- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana lawmakers reached a compromise Tuesday with most Christian conservative groups over creating a regulatory framework for surrogacy births that the conservatives initially opposed.

That support could help sway Gov. Bobby Jindal, who vetoed a similar bill last year because of moral and ethical objections raised by social conservatives and religious leaders.

Louisiana law currently has few regulations governing surrogacy, the arrangement in which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple. It isn’t illegal in the state, but contracts between a couple and its surrogate aren’t enforceable in court. The woman who gives birth is presumed to be the child’s mother.

Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, said he’s pushing the legislation to add restrictions to surrogacy births that are taking place without guidelines, to spell out who can be a surrogate and what the legal rights are for the parents, the surrogate and the child.


“I really cannot overstate the need for legal regulation here. The only statute that Louisiana has on surrogacy is 30 years old. It was drafted at a time when in-vitro fertilization, which is what gestational surrogacy relies on, was not even possible in the United States,” said LSU law professor Andrea Carroll.

The House Civil Law and Procedure committee advanced the proposal without objection Tuesday. It heads next to the full House for debate.

Leading social conservatives removed their objections after Lopinto agreed to eight pages of amendments.

The changes prohibit direct compensation for the surrogate and add more language spelling out that surrogacy would only be allowed for married couples consisting of a man and woman. The amendments also prohibit surrogacy contracts from requiring a surrogate to terminate a pregnancy because of a fetus’ possible disabilities, health conditions or gender.

Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, described the reworked bill as supporting “altruistic surrogacy.” He said it bans “commercial surrogacy” that involves financial incentives for a woman to “rent her womb.”

“I remain resolved that commercial contracts for pregnancy and financial consideration are morally and ethically unacceptable, but these amendments repair that,” Mills said.

However, the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to the measure, because the church opposes surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization as undermining the dignity of women, children and human reproduction and as causing the destruction of embryos.

Rob Tasman, associate director of the conference, commended Lopinto for his work to address moral concerns with the bill, but said the bishops can never support a bill that advocates surrogacy.

Lopinto and his wife used in-vitro fertilization to become parents. The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, has two children with his wife through surrogacy.

To be a surrogate, a woman would have to be at least 25 years old and no older than 35, have previously given birth, and undergo mental and physical evaluations. She would have to agree to relinquish all rights to the child she would be carrying for the married couple.

The surrogate wouldn’t be able to receive any compensation for carrying the child - except for medical expenses and mental health counseling services involving the pregnancy and birth, and travel costs, court costs and attorney fees related to the pregnancy.

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