New York State adopted its 2020-2021 budget in early April, along with a series of non-fiscal reforms.
These include the legalization of commercial gestational “surrogacy” – the practice whereby a woman is paid to carry and deliver a child that is not derived from her oocytes, in order to return it to the people who paid her.
This practice is either legal or not prohibited in all American states except Louisiana, Michigan and, so far, New York State, where it becomes possible as of February 15, 2021. (1)
The State had explicitly banned it in 1988, considering it “potentially degrading”, after the Baby M case, in New Jersey.
In 2019, many American feminists, including Gloria Steinem, wrote to the governor of New York to express their opposition to the legalization of commercial “surrogacy”; New York Assemblywomen were also opposed to it, claiming – like Deborah Glick – that it is a paid pregnancy and a commodification of women’s bodies. In June 2019, the legislative proposal was rejected. (3)
Today, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, it has been adopted (as well as the abolition of the pink tax, or the ban on the electronic cigarette). (1) (2) (4)
The law reform is accompanied by the adoption of a Surrogates’ Bill of Rights, which guarantees surrogate mothers : a comprehensive health and life insurance (for up to one year after delivery) – a measure already heavily criticized by surrogacy lawyers because of the price it represents; to have their own lawyer, paid for by sponsors; to have a choice of doctor; to have the option of limiting the number of embryos implanted, or refusing a caesarean section. All of these measures are presented as “the strongest protections in the nation” (1) for “surrogate” mothers. (1) (4)
The fact that it is her financial difficulties that motivate a woman to become a surrogate mother seems to be self-evident:
« a healthy woman with limited financial means who meets the health requirements set forth in the statute now has the ability to change her and her family’s financial circumstances. Paid gestational surrogacy can help a woman help herself and her family out of a bad financial predicament and into a better one. »
for lawyers who will increase their income through this practice:
« Beginning February 2021, legal professionals will have a new income source by helping couples participate in paid gestational surrogacy » (4).
Our Coalition observes that the provisions of the Surrogates’ Bill of Rights show the many and inevitable risks to their health and lives taken by women who become “surrogate” mothers.
We recall that “surrogacy” motherhood, whether called “altruistic” or commercial :
– is violence against women, and this remains true regardless of the sex/gender or sexual orientation of the “intended parents”: the mother always risks her life and health. « Surrogate » mothers have died during or as a result of pregnancy – and the fact that the Bill of Rights provides for extended life insurance after childbirth proves the risk of the mother’s death.
– turns the child into an object of purchase, which is provided against payment.
Consenting to give up one’s physical integrity is not a woman’s right, it is alienation. And women’s financial difficulties should not be instrumentalized to make women take risks for their lives and health.
Anticipating the handing over of a child in exchange for money is disposing of him or her as property, and is contrary to his/her dignity as a human being.
(1) Elizabeth Chuck, « New York state, long a holdout against legalising surrogacy, overturns ban », nbcnews.com, April 3, 2020 (updated April 4)
(2) Rebecca Salamacha, « New York legalizes commercial surrogacy and outlaws « pink tax » », jurist.orgApril 5, 2020
(3) Vivian Wang, « Surrogacy Pregnancy Battle Pits progressive Against Feminists », The New York Times, June 19, 2019
(4) Eric Wrubel, « Legalization of Paid Surrogacy Will Benefit Many in New York », Gotham Gazette, April 10, 2020
Translated (from French) with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)