Sunday, December 21, 2014

Proposed surrogacy ban has same-sex couples in mind

2/19/2014

Many couples across the country struggle with conceiving a child. Some of those couples elect to face the future remaining childless. Others, if they can afford it, seek out solutions, which may include adoption, invitro-fertilization (IVF) or even fertility treatments. Still others take the path of surrogacy — essentially having someone else carry their baby through gestation, either via the couple’s own egg and sperm or the surrogate is impregnated with sperm from the intended father.

These options help Kansas couples and others around the world ­— including comedian Jimmy Fallon and his wife which were featured in Saturday’s Parade magazine — create the families they desire. For some reason, however, one Kansas legislator wants to put a stop to surrogate pregnancies in the Sunflower State. Kansas Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, introduced Senate Bill 302 to ban the practice. Besides outlawing surrogacy, it carries a penalty of not more than $10,000 or to be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than one year or both. (Other states, including New York, Michigan, Washington and Louisiana are considering more restrictive surrogate laws too.)

Many couples across the country struggle with conceiving a child. Some of those couples elect to face the future remaining childless. Others, if they can afford it, seek out solutions, which may include adoption, invitro-fertilization (IVF) or even fertility treatments. Still others take the path of surrogacy — essentially having someone else carry their baby through gestation, either via the couple’s own egg and sperm or the surrogate is impregnated with sperm from the intended father.

These options help Kansas couples and others around the world ­— including comedian Jimmy Fallon and his wife which were featured in Saturday’s Parade magazine — create the families they desire. For some reason, however, one Kansas legislator wants to put a stop to surrogate pregnancies in the Sunflower State. Kansas Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, introduced Senate Bill 302 to ban the practice. Besides outlawing surrogacy, it carries a penalty of not more than $10,000 or to be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than one year or both. (Other states, including New York, Michigan, Washington and Louisiana are considering more restrictive surrogate laws too.)

It’s quite a juxtaposition of points of view for Pilcher-Cook, considering this same pro-life advocate recently provided legislators with a science lesson on life beginning when a woman’s egg is impregnated. So she claims to be pro-life in some instances, but not others ... like when she opposes surrogacy because she thinks it might enable gay couples to conceive a child.

A report from the Council of Responsible Genetics estimated only nine babies are born through surrogacy in each state annually from 2004 to 2008 — but that’s still nearly 500 families helped annually via surrogacy. Another estimate puts the totals double that amount or 1,250 annually. Neither number is a daunting one, but they obviously put fear in the hearts of some to the point of shutting off the surrogacy faucet to all couples just to avoid letting specific cultural and political adversaries benefit from the arrangement too.

The Senate bill, which resembles one being passed around in Washington D.C., didn’t get much traction because Senate Majority Leader Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, reportedly said she didn’t want to see the Kansas Legislature criminalize surrogacy. Though the bill might not make it through this year’s session, it certain could raise its ugly head again — especially if you consider Pilcher-Cook’s conservative House counterparts who recently passed a measure that seeks to legalize discrimination against same-sex couples.

While stricter laws for surrogacy might be needed, completely prohibiting the use of the practice could be debilitating to couples who rely on surrogate pregnancy as a last resort to grow their families.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

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