Louisiana bill to protect surrogacy arrangements advances, despite opposition from both sides of aisle _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD – Louisiana House Civil Law & Procedure Committee Chair Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette, heard legislation Monday that would set up a legal framework for surrogate birth arrangements.

Loren McIntyre is in the process of adopting her firstborn son.

Born in January, he is 100 percent genetically her and her husband’s offspring, but the couple used a gestational carrier, or surrogate, to give birth. And in Louisiana, legally she is not the mother until the adoption is finalized this June.

McIntyre, who has severe endometriosis, is unable to give birth to her own children. She underwent seven unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization before deciding to seek surrogacy.

McIntyre shared her story on Monday with a legislative House committee in the State Capitol in hopes lawmakers will pass a bill that creates legal safeguards in Louisiana, where virtually none exists.

Surrogacy is legal in Louisiana, but right now, there are no protections for either the biological parents or the birth mother. In the eyes of the law, the woman who gives birth to a baby is the mother, so a surrogate could ultimately decide to break an agreement and keep the child, and the biological parents would have no legal recourse. Similarly, the biological parents could decide midway through a pregnancy they no longer want the child, and the surrogate mother would be legally responsible for the child.

House Bill 1102 sets up a legal framework for surrogate arrangements, which bans compensation to the surrogate mother, sets age requirements, requires medical testing and counseling, and mandates background checks. Importantly, it ensures the surrogate mother cannot make a legal claim to the child, and it forbids the biological parents from being able to back out on the agreement.

An identical version of the bill was passed by the full Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. On Monday, the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure advanced the measure without objection. It goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

But the measure had ample opposition from both sides of the aisle.

On the left, LGBT groups opposed the language that defines the intended parents as a “man and a woman,” preventing same-sex couples from being able to use surrogacy as an avenue for parenting. The bill also requires that the embryo come from the egg and sperm of the intended parents, which again, precludes same-sex couples.

LSU Law Professor Andrea Carroll testified that while she believes there’s a need for HB1102, she believes that wording would render it unconstitutional, per last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

On the right, conservative anti-abortion groups testified that the act of surrogacy often requires multiple unused embryos that are frozen or discarded.

“Life starts at the embryonic stage,” said Ben Clapper, with Louisiana Right to Life. “It’s a human life that needs to be protected.”

State Rep. Stuart Bishop, the Lafayette Republican who sponsored the bill, stressed that in vitro fertilization and surrogacy already are legal.

McIntyre said when she and her husband decided to use a surrogate, they considered leaving the state because of Louisiana’s unregulated system. She said she ultimately decided to stay in the state under the knowledge that her husband’s name would be on the birth certificate along with the surrogate mother.

The first hospital they consulted with refused to put her husband’s name on the birth certificate at all because the surrogate mother was already married. So she said they changed hospitals.

“It made the gestational carrier and her husband very frightened,” McIntyre said. “They were definitely very concerned and fearful that there wasn’t legislation in place to protect them if we decided we didn’t want to have this child, which of course wasn’t the case.”

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen.

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