A leader of the effort to defeat same-sex marriage in Washington is gearing up for a 2013 legislative fight against paid surrogacy.
Surrogacy is the idea that a woman will carry a child to term with the understanding that it will be raised by other parents.
Surrogate contracts are generally allowed in our state, but contracts for compensation beyond basic expenses are prohibited.
Washington’s Uniform Parentage Act makes it clear that “No person, organization, or agency shall enter into, induce, arrange, procure, or otherwise assist in the formation of a surrogate parentage contract, written or unwritten, for compensation.”
Surrogates in Washington now may be compensated only for direct expenses, such as medical or legal bills.
Several legislators tried to change the law in 2011, but a measure that would have allowed for a more generous compensation of surrogates failed.
“Introducing the profit motive into surrogacy entices women to do something for financial reasons that they would otherwise not do,” says Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
In a statement, Backholm urges those who supported Referendum 74 – the failed effort to repeal Washington’s same-sex marriage law – to call legislators in advance of the 2013 session opposing paid surrogacy.
“Recognizing the dignity of the human person, we do not allow people to rent or sell their bodies or their body parts,” he says. “This partially explains why prostitution and the sale of your kidney are illegal. You can donate a kidney, you just can’t sell one.”
He says along with “practical” problems with paid surrogacy there are “philosophical” issues.
If paid surrogacy became lawful, Backholm says a dispute arising from a surrogacy contract would not be resolved based on the best interest of the child, but on the terms of the contract. In essence, he says a child becomes an “item of commerce.”
A greater issue in Backholm’s mind is that paid surrogacy “allows gay men to have a child that is biologically their own by paying someone to carry it when it would not otherwise be possible.”
He suspects those seeking to redefine marriage “will argue that allowing children to be the subject of a legal contract is also going to be good for them. Or, perhaps they will argue that whatever harm might be done to a child is simply worth it.”
Those in favor argue that surrogates provide a service and should be compensated for their efforts. Paying women, who have been educated about the process and pass background checks, can guard against problems.
Paid surrogacy is legal in some states, banned in others. Where it is allowed, payments range from about $18,000 to $30,000.
By LINDA THOMAS