New York’s commercial surrogacy legalization will exploit women, critics say

New York state this week legalized commercial surrogacy, prompting concerns about the exploitation of women and commodification of children.

The law, passed during April 2020, took effect Feb. 15. Prior to the law’s implementation, New York was one of only a few states including Louisiana, Nebraska and Michigan that did not allow commercial surrogacy.

The law allows New Yorkers to pay a woman to carry to term a child conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also known as gestational surrogacy. It explicitly excludes traditional surrogacy, in which a surrogate mother uses her own eggs, and therefore is related biologically to the child.

Gestational surrogacy routinely costs between $100,000 and $150,000, the AP reported.

The New York Catholic Conference, which speaks on behalf of the bishops of the state, called the bill “a dangerous policy that will lead to the exploitation of poor, vulnerable women, and has few safeguards for children.”

“We will likely not know the medical, psychological, legal and ethical ramifications of this new policy for years to come. For certain, commercial surrogacy deliberately and completely separates children from at least one of their biological parents,” Kathleen Gallagher, Director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, said in an email to CNA.

“It treats those children as made-to-order merchandise rather than priceless gifts from a loving God. It denigrates and exploits women, reducing them to nothing more than ‘hosts.’ It offends the dignity of women, children, family, and human reproduction.”

Among the new law’s provisions, it requires prospective parents seeking a gestational surrogate to pay for “comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of [the surrogate mother’s] choosing.”

However, the legislation explicitly denies any and all rights to babies in utero, stating that they may not be viewed as a ‘child’ under the laws of New York, with the presumption that they must instead be viewed as manufactured products or disposable goods. As a result, the law allows surrogate mothers to abort the children they are carrying.

Gallagher has noted that many other nations worldwide, including almost all European Union members as well as Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia, have outlawed commercial surrogacy “because of the exploitation of women and commodification of children that inevitably results from the profit-driven surrogacy industry.”

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