New York Legalizes Commercial Surrogacy amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

On April 3rd, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and behind closed doors in the Capitol, the state of New York voted to legalize commercial gestational surrogacy as part of the 2021 budget package. 

To become effective in February 2021, the new legislation will allow a single person, or any couple (whether male-female, female-female or male-male), to pay a woman to bear a child. In order to avoid any legal quagmires and to prevent the surrogate mother from keeping the infant, the baby should be conceived from an egg that is not that of the surrogate mother. The law provides that the “future parents” pay for legal representation and healthcare for the surrogate mother who must be at least 21 years of age. The “future parents” must also provide life insurance for the surrogate mother during pregnancy and for one year after the delivery. Nonetheless, the latter provision does not make this law more acceptable.

In February, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo once again launched a campaign in favor of the surrogacy legislation.

Opponents denounce it as a serious violation of women and children’s rights. This new law is all the more controversial as it occurs during an unprecedented health crisis and without public debate.

In June 2019, American feminist Gloria Steinman wrote an open letter to oppose the legalization of commercial surrogacy in New York State. “Under this bill, women in economic need become commercial vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others. The surrogate mother’s rights over the fetus she is carrying are greatly curtailed and she loses all rights to the baby she delivers. The bill ignores the socio-economic and racial inequalities of the reproductive commercial surrogacy industry, and puts disenfranchised women at the financial and emotional mercy of wealthier and more privileged individuals. […] Women, children and families deserve a life that is not dictated by the profit of a commercial third party. ”

As Member of the New York State Assembly, Deborah Glick told The New York Times that surrogacy is “pregnancy for a fee” and that she finds “that commodification of women troubling.”

Kathleen Gallagher of the New York State Catholic Conference, criticized the inclusion of surrogacy in a budget bill amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We simply do not believe that such a critical legal and moral decision for our state should have been made behind the closed doors of a Capitol shut off to the public,” she said. “The new law is bad for women and children, and the process is terrible for democracy.”

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