On April 3, 2020, as the nation was in the early grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state was in complete lockdown, the New York State legislature passed its state budget for FY 2021. Buried in that 400-page document, passed at 3 a.m., was language legalizing commercial gestational surrogacy in the state. The dead-of-night move came after years of opposition to legalization by some feminist groups and the Catholic Conference because it exploits women, reducing their bodies to raw materials for the wealthy to create biological offspring, and exploits the children born of such arrangements, who are treated as commodities to be bought and sold.
Today, the legislation took effect legalizing these commercial arrangements, which in recent years have been banned in the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, much of Asia, and several countries in South America, precisely because the practice is exploitive and leads to trafficking of women and children.
Following is a statement by Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, on the passage of legal commercial surrogacy in the state:
“The action by the legislature and governor to legalize monetary contracts for surrogate motherhood stands in stark contrast to most other democratic nations across the globe, which have outlawed the practice because of the exploitation of women and commodification of children that inevitably results from the profit-driven surrogacy industry.
“What makes it worse is our state elected officials included this major policy change in a 400-page budget bill in the midst of a pandemic crisis. We simply do not believe that such a critical legal and moral decision for our state should have been made behind the closed doors of a Capitol shut off to the public. The new law is bad for women and children, and the process is terrible for democracy.”
Following is a statement by Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference:
“The push by Gov. Cuomo and members of the state legislature to legalize commercial surrogacy is a dangerous policy that will lead to the exploitation of poor, vulnerable women, and has few safeguards for children.
“The surrogacy legislation is designed mainly to benefit wealthy men who can afford tens of thousands of dollars to pay baby brokers, at the expense of low-income women. Ironically, this push is being made precisely at a time when most countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere have explicitly banned commercial surrogacy in response to the assault on women’s dignity that occurred in places where it had become an industry. (See here, here, here, and here)
The proposed Executive Budget contains a policy proposal unrelated to the state’s finances which repeals New York’s longstanding prohibition on commercial reproductive surrogacy. The language, misleadingly named the “Child-Parent Security Act,” is included in the Public Protection and General Government Article VII legislation (S.1505-A/A.2005-A), Part QQ, beginning on page 200. We strongly oppose this language and urge that it be excluded from the final 2019-2020 SFY Budget.
Currently, New York Domestic Relations Law declares surrogacy contracts contrary to public policy, void, and unenforceable. Vendors who assist in arranging such contracts are liable for up to a civil penalty of $10,000 and forfeiture of the fee received in brokering the contract; a second violation constitutes a felony. This policy was signed into law in 1992 by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo, with broad bipartisan support.
The New York State Legislature wrapped up the 2019 session in the early morning hours of June 21. The session was among the most active in memory, as the new Democratic majority in the state Senate, joined with the Democratic Assembly majority and the Democratic Governor to take on many issues that had previously been staunchly opposed by Republicans. Below is a synopsis of major issues tracked by the Catholic Conference and their outcome.