of soldiers or consider it morally troubling that some of their choice to enlist was financial? And we should still make the distinction that these examples are of vocations, which surrogacy is not. There are no "talented" or "efficient" surrogates. These are terms form the workforce, and do not apply to them.

So why the opposition? It is hard to tell of course. However it seems like it is part of the cultural urge for some to score "sensitivity points". Indeed, Assembly Member Glick accused one of our members who wrote her about this as "mansplaining." Consider this: Dr. Yasmine Ergas, the only witness who testified against the bill at the NY Senate hearing on May 29, started by apologizing that she would use female pronouns when talking about surrogates. Was she concerned about hurting the feeling of an imaginary transgender surrogate (a complete impossibility, as anyone who understands surrogacy would attest)? Or was she just appeasing the "woke" police? Clearly she was less sensitive as she went on to dehumanizing all actual surrogates by stating that they are selling babies.

We know from polls that 72 percent of New York’s registered voters are in support of regulated, compensated surrogacy. There are thousands of families in New York State that were formed with the help of a surrogate, many of them are part of Men Having Babies. Let's show that we are not a “silent” majority.

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We need your help to counter this campaign of falsehoods! And if possible, before June 19, when the vote is likely to occur.

What's the best way to help?

  1. Make sure you know who is your representative.
  2. See if they are in this TOP PRIORITY list (members that have not yet committed to support, but we think they may do so if they are encouraged by voters)
  3. If so: CALL their office (the number is in the list), and send them a personal email (here is a sample).
  4. If they are not in the list: Use this tool (also the button above) to quickly send them an automated message. If they support or oppose the bill, let them see you care! We also want to prevent last minute defections