Over the past few months, Jennifer Lahl has helped organize a coalition of New York groups that prevented the passage of a state bill that would legalize commercial surrogacy, entitled the Child-Parent Security Act.
Lahl is the president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, which addresses issues that profoundly affect human dignity, including the rising practice of so-called “gestational surrogacy,” where individuals or couples contract with a woman to carry a child on their behalf. Lahl has worked with lawmakers and activists across the globe to help educate the public about the dangers of this practice, while producing films that feature personal stories of women harmed by paid surrogacy.
New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters June 19 that he didn’t believe the lower chamber was ready to support the bill.
Paid surrogacy “still is a difficult issue in the Assembly,” he acknowledged in comments reported by Politico. “All members’ opinions count, but this was a decision that really relied on the feelings of the women in the conference, and I just think there’s a handful that are not ready.”
New York barred commercial “gestational surrogacy” in 1992, in response to the notorious “Baby M” case in New Jersey.
On June 11, the New York Senate passed the Child-Parent Security Act, designed to help same-sex-attracted men and infertile couples have children with the help of a “gestational surrogate.” But as the debate over the bill moved to the state Assembly, Gloria Steinem and other prominent feminists spoke out strongly against it, joining a coalition of groups that includes the New York Catholic Conference.
During an interview with Register Senior Editor Joan Frawley Desmond, Lahl explains why Steinem attacked the bill and discusses the steps opponents took to overcome powerful monied interests that advocated for paid surrogacy as a civil right.
Earlier this month, the New York Senate passed a bill that would legalize commercial surrogacy. Where does the bill stand now?
After the bill’s passage in the Senate, opponents of the legislation worked to influence and educate assembly members. We tried to pick off as many of the bill’s supporters as possible by giving them accurate information about the problems with this practice.
Gov. Cuomo also doubled down, forming a 12-member New York congressional delegationthat campaigned to legalize surrogacy before the end of the legislative session on June 19. He argued that the bill’s opponents were denying transgender and gay people their right to have children. Those who opposed it were “homophobic.”
That was nonsense: People also opposed commercial surrogacy for infertile couples. Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women, and Gloria Steinem also opposed this legislation, and both have been longtime supporters of the “LGBT” community and changing marriage law.
Steinem released a strong letter to state lawmakers, urging them to vote against commercial surrogacy. “Under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others,” she said. How did Steinem get involved?
Feminists on the ground in New York reached out to her. They explained why they opposed the legislation and focused on the right of women not to be exploited. These are feminists who have worked long and hard against prostitution, and they have tried to get the sex-trafficking industry shut down and criminalized.
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