The legislative session hasn’t even begun here in Washington State, but it’s already off to a controversial start.
Senate Bill 6037, which is co-sponsored by 28 Senators, would make it legal to sell parental rights through commercial surrogacy. Apparently, the arc of history now bends toward selling babies.
To understand what the bill does, and why its a problem, you’ll need a little background.
We all know that babies come from women. But sometimes women agree to carry a baby for someone else. Often this is done to help a sister or best friend who may be unable to get pregnant. This is called altruistic surrogacy.
In other cases, a woman gets paid to carry a baby for someone else. This is called contract surrogacy, or commercial surrogacy because a contract is formed and signed in which the woman surrenders her parental rights to her child for money before she gets pregnant.
While altruistic surrogacy is legal in Washington State, contract surrogacy, as in the vast majority of places around the world, is illegal. If you take a surrogacy contract into court and ask a judge to enforce it, the court will refuse. Because court’s don’t enforce them, surrogacy contracts are rare.
Some contracts aren’t enforced because we, as a community, have decided there are some types of contracts we don’t want people making. For example, we don’t want people contracting for the murder of their boss or for a truckload of cocaine.
If your hitman fails to perform but doesn’t give you your deposit back, good luck getting help from a judge.
In the same way, contracts for parental rights are illegal because we don’t want people selling their kids.
The reasons why may be obvious but are worth restating.
In a dispute over a car sale, the judge will resolve the dispute based on what the parties agreed to when the contract was signed. The court won’t worry about which party will take better care of the car because it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a car.
In disputes involving custody of a child, the court acknowledges the rights of the parents as well as the rights of the child, whose rights are actually paramount.
That brings us back to SB 6037. It would turn a custody battle into a contract dispute in which only the rights and interests of the adults are allowed to be considered.
If it seems harsh, that’s because it is. But there is a sort of logic behind the bill.
The reason this bill exists is that some men in same-sex relationships want biological children. For most of the legislative sponsors, this bill is probably nothing more than a way to show they care about gay people. Yes, heterosexual couples use surrogates as well, but the political push for contract surrogacy is being made primarily by gay men.
Since gay men can’t have children on their own, they often pay women to carry a child for them. This means they frequently end up in inconvenient and expensive custody disputes.
This bill would resolve those conflicts quickly and neatly in favor of the party with money by forbidding the court from considering the best interest of the child or circumstances that might have changed since the mother first entered into the agreement.
You learned that the intended parents are actually drug dealers with prior convictions for child molestation? Too bad. You signed the contract and took the money.
Good luck kid.
If Washington State becomes a place that resolves custody disputes quickly rather than correctly, it would become a destination for people who want children through surrogacy.
As a result, more women in financial trouble will reluctantly agree to become surrogates, change their mind during their pregnancy, and then have the child they have bonded with ripped from them at birth.
Also, more children will be created for the purpose of being raised by someone who is not their biological parent.
For decades, countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and India, have been global destinations for people wanting surrogacy contracts. In just the last few years, all of them have either restricted it or outlawed it entirely. Canada banned it in 2004. It is illegal almost everywhere on the planet, though Iran and Ukraine are rare exceptions.
Why would we open ourselves up to all the trouble the rest of the world is trying to get away from?
We all love adoption, but adoption requires a lengthy process that includes home studies and background checks. Contract surrogacy lacks all those safeguards. The only thing required to get parental rights to someone else’s child through commercial surrogacy is money.
Even if no custody dispute arises from a surrogacy contract, there is still a victim. Here’s what one man born of surrogacy had to say:
“How do you think we feel about being created specifically to be given away? You should all know that kids form their own opinions. I don’t care why my parents or my mother did this. It looks to me like I was bought and sold. You can dress it up with as many pretty words as you want… But the fact is that someone has contracted you to make a child, give up your parental rights and hand over your flesh and blood child. I don’t care if you think I am not your child, what about what I think! When you exchange something for money it is called a commodity. Babies are not commodities. Babies are human beings. How do you think this makes us feel to know that there was money exchanged for us?”
Are we a community where the adults exist to take care of the kids, or are we a community where children exist to meet the needs of the adults?
Whatever complications we adults are facing, making it legal to sell children is not the solution.
You can email your Washington State legislators by clicking here. You can also call them through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to share your thoughts about SB 6037 or anything else. Please be respectful but please be heard. Once you do that, share this information with someone else who cares. Knowledge is power but silence is consent.