Utah could take a lesson from Chris Christie on surrogacy

On Aug. 8, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did the right thing in vetoing a bill that would have allowed adults to contract with one another so that one would carry a child to term for money and then surrender the child to another individual or couple to raise. The governor’s veto message included this important point: “While some will applaud the freedom to explore these new, and sometimes necessary, arranged births, others will note the profound change in the traditional beginnings of the family that this bill will enact. I am not satisfied that these questions have been sufficiently studied by the Legislature at this time.”

The National Leadership Coalition Against Exploitation of Women by Use of Gestational Surrogacy Agreements, a very diverse group (including the National Organization for Women, the Eagle Forum and the New Jersey Family Policy Council, among other impressive participants) issued an excellent statement in response to the veto:

We believe it is not an overstatement to observe that if gestational surrogacy enabling laws were to be widely adopted, it would irreparably change human civilization. In order to embrace any form of surrogacy, our culture would have to adopt two radical assumptions as morally acceptable:

1. That we should go back to a time when women’s role in society is viewed as one
where they bear children for men and have no right to the custody of the
children they bear; and

2. Mothers provide nothing of particular value in the lives of the children to whom
they give birth.

Relevance to Utah? Utah law allows for surrogacy contracts for money with some significant exceptions. Gov. Christie’s suggestion that the matter needs serious study should be considered seriously here. The Utah law was enacted as part of adoption of a uniform parentage act in 2005. Much of that act was probably anodyne and it is difficult to tell from the legislative history whether there was much discussion of this provision, which reasonable people must have thought would be rarely invoked. Perhaps, taking our cue from a sister state to the east, it is time to look into this question again.