The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away.
-Pope Francis, Address to the New Non-Resident Ambassadors to The Holy See, May 2013.
This testimony in OPPOSITION to the Maryland Collaborative Reproduction Act is submitted by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the mutual public policy interests of the three Catholic arch/dioceses with territory in the state of Maryland: The Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.
The issue of commercial surrogacy is a complex matter where science, morality, and humanity converge. The Catholic Church has always supported the family as the essential nucleus of our society. However, the issues that arise with commercial surrogacy threaten the very dignity of human life and the foundation of the family unit.
Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries the child of another man and woman. Commercial Surrogacy differs from altruistic surrogacy because the woman carrying the child receives monetary compensation above and beyond reasonable medical expenses.
- Commercial surrogacy is banned throughout most of the world- including in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, China, Russia, and Canada- because it involves the exploitation of poor women by wealthy intended parents.
- The cost of commercial surrogacy can range from $50,000-$150,000. $25,000-$35,000 goes directly to the surrogate as payment for her carrying the child. This is in addition to medical expenses. For a young girl without a job or money, it makes the situation particularly predatory.
- Young military wives and recent college graduates between the ages of 21 and 30 are the targets of surrogacy broker’s marketing and advertising campaigns. They are young with a caring ethos and often poor and unemployed. Military wives also have the added bonus of their government insurance, Tricare, pay for their healthcare during their pregnancy, making it cheaper for intended parents.
Surrogacy Brokers are the intermediaries who are paid by the intended parent or parents to find a surrogate, negotiate contracts, and make payments to the surrogate. There are serious cases where surrogacy brokers, including a Maryland attorney from Chevy Chase, have been found guilty of fraud and child trafficking. (See Addendum A)
- The FBI prosecuted three attorneys, including Maryland attorney Hillary Neiman from Chevy Chase, for a surrogacy scheme where the attorneys arranged for surrogates to become impregnated and then bid the unborn children to intended parents. The attorneys then stole the money, left the surrogates without health insurance and the intended parents without babies.
- The consequence of not licensing and regulating surrogacy brokers with the state is twofold. First, intended parents do not know if a broker is legitimate. Second, if an issue arises in the pregnancy, there is nowhere to file a complaint or register the complaint with the state.
Child Trafficking and Crimes Against Children are a rising concern in commercial surrogacy. Because this legislation does not require background checks on intended parents, any registered pedophile or human trafficking enterprise can walk in and contract to buy a “made-to-order” child to abuse and traffic. (See Addendum B)
- A recent, widely reported case of a registered pedophile in Israel going to India to procure a baby girl through surrogacy and then taking her back to Israel and abusing her for years is only a glimpse of the possible abuse.
- 38 states, including Maryland, require parents seeking to adopt a child to have a criminal background check that includes sexual offenses. We should apply the same standard to intended parents in surrogacy.
Birth Certificate and Accurate Health Statistics. Currently, the medical model codes require the birth mother‘s name to be placed on the birth certificate and for the hospital to report the vital statistics to the state. However, this legislation would change that requirement, putting the intended parent/s names on the birth certificate instead. (See Addendum C)
- By not putting the actual birth mother’s name on the birth certificate, the state vital reporting statistics will not be accurate. 65 year old women will be reported as having babies.
- Many states allowing surrogacy have followed their adoption procedures. All parties go before a judge, he or she determines the agreement is consistent with the public interest, is in the best interests of the child, and is otherwise reasonable and proper, and issues the original birth certificate sealed and a new birth certificate.
Coerced Abortion. While this legislation prohibits specific performance of an abortion, it does not prevent the parties from contracting for an abortion. A young surrogate reading in a contract that she is to have an abortion under certain circumstances has little means to discover the state will not force her to have an abortion, but will know she faces very expensive monetary penalties for breach of contract. (See Addendum D)
- Young girls who become surrogates for the money are already under financial duress and particularly vulnerable to monetary coercion and the legal process.
- There are no guidelines or limitations which outline why a parent could ask for an abortion. For instance, if the baby is a boy instead of a girl, or because a girl was discovered to have a breast cancer gene.
- An amendment either limiting the monetary damages for breach of contract or one which prohibits contracting for abortion would prevent this coercion.
No Requirement for Medical Need. There is nothing in this legislation which requires that there actually be a medical need for hiring a surrogate. In other words, you can hire a surrogate because you don’t want to get fat, you are running a marathon, or you just can’t be inconvenienced. The majority of states which have legalized surrogacy, including Virginia, have required that there be some medical need that prevents the intended parents from having a natural child of their own. While we may live in a country with some of the best medical care, carrying a child and birthing it still remains one of the most dangerous events a woman faces. Surrogates face serious threats to their own health through IVF procedures and carrying babies to term. (See Addendum E)
- As the Maryland Maternal Mortality Review of 2013 says, “the Maternal Mortality Rate [MMR] has generally risen since  ….Maryland’s Maternal Mortality Rate from 2006-2010 is higher than the national average with 21.8 deaths per 100,000 live births.
- As Amnesty International notes, “It's more dangerous to give birth in the United States than in 49 other countries. African-American women are at almost four times greater risk than Caucasian women. A safe pregnancy is a human right for every woman regardless of race or income.”
As you can see, the issues surrounding commercial surrogacy are complex. Serious thought and investigation should be made so any legislation put in place would not undermine Maryland’s strong protections of children, young women, and parents.