News Release: New Surrogacy Laws Place Vulnerable Women at Greater Risk, Undermine Natural Bond Between Birth Mother and Child

Michigan Upends Protections for Women Despite International Condemnation of Paid Surrogacy

A close-up of a pregnant woman protectively holding her belly with one hand and signing a contract with the other

April 1, 2024

(Lansing, Mich.) — State lawmakers have failed to consider the totality of concerns present with paid surrogacy contracts that Governor Whitmer signed into law today, concerns that include protecting vulnerable women from exploitation and human trafficking, along with how the practice minimizes the dignity of motherhood and childbirth into a sale and delivery mechanism for the gain of others, Michigan Catholic Conference said after the governor signed House Bills 5207–5215.

“While every child possesses inherent dignity and worth, regardless of the manner by which the child came into the world, the change in Michigan law will allow for those with resources to obtain a child at the expense of women in financial need,” said Michigan Catholic Conference president and CEO Paul A. Long. “For profit surrogacy contracts that pay females for the use of their reproductive means violate the inherent dignity of women and unethically allow children to be the subject of a contract. The practice of surrogacy undermines the significant prenatal bond formed between a child and the mother who nurtured him or her through birth.”

The bills will end Michigan’s current prohibition on compensated surrogacy contracts and create a new, unregulated industry in Michigan that will result in the advertising, recruiting, and targeting of women to become paid egg donors and surrogates. Additionally, Michigan will likely realize a surge in surrogacy agencies and attorneys whose work is built around negotiating contracts between couples or individuals with means and vulnerable, cash-strapped young women for the conception, birth, and forfeit of a child.

MCC has sought to inform lawmakers of realities across the world where contractual surrogacy laws have given rise to concerns over increased fraud and exploitation of women who become surrogates. For example, Pope Francis, the United Nations, and the European Union have in their own respects spoken to, promoted research, or passed resolutions warning of human rights concerns inherent to the practice of surrogacy, particularly its impact on women. Surrogacy “undermines the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity… [surrogacy] shall be prohibited and treated as a matter of urgency in human rights instruments,” reads an E.U. resolution.

“We recognize the good that exists in a desire to have and raise children and create a family of one’s own. However, there is a societal cost to compensated, for-profit surrogacy,” Long said. “With the law requiring surrogates to have previously given birth to a child, young or single moms - likely those with small children of their own—will be targeted for the use of their body and enticed with money needed to provide for their children.”

During debate in committee and the full Senate before the Michigan bills were sent to the governor, the legislative majority declined to consider any amendments. Changes proposed would have clarified that intended parents’ payments for a surrogate mother’s legal representation would also cover dispute resolution so that a surrogate is not forced to succumb to the demands of the intended parents. Lawmakers also decided against considering amendments to implement a residency requirement and another that protects women with intellectual or developmental disabilities from being used as surrogates.

“Infertility is a bitter cross to carry for those who yearn for children. This is why we continue to advocate for policies that promote and improve the state’s adoption and foster care system, so married men and women who earnestly desire to be parents may be better connected with the thousands of children in need of loving homes,” concluded Long.

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

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