OLYMPIA — Washington may soon let surrogate mothers get paid for the babies they deliver.
The House approved a bill allowing women to sign contracts with intended parents that will pay them “reasonable compensatio
n” plus medical, legal and other costs associated with the pregnancy.
It passed Monday on a largely partisan 57-41 vote following an impassioned debate in which supporters said it will strengthen families while foes said it will spawn creation of baby-making factories.
“It’s a good thing,” Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood, said Tuesday. It will “help families who can’t have children on their own.”
Surrogacy for compensation is allowed with restrictions in California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas.
“People are having to leave Washington to take advantage of those services,” Roberts said. “It’s better to have it here, with rules.”
Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, voted against the legislation and called it “an ethical dilemma that is extraordinary in scope.
“It becomes a business transaction in which the bond of love between mother and child is severed in order to accomplish a state contractual goal. It’s tragic,” she said.
Today, it is a felony to buy or sell a child. And surrogacy is outlawed except in cases of compassion such as a woman bearing a child for a sister or relative who is unable to do so.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, legalizes surrogacy for hire and seeks to regulate it with a contract between a woman and intended parents.
Under the bill, the woman signing a contract must be at least 21 years old, have given birth to at least one child, undergone medical and mental health evaluations, have private health and life insurance and have given her written consent.
Also, she can be compensated for no more than two births. And under the proposed law, she can terminate a pregnancy without fear of legal recourse by the intended parents.
The intended parents must meet some rules, too, under the bill. They need to have a doctor’s affidavit demonstrating a medical need for surrogacy, complete a mental health evaluation, and consult with independent counsel.
“I think the bill provides enough regulation to protect both the mother and the family that’s seeking her services,” Roberts said.
One provision which particularly upset Smith is the requirement that a surrogate have given birth before.
“That says we’re looking to ensure good breeding stock,” she said.
Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, a social conservative, led the opposition in the debate by offering an array of amendments without success. He still seethed Tuesday.
“I am OK with surrogacy for compassion,” he said. “This is completely different. You are turning a baby into a product; I said ‘a widget’ on the floor. And you are turning a low-income woman into a breeding facility with no protection.”
Miloscia proposed language giving the state a greater role in reviewing and approving contracts. He also sought to ensure the surrogate is a U.S. citizen. Those failed.
Miloscia did propose an amendment to tax the transaction based on the idea that the baby is a taxable product. It failed.
A surrogate won’t be taxed on what she earns because she is a providing a service, not a product, said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Miloscia also drafted several amendments, which he withdrew rather than put up for a vote. They revealed his frustration with the bill.
One called for letting couples unable to have children to “enter into womb rental agreements with low-income women, lonely military wives, or women with mental illness or disabilities.”
It went on to say, “The legislature endeavors by this act to allow wealthy couples to artificially create children using surrogate woman (sic) and sell the babies to wealthy couples for the greater good of Washington state. This act, titled the Baby Selling Act of 2011, will create jobs for women of lesser means and poorer circumstances.”
House Bill 1267 deals with two elements of parentage. One element is the surrogacy portion. The other mostly noncontroversial part extends state rules regarding parenting to cover registered domestic partnerships including same-sex couples.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org
How Snohomish County lawmakers voted:
Democrats: Luis Moscoso, Mountlake Terrace; Derek Stanford, Bothell; Marko Liias, Edmonds; Mary Helen Roberts, Lynnwood; Cindy Ryu, Shoreline; Ruth Kagi, Lake Forest Park, Mike Sells, Everett; John McCoy, Tulalip; Hans Dunshee, Snohomish.
Republicans: Barbara Bailey, Oak Harbor; Norma Smith; Clinton; Kirk Pearson, Monroe; Dan Kristiansen, Snohomish; Mike Hope, Lake Stevens.