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Assisted Reproduction

Washington Closer To Having Surrogacy Legislation

An update on the status of the bill that would regulate surrogacy in Washington State:

Changes to the so-called Uniform Parentage Act would replace references to mother and father with gender-neutral ones, such as parent, to accommodate domestic partners. The measure would establish that a person living in a home and openly holding himself or herself out as the parent of a child for the first two years of that child’s life is that child’s presumed parent.

But perhaps the bill’s most controversial provision would legalize commercial surrogacy, requiring a pre-pregnancy contract between the surrogate and intended parents and setting forth a host of safeguards — such as requirements for insurance — intended to protect surrogates from exploitation. Some still worry that surrogates would remain vulnerable.

During debate on the House floor, Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, and others introduced one amendment after another: to require that only U.S. citizens could be surrogates, that a surrogate have access to interpreter services, that she must not be older than 40 or have had more than five children, that she not be on public assistance or even eligible for it, that the measure be put up for a public vote. All either failed or were withdrawn.

Sharon LaMothe, a former surrogate, now a consultant, said she believes the bill goes overboard with protections for surrogates. Agencies and intended parents are highly selective, she said. “They want an environment where a pregnancy will thrive. They choose women in a solid relationship, someone who shows responsibility.”

Before she moved to the Seattle area four years ago, she owned a surrogacy agency in Florida, where she sometimes turned away applicants on both sides. She remembers a call from a tennis star seeking a surrogate because she wouldn’t have time post-pregnancy to get back into shape before her next tour. She discouraged a mother unable to have more children who wanted a child through surrogacy two weeks after her 8-year-old daughter was killed in an accident. And she’s turned away prospective surrogates who wanted to do it strictly for the money or who were overweight. “If they are on Medicaid, that’s a huge red flag,” she added.

Like the Keeneys, Shih and MacGovern, the Seattle couple, also first considered if they had a friend or relative who might bear a baby for them. “All my friends are lawyers — they wouldn’t do this,” Shih joked. “That’s a lot to ask of someone.” It took nine months for the couple to find a surrogate, and that arrangement ended because of miscarriages and the woman’s subsequent reservations about continuing as a surrogate. One year after meeting their second surrogate, they had their first daughter. And a year and a half later, they began the process for another child, using a different surrogate, who delivered their twin girls.

While they’ve stayed in contact with the surrogates and kept them updated via Facebook, Shih said the women have no interest in parenting the children. “They consider their relationship is with us, not the children,” he said. “They ask how we are doing.”


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