OLYMPIA — Philosophical and political differences combined Tuesday to almost certainly end efforts to legalize surrogacy in Washington this year.
Senate Democrats abandoned the push to allow surrogate mothers to get paid for delivering babies when it became clear too many in their caucus opposed the change.
“Right now we don’t have the votes for the surrogacy portion and I find that incredibly sad,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, who wrote an amendment removing surrogacy provisions from a larger bill dealing with the rights of parents.
A lack of Democratic votes was only one obstacle.
Senate Republicans had made clear if Democrats pushed for surrogacy, the fallout would be felt in the ongoing conversation on the state budget.
“If the bill would have gone forward without some of the amendments we proposed it could have disrupted the collegial nature with which we’ve been working on the budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.
In February, the House passed the parenting bill with its provisions to legalize surrogacy and regulate it with a contract between a woman and intended parents. It enabled women to receive “reasonable compensation,” plus medical, legal and ancillary costs associated with the pregnancy.
Much of the bill focused on extending state rules regarding parenting to cover registered domestic partnerships, including same-sex couples.
The state Senate approved those changes in the slimmed-down legislation. The bill now gets kicked back to the House for consideration.
Rep. Jamie Pederson, D-Seattle, the author of the original bill, said House members could “absolutely” try to reinsert the surrogacy sections.
But he didn’t sound like he was gearing up for an end-of-session fight over it.
“Our process has a lot of steps,” he said. “Getting this bill out of the Senate by cut-off will allow it to continue through the process. That’s the right step right now.
“This is an issue that is very important to me but it is not the most important issue to me,” he said. “Our primary job is to balance the budget.”
Social conservatives fought hard against the bill and lauded the change of course as a victory.
“Getting (surrogacy) taken out is definitely a victory for parental rights, for kids’ rights and for women’s rights,” said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Lynnwood-based Family Policy Institute. “Everybody wins when you don’t make the womb and children subjects of a commercial transaction.”
“They didn’t win. The ones who lost are loving parents who have to go out of state because Washington isn’t willing to deal with this issue at this time,” she said. “It is not the end of the discussion.”
Backholm thinks the next round of fighting will be in 2012.
“They’ll come back with this,” he said. “This debate is not over.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org
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