- Associated Press - Friday, March 21, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Lawmakers aren’t giving up on efforts to create a regulatory framework for surrogacy births in Louisiana, even though Gov. Bobby Jindal rejected the bill last year.

Surrogacy is the arrangement when a woman carries a child to birth for another couple.

Louisiana law currently has few regulations governing surrogacy. It isn’t illegal in the state, but contracts between a couple and its surrogate aren’t enforceable in court.

Supporters of the bill say surrogacy births are taking place without clear guidelines on the legal rights of the parents, the surrogate or the child, and they want to put limits in place.

Jindal sided with religious groups that raised ethical and moral concerns in vetoing the measure last year.

Those same disagreements remain.

But Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, and Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, are back again with the bill, hoping they can either reach a compromise with their opponents and the governor - or persuade their colleagues to override a Jindal veto.

“You’ve got husbands and wives that don’t choose to have these fertility problems that they have, but want to have children. And I don’t want them to wait any longer,” Lopinto said Friday.

Lopinto and his wife used in-vitro fertilization to become parents. Smith has two children with his wife through surrogacy.

Their bill gets its first hearing Tuesday in the House civil law committee.

The measure would place limits on surrogacy that don’t currently exist, including spelling out that a surrogate only could be allowed for a married couple, consisting of a man and a woman, who can’t otherwise have a biological child.

To be a surrogate, a woman would have to be at least 25 years old, 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, in a surrogacy contract.

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, living expenses for up to 60 days after the birth and travel costs, court costs and attorney fees related to the pregnancy.

Opponents include the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops and other social conservative groups.

Anti-abortion groups see the bill as legitimizing surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization that they said can cause the destruction of embryos. The Louisiana Family Forum says surrogacy radically redefines the family and makes a woman’s body a commodity to be rented.

The payments for living expenses “may financially entice needy young women into ‘renting’ their wombs. The surrogacy contract requires the ‘carrier’ to relinquish the child at birth, implicating the buying and selling of children,” the family forum wrote in a commentary about the bill this week.

Without changes, Jindal said he’ll reject the bill again if it passes the Legislature.

“I haven’t changed my views on the bill I vetoed last year,” the Republican governor said. “I share many of the concerns that have been expressed by the pro-life community.”

So, supporters of the measure are trying to move the bill early in the hopes of getting final passage and rejection from the governor quick enough that they can vote on a possible veto override during the three-month legislative session.

“I’m normally a supporter of the governor. But I will vote to override him if that ends up being the case, and I think most of my colleagues feel the same,” Lopinto said.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the same bill last year.

Jindal said he’s encouraged by conversations that social conservative groups have had with the lawmakers sponsoring the bill, and he hopes a compromise can be reached. Lopinto said the conversations continue, but the two sides haven’t reached an agreement.



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

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