We hope Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican from Wichita, spoke for a majority of her colleagues in both the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives when on Monday she said, “Criminalizing surrogate mothers is not a priority of this Legislature.”
Unfortunately, it seems to be a priority for some legislators. One of them is state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a conservative Shawnee Republican who chairs the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Her committee on Monday heard testimony on a proposal she drafted that would outlaw surrogate motherhood in Kansas.
Sen. Pilcher-Cook’s bill would void all surrogacy contracts and make it a misdemeanor for anyone to be involved in compensating a woman for serving as a surrogate. Violators could be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced up to a year in jail.
That’s unnecessary. Among Sen. Pilcher-Cook’s arguments is that the absence of a law dealing specifically with surrogacy contracts could compromise the health of women who serve as surrogates as well as the children who are born for someone else. And along with the Kansas Catholic Conference, which also opposes surrogacy, Sen. Pilcher-Cook contends that surrogacy could turn children into commodities and exploit poor women.
Those outcomes are possible, though certainly preventable. But preventing them by outlawing surrogacy could hurt other people.
We tend to agree with individuals who testified against the proposed law and who said that surrogacy should remain an option for women who have physical conditions that prevent them from carrying a child or who struggle with infertility.
What’s more, as Martin Bauer, a Wichita attorney who’s long specialized in adoptions testified, state law already offers protections for women who serve as surrogates. Adoption law, Mr. Bauer said, limits couples to compensating a birth mother for her expenses, and added that the Kansas Attorney General’s office in the 1990s issued an opinion stating that the same restrictions apply in surrogacy cases.
Sen. Pilcher-Cook was unimpressed. Her conviction seemed to get the better of her when she equated surrogacy with “creating a child that you know is purposely not going to have either a biological, mother, biological father, or both.”
What surrogacy can do is provide a safe way for people who are unable to get pregnant or carry a child to have the opportunity not just to rear and love a child but, through a willing surrogate, to be involved in its birth.
It’s disheartening that Sen. Pilcher-Cook, who is staunchly pro-life, would want to ban a collaboration that would bring such a child into the world.