Perhaps you remember how late in the night of April 2nd 2020, as the world was struggling through the early wake of the Covid pandemic, former Governor Andrew Cuomo deviously legalized commercial surrogacy in New York, curtailing any public debate which is critical for the legislative processes. How did he do it? By sneaking the “Child-Parent Security Act” in the 2020 budget package; which passed in the middle of the night. New York’s balanced annual budget is to be a “plan of proposed expenditures and the revenues available to support them”. Their state budget for 2022-2023 is $220 billion, so you can imagine how massive this piece of legislation is, and how easy it would be to stuff all sorts of ‘extras’ like surrogacy legislation in it.
Of course, the Center for Bioethics and Culture fought hard against legalizing surrogacy in New York for many years, teaming up with feminist icon Gloria Steinem and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, led by Taina Bein-Amie based in New York. We lost, but we didn’t turn our backs on women and children in New York. So, when we found out that New York legislators and #BigFertility were up to no good once more, we engaged the troops and have kept our finger on the pulse of the proposed changes to the surrogacy law in New York, introduced by Senator Hoylman (S6386), assembly member Lavine (A7674), and assembly member Paulin (A6832).
Just last month, on April 25th 2022, New York lawyers were tuned into a webinar explaining (with great enthusiasm) the proposed changes to the previously mentioned bills. Who spoke at this webinar? Jarret Zafran, Founder and Executive Director of Brownstone Surrogacy, a full-service surrogacy agency based in New York, founded in 2021 after the passage of the Child-Parent Security Act. Zafran and his husband, Elliot Epstein, have children born via egg ‘donation’ and surrogacy, and Brownstone Surrogacy is part of “Men Having Babies”. Anyone else see a conflict of interest?
Overall, these proposed changes aren’t for the good of women or children. One glaringly large difference is that these changes would expand the geographical scope of surrogacy contracts to non-New York residents. Seems #BigFertility wasn’t satisfied staying within the confines of New York residents. More specifically, it would allow NY-based surrogates to carry for intended parent(s) residing outside of New York. Naturally, those who profit only want more and it seems they are perfectly content making New York the next Ukraine. Further, with these changes, the intended parents are not required to pay for a surrogate mother’s attorney in case of litigation and allows accidental death insurance in lieu of term life policy – if the surrogate mother were to die (which we know happens, unfortunately). This is unethical. Most of the surrogate mothers I know were largely motivated by the money they would earn by carrying a child; these are not women that could afford an attorney if things went awry. Wasn’t the Child Parent Security Act of 2020 marketed as protection to the surrogate mothers of New York? Not exploit them to the world market and strip them of protection in the case of lawsuit or death?
What I also find ironic is that assembly member Paulin, someone who is staunchly pro-surrogacy, seems to be also very concerned with New York’s maternal morbidity and mortality. In 2020 she introduced a bill (A10822), still active in the Assembly, that would require hospitals and birth centers to publish statistics related to maternal mortality and morbidity and to identify racial disparities in negative delivery outcomes. She is quoted, stating, “giving birth should be a joyous time and our system must treat all women equally and give them a fair chance at a healthy and safe delivery.” New York has one of the highest c-section rates in the country; it sits at 32%, far above the CDC and WHO recommendation of 10-15%. Studies show that cesarean births have higher rates of maternal morality as well as long-term health costs to the baby. Paulin seems to want to help the women in New York by creating bills, like A217, that would empower and protect pregnant women and would theoretically help decrease the c-section rate. However, it does not seem like Paulin realizes that surrogate pregnancies are high-risk or that surrogate pregnancies are more likely to result in a c-section. She is contradicting herself. She cannot be pro-surrogacy and also care about her state’s maternal mortality and morbidity. Therefore, I ask, how in the world do New York legislatures think that they are going to improve maternal morbidity and mortality by allowing #BigFertility to market surrogate mothers to the world?
- Kallie Fell, MS, BSN, RN, started her professional career as a scientist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center utilizing a Master of Science degree in Animal Sciences with an emphasis on Reproductive Physiology and Molecular Biology from Purdue University. While assisting in the investigation of endometriosis and pre-term birth, Kallie simultaneously pursued a degree in nursing with hopes of working with women as a perinatal nurse. After meeting Jennifer at a conference, Kallie became interested in the work of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and started volunteering with the organization. It is obvious that Kallie is passionate about women’s health. She continues to work, as she has for the past 6 years, as a perinatal nurse and has worked with the CBC since 2018, first as a volunteer writer, then as our staff Research Associate, and now as the Executive Director. In 2021, Kallie co-directed the CBC’s newest documentary, Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender? Kallie also hosts the popular podcast Venus Rising and is the Program Director for the Paul Ramsey Institute.