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Gloria Steinem comes out against bill that would legalize paid surrogacy


Michael Candelori/Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 06/14/19 - updated on 06/15/19

Women in economic need would "become commercialized vessels for rent," feminist pioneer argues.

Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem has written a letter opposing a New York state bill that would legalize “gestational surrogacy,” where a third party would allow the use of her womb to gestate an artificially-conceived embryo for a couple who could not otherwise have a child.

“The danger here is not the use of altruistic surrogacy to create a loving family, which is legal in New York now, but the state legalizing the commercial and profit-driven reproductive surrogacy industry,” Steinem wrote in the letter, in collaboration with the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, which takes conservative positions on other bioethical issues. “As has been seen here and in other countries, this harms and endangers women in the process, especially those who feel that they have few or no economic alternatives.”

“Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others,” Steinem wrote, referring to the Child-Parent Security Act. “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.”

New York’s state Senate voted 40-21 on Tuesday to pass the Child-Parent Security Act, but it has not been scheduled for a vote in the Assembly.

Supporters of the bill include the Family Equality Council, who argue that New York’s laws “lag far behind most other states in easing the burden for families who rely on assisted reproductive technology to become parents.”

“Unlike states with more supportive laws, current New York law governing assisted reproductive technology relies primarily on biology rather than intention to determine parental rights,” says the Family Equality Council’s Protecting Modern Families Coalition, a group of “leading LGBTQ, religious, and infertility advocacy organizations.” Among other benefits this coalition sees from the proposed law, the Child-Parent Security Act would “ensure that intended parents who enlist the help of a third-party to conceive their child have a secure legal relationship with their child from the moment of birth” and “legalize gestational surrogacy (where the surrogate is not genetically connected to the child because she did not contribute her egg), provided that the arrangement follows ‘best practices’ in the field that protect the interests of the surrogate, intended parents, and child.”

But Steinem contends that commercial surrogacy “undermines women’s control over their bodies, jeopardizes women’s reproductive rights, renders women vulnerable to reproductive trafficking and exploitation, and further subordinates women as second-class citizens, all with a third-party profit motive that is unregulated.”

A few months ago, Steinem endorsed a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo urging him to withhold his support for the Child-Parent Security Act. That letter was signed by over 100 prominent women in New York State, including Eve Ensler and Erica Jong.

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