House votes to OK paid surrogacy

OLYMPIA — Women in Washington should be allowed to collect money for becoming surrogate mothers, the state House decided Monday.

On a 59-39 vote, lawmakers approved a bill that would allow women be paid for serving as a “gestational surrogate” — meaning they carry a child, but are not its biological mother.

Current state law bans compensation for surrogate mothers. If it becomes law, the bill debated Monday would set up a detailed system for entering into surrogacy contracts.

Supporters of the change argued that Washington’s existing ban isn’t entirely effective because it simply encourages couples to travel out of state to arrange for a child — if they have the money.

“This bill will not deny the people who are childless to have a child simply because they can’t afford to go to another state,” said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoqiuam, the bill’s chief sponsor.

Under the bill, surrogates would have to be at least 21 and have previously given birth to a child. Additional requirements include obtaining medical coverage for the pregnancy and immediately after birth, passing mental and physical examinations, and signing a written consent form.

Prospective parents also would have to meet certain requirements, including a mental health evaluation and an affidavit from a doctor attesting to a medical need for surrogacy. Gay and lesbian couples, however, wouldn’t need a doctor’s certification.

Opponents of the bill said introducing money into the decision raises a risk of women becoming “factories” to carry children.

“Money is often a crucial factor that would cause a woman to hire out her body,” said Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. “Will these women have no identity apart from being a suitcase to carry a developing infant? How far will they be pushed into invisibility as a surrogate?”

Others said the bill isn’t necessary because there already are children waiting to be adopted.

But Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said safeguards, such as limiting the number of times a woman can be a paid surrogate, are in place to protect the process from abuse.

The measure also would give state-registered domestic partners access to the Uniform Parentage Act, a law regulating child support and custody.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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