After a close vote in Ohio enshrined abortion into the state constitution, another close vote in Michigan has advanced a set of bills that would change the rules around surrogacy. Called the Assisted Reproduction and Surrogacy Parentage Act, HB 5207-5215, the bills would legalize surrogacy contracts that offer protections for the intended parents of surrogate children, while stripping the biological donors of all parental rights.
The bills passed through the Michigan state House in a vote of 56-53, largely along party lines with only two Republicans in favor. The legislation will now head to the Democrat-led state Senate, where it is expected to pass with ease. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who staunchly supports expansions to “reproductive rights,” is expected to approve the legislation,; however, she has yet to comment on its passing through the House.
Surrogacy is a practice in which a woman elects to carry a child for another “intended parent” or parents. In the US, the decision to allow surrogacy is left up to individual states, rather than the federal government. Surrogacy had previously been legal in Michigan, but arranging a contract with the surrogate mother was not.
The contract not only strips the surrogate mother of all rights to the child, placing parental rights firmly in the hands of the “intended parent,” but it also seals all information of the surrogate parent from the child.
Opponents of contractual surrogacy argue that the contract ignores the reality of biological bonds between mother and child, while placing a burden on the child as well. Children of surrogate mothers must go through a lengthy bureaucratic process to unseal the documents, even just to learn about their biological family’s medical history.
The Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) further expressed their umbridge with the rate at which the bill moved through the House. The surrogacy legislation, House Bills 5207 through 5215, was introduced to the House on Tuesday, and the bills received their first hearing about 18 hours later. The conference questions whether or not all the members of the House even had a chance to read the bills before blindly voting along party lines.
While the Church recognizes the suffering of married couples experiencing infertility, there is great concern that surrogacy exploits women, makes children into commodities, and comes with risks to the life and health of both the surrogate mother and baby.