- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A proposal to create a legal framework for surrogacy births in Louisiana sailed through the House of Representatives with a 79-14 vote Tuesday, despite opposition from the state’s Catholic bishops.

Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, the bill’s sponsor, reached a compromise with most Christian conservative groups over the proposal, eliminating much of the potential opposition for passage.

However, the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to the bill 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.

Louisiana law 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.

Lopinto’s bill would spell out who can be a surrogate and what legal rights the parents, the surrogate and the child have.

Surrogacy would be allowed only for married couples consisting of a man and woman.

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.

Leading social conservatives removed their objections after Lopinto agreed to amendments that included a prohibition on direct compensation for the surrogate and a ban on surrogacy contracts requiring termination of a pregnancy because of a fetus’ possible disabilities, health conditions or gender.

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

Jindal said the bill is an improvement over last year’s proposal.

“This is a very different bill than the bill that got to my desk last year. We’re still watching the bill as it goes through the process, listening to the debate,” Jindal said recently.

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Online:

House Bill 187 can be found at www.legis.la.gov

A look at the House vote: https://1.usa.gov/1mJcwku

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