On Monday, June 11, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would legalize paid surrogacy in New York.
The legislation, Bill S.2071-B-Hoylman/A.1071-C-Paulin, was passed by a vote of 40-21. Thirty-eight Democratic senators were joined by two Senate Republicans—Sens. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Betty Little (R-Queensbury)—in supporting the bill, while 19 Republicans and two brave Democrats—Sens. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) and Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan)—voted against it. Some unfortunate Albany sausage-making was employed here; the bill was amended on June 8 (a Saturday), was rushed through the Senate Rules Committee on June 11, and was brought to the Senate floor the same day.
Without a doubt, the Senate’s passage of the paid surrogacy bill is a setback. However, there is good news: The bill faces an uncertain future in the Assembly. Most New York Democrats fall all over themselves to support any LGBT-related measures, but paid surrogacy is different. On this particular question, leftists are split. The New York Times characterizes that split as a disagreement between progressives and feminists. At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we believe that this description oversimplifies the divide somewhat. Some leftists see paid surrogacy as a matter of LGBT equality and women’s autonomy. Others see it as an exploitative process in which women (many of whom are low-income) endanger their health so that well-to-do families can rent their wombs.
Last week, Albany Update reported on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s heavy-handed and divisive rhetoric regarding paid surrogacy. The Governor has described New York’s existing surrogacy ban—signed into law by his own father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, in 1992—as “‘repulsive, embarrassing, dehumanizing,’” “‘repugnant,’” and “‘discriminatory.’” More recently, the Governor has trained his fire at specific members of the Assembly that oppose paid surrogacy. On June 11, the New York Post quoted Gov. Cuomo as saying, “‘I have respect for Assembly member[s] [Deborah] Glick and [Helene] Weinstein and Didi Barrett, but I just don’t see the possible rationale. Pass the law that protects women.’” Asm. Glick countered that the Governor’s comments displayed an “‘unfortunate lack of respect.’”
Gov. Cuomo’s pressure tactics may backfire in this situation. There is no love lost between the Governor and many members of his own party. Some of the legislators he has antagonized with his recent remarks have been in the Assembly for decades and are unlikely to be cowed by his bullying. Furthermore, the Governor may need their support for this bill more than they need his support for the bills that they seek to pass.
While the politics of paid surrogacy are complex, the policy is not. Paid surrogacy treats children as commodities, endangers and objectifies women, and deliberately creates situations in which babies are taken from their mothers. Assemblymembers of both parties should prevent it from becoming law.