Gov. Christie Vetoes Gestational Surrogacy Bill in New Jersey

By Abigail Wilkinson | July 10, 2015 | 11:36am EDT
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (AP photo)

( -- Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill on June 30 that would have legalized gestational surrogacy contracts in the State of New Jersey.

“I have repeatedly stated that every life is precious and every human deserving of protection,” Christie said. “I take seriously the need to guard against any societal deprecation of the miracle of life.”

In gestational surrogacy, the woman and the child she is bearing are not genetically related, unlike traditional surrogacy, in which the woman is artificially inseminated and uses her own egg to conceive a child.  

Proponents of the legislation, including LGBT activists, criticized Christie for vetoing the bill.  

“This veto is a terrible outcome for families across New Jersey who need gestational surrogacy agreements to strengthen their families,” Andrea Bowen, executive director for Garden State Equality, told the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “We deplore what Governor Christie has done.”

According to the HRC, “gestational surrogacy is especially important to members of the LGBT community because it enables couples to establish parental rights and create a family while allowing such couples to have a genetic relation to their children.”

The bill Christie vetoed would have legalized gestational carrier agreements in which the biological parent would relinquish all parental rights or obligations upon the birth of the child.

It required that the gestational carrier “be at least 21 years of age, have given birth to at least one child, have completed medical and psychological evaluations conducted by licensed professionals, and have retained an attorney independent of the intended parents but for whose services the intended parent would be permitted to pay.”

It also regulated the payment of “reasonable expenses” to the surrogate mother by the intended adoptive parents.

But Christie noted that he vetoed the same bill in 2012 because of “the significant ethical and moral concerns raised by a government-enforced system of agreements to procreate.”

“Unfortunately, rather than work with interested parties to address concerns raised during the initial debate on this bill and craft a measure that could be supported by a wider coalition, the Legislature instead passed the same bill without making even a single change,” the governor said.

In his 2012 veto letter, Christie said that “permitting adults to contract with others regarding a child in such a manner unquestionably raises serious and significant issues” and that he was not satisfied that the ethical issues had been “sufficiently studied.”

New Jersey law does not prohibit surrogacy. However, a New Jersey court ruled in 1985 that surrogacy contracts were legally unenforceable during the famous “Baby M” case.

Surrogacy laws vary widely across the United States.

For example, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a similar bill in May 2014, citing his concerns about the "ramifications of government-endorsed surrogacy contracts" and how they might alter "the way we value human life."

The Louisiana bill would have legalized  non-commercial surrogacy contracts while maintaining restrictions on surrogacy for same-sex couples and single parents, and ensuring that the surrogate mother would not be pressured into having an abortion for any reason.

New York has some of the strictest surrogacy laws in the country. Commercial surrogacy of any kind is prohibited, and surrogacy contracts of any kind are unenforceable. Couples who hire surrogates face criminal penalties.

New York state Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), is pushing for to change the laws after Hoylman and his same-sex partner had a child via a surrogate in California.

According to Creative Family Connections, California, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin are among the seven states most open to surrogacy in the U.S. Many other states permit surrogacy due to the lack of a law on the books prohibiting it.

However, the American Medical Association states in its Code of Medical Ethics that "ethical, social, and legal problems many arise in surrogacy arrangements.

"Surrogate motherhood may commodify children and women's reproductive capacities, exploit poor women whose decision to participate may not be wholly voluntary, and improperly discourage or interfere with the formation of a natural maternal-fetal or maternal-child bond.

"Psychological impairment may occur in a woman who deliberately conceives with the intention of bearing a child which she will give up.” 

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