'Gestational Carriers' Bill Defended as Life-Giving
Fletcher, Juliet, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
Legalizing contracts between couples and women who bear children for them is "about giving life," according to the state senator aiming to make it law in New Jersey.
But he's facing growing opposition from a group of social conservatives and women's advocates who say the bill amounts to legalized surrogacy.
State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, said Wednesday that his plan to allow payments to New Jersey women who bear children for third-party parents would be designed to cover spiraling medical bills and to accommodate "reasonable" living expenses -- not "living at the Ritz-Carlton."
The legislation would clear the way for binding agreements between intended parents and women willing to act as "gestational carriers" for implanted embryos. Those contracts would ensure the woman's medical and living expenses were paid by the couple, in return for her surrender of the child at birth, Vitale said.
"This would make organized arrangements that are happening in a disorganized way right now," Vitale said.
But Vitale rejected that allowing such agreements for gestational carriers -- who have no genetic connection to the fetus they carry to term -- would open the door to such agreements for all surrogates.
"I don't understand the concerns or the paranoia," he said.
In New Jersey, the state Supreme Court ruling in the groundbreaking Baby M case upheld a woman's right as a fit mother to care for her biological child. But the state has no specific law outlawing surrogacy and such contracts, despite the legacy of Baby M and the later recommendations from a state bioethics council to make such a law. Legal opinion is split on whether a woman carrying a donated egg has the same right as a so-called traditional surrogate.
The bill will face a vote in the full Senate today.
Governor Christie said Wednesday that he was aware of the bill's "emotional issue" as opposition mounted. He said if a bill reached his desk, he would be free to order further research on the full impact through a conditional veto.
"The Legislature has a role to play here in fostering this debate, if they think it's a debate that needs to be had now," he said. "Let them have the conversation."
A personal experience
Speaking at a news conference in the State House on Wednesday, one former gestational carrier, Gail Robinson, said she believes that distinction is false.
She agreed to carry a surrogate child for her brother and his partner, fathered with the partner's sperm and a donated egg. Robinson, now 50, said by the time the twin girls were born she had felt a "growing sense of moral obligation" to the babies. …