News Release: Despite International Alarms Over the Practice, Legislature Moving to Legalize Compensated Surrogacy Contracts

MCC Urges Greater Protection for Dignity and Safety of Women, Calls on State to Promote Adoption Through Funding and Public Awareness

Close-up of a pregnant woman protectively holding her belly with both hands

March 14, 2024

(Lansing, Mich.) — Allowing individuals to enter compensated contracts for the creation of children puts vulnerable surrogate mothers and their children at greater risk of exploitation, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) said in opposition to legislation that passed a state Senate committee today that would allow for compensated surrogacy contracts in the state.

Bills passed this afternoon on a party line vote by the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee—which have already passed the House of Representatives—would remove Michigan’s prohibition on commercialized surrogacy and make the state an outlier, particularly as the broader international community largely recognizes surrogacy as a human rights violation due to its impact on vulnerable women.

A United Nations report recently found that commercial surrogacy “often involves abusive practices” while the European Union previously adopted a resolution (see par. 115) condemning the practice, stating that surrogacy “undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity” while recommending it be prohibited and “treated as a matter of urgency in human rights instruments.”

Uncompensated surrogacy arrangements are presently legal in Michigan and typically occur between close friends or family, with the baby being adopted by the intended parents upon birth. The adoption process helps ensure the baby is being suitably placed within a family.

House Bills 5207 through 5215, however, would eliminate the use of the adoption process for surrogate births in Michigan and the necessary oversight it provides. Further, the bills would inevitably give rise to a new industry should compensated surrogacy become legal in the state.

The following comments may be attributed to Rebecca Mastee, J.D., policy advocate for MCC:

“We commend those who desire to have and raise children, and we empathize with married husbands and wives who suffer the painful heartbreak of infertility. Surrogacy is mistakenly presented as a simple solution when in reality the practice is rife with social, moral, legal and ethical problems, which is why many developed nations around the world ban the practice.

“Commercial surrogacy would increase the risk of exploitation of vulnerable women, some of whom may become surrogates due to financial pressure to pay their bills or to get out of debt. This is especially troubling when emerging evidence show increased health risks for surrogates, with the likelihood of more complicated, higher risk pregnancies. Surrogacy contract provisions often tip the scales of power toward the intended parents and make it more likely that a surrogate mother be forced to succumb to the demands of the intended parents if a contract dispute arises.

“We also acknowledge that every child, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth, has inherent dignity and worth. Surrogacy, however, upends the dignity owed to children by dismissing the significant prenatal connection and intentionally displacing them from their birth mother, often just moments after their birth. We are grateful for the words of Pope Francis, who recently drove international awareness when he stated that surrogacy represents ‘a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child… A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract.’

“We call on lawmakers to reject these bills and instead promote adoption as an alternative path to parenthood through increased state funding and public awareness campaigns. There remain thousands of Michigan children yearning for foster and adoptive families, just as there are countless couples suffering from infertility who are yearning to have children.”

MCC will continue to monitor the package, including the possibility for trailer legislation under discussion from Senator Chang. “We encourage the legislature to revisit this policy to address known problems within the bills and to consider the variety of provisions other states have put in place that try to better protect children and prevent women from being exploited,” Mastee concluded.

House Bills 5207 through 5215 now head to the full Senate.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

-- 30 --