New legislation could reverse D.C.’s twenty-year ban on surrogacy agreements. Last week, the D.C. Council heard testimony on the legislation that was first introduced earlier this year by Council Member David Cantania. The bill allows D.C. residents above the age of 21 to enter into surrogacy agreements, provided that both the genetic parents and the gestational carrier complete physical and mental health evaluations. In exchange, the intended parents must pay the carrier’s medical expenses and the gestational carrier surrenders any parental rights to the child.
Currently, surrogacy agreements are illegal in D.C. and are considered “baby selling,” punishable by a $10,000 fine or a year in prison. Neighboring states Virginia and Maryland are more lenient on the issue, but still have their limitations. Virginia permits surrogacy agreements, but has specific requirements: the intended parents must be a married heterosexual couple; payment to the gestational carrier is limited to medical and ancillary expenses; and the carrier cannot relinquish her parental rights until at least three days after birth. In Maryland, surrogacy agreements are permitted by case law because no statutes prohibit it, and same-sex couples and single parents can obtain a pre-birth order to obtain an order of parentage and ensure the correct names are listed on the birth certificate. At this time, D.C. is the only jurisdiction in the U.S. that prohibits any and all kinds of surrogacy agreements, pushing intended parents to travel to other states in order to find a surrogate and draft an agreement.
Advocates who spoke in favor of the bill argued that legalizing surrogacy agreements allows people who cannot conceive children on their own another opportunity to start a family. Those opposed to the bill spoke against the potential exploitation of women that surrogacy agreements could cause. In reality, surrogacy arrangements are an especially significant and popular option for same-sex couples, as they can use a gestational carrier to carry a child that is genetically related to one partner. Although the District was ahead of the national curve in enacting civil marriage equality, the law on assisted reproductive technology has not yet caught up with the new ways in which many families are formed where they previously could not.
All 13 members of the Council co-sponsored the bill, making it very likely that the bill will pass if it comes to a vote. This is a long-overdue step in the right direction.
To review the pending legislation, please visit the D.C. City Council’s website at http://dcclims1.dccouncil.us/lims/legislation.aspx?LegNo=B20-0032&Description=%22SURROGACY+PARENTING+AGREEMENT+ACT+OF+2013%22.&ID=44135