Surrogacy not as harmless as it seems

Currently in the Kansas Senate there is a bill that seeks to outlaw surrogate pregnancies; A surrogate pregnancy, as defined by the bill, is as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or surrogate parenting.

To briefly go over the language of the bill: 

  • ’Artificial insemination’ means the process by which a man’s fresh or frozen sperm sample is introduced into a woman’s vagina, other than by sexual intercourse, under the supervision of a person licensed to practice medicine and surgery.
  • ‘In vitro fertilization’ is the procedure in which an ovum is surgically removed from a woman’s ovary and fertilized with a man’s sperm in a laboratory procedure, with the resulting embryo implanted in the uterus of a birth mother.
  • ‘Surrogate parenting contract’ is any agreement, oral or written, in which a woman: agrees to be artificially inseminated with the sperm of a man who is not her husband, or to be impregnated with an embryo that is the product of an ovum fertilization with the sperm of a man who is not her husband; and agrees to, or intends to relinquish all parental rights and responsibilities and to consent to the adoption of a child born as a result of artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.

Washburn gender studies professor, Sharon Sullivan was eager to discuss the bill.

“We need to look at ways to protect surrogates from exploitation and the children born by surrogacy,” said Sullivan. “We need regulation to prevent exploitation.” 

One theory on why this bill is suddenly receiving such attention is rooted in exploitation. In 2009 William Marotta donated sperm to Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schneider after responding to their ad on Craig’s List. The two parties drew up a contract and Bauer and Schneider performed the insemination without a doctor or physician present in 2009.

The couple later broke up and was forced to declare bankruptcy after Schneider suffered a disabling injury. They sued Marotta for child support in Oct. 2013, although he had never laid claim to the child. Kansas law says that the donor forfeits paternal rights only if a doctor is present during the insemination, however many other states are changing laws so that situations such as Marotta’s will not be under debate.

Surrogacy targets lower class women because they can easily be persuaded to sell their bodies for quick cash. But the danger runs much deeper than just pregnancies in less-than-ideal households.

Kathleen Sloan, a director of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a pro-choice feminist leader explains, “Surrogates are injected with carcinogenic synthetic hormones and drugs such as Lupron which is not FDA approved for fertility use.”

As if the use of nearly-illegal drugs isn’t scary enough, the side effects sound like a horror movie waiting to happen.

“The short term risks include premature menopause, infection, stroke, kidney failure, and even death,” said Sloan. “The major long term risks are future infertility and cancer, most commonly ovarian, breast and endometrial cancer.”

In other words, the best worst case scenario means the surrogate mother will never be able to conceive again.

“Criminal penalties should be focused on those who prey on vulnerable women,” continued Sloan. “Surrogacy brokers, agencies, clinics and the wealthy who seek to buy the use of a woman’s body for their own benefit.” 

If the current bill is signed into law, the punishment will be a fine of “not more than $10,000 or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 1 year, or both such fine and imprisonment,” said Sloan. “Kansas would do well to enact legislation that protects women’s health and human rights by prohibiting their exploitation and commodification through commercial surrogacy.”

The bill was introduced to the Senate on the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court case of 1973 that established “Right to Privacy” thus legalizing abortion on the grounds that it is a woman’s choice what she does with her body.

The safety of the woman undergoing the procedure was as much a concern now as it was then.

“We have a lot of new technology that has serious consequences for the health and well-being of our citizens,” said Sullivan. “We need to be sure our laws catch up with the advances so that all people are protected.”