SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For Ella Daae, carrying a baby for another family is not a commodity. That’s what a lawmaker and several people called it in testimony this week at South Dakota’s State Capitol.
Rep. John Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) is the sponsor of House Bill 1096 and said commercial surrogacy is the buying and selling of babies.
“There are some things that money can’t buy,” Hansen said. “My heart goes out to anyone struggling with infertility, as I said before, I don’t have the answers for everybody. I do pray that adoption is the answer for some of these individuals. I do know that making a for-profit business and commodity out of mothers and children is wrong.”
Daae has already been a surrogate twice and is working on her third journey. She testified in Pierre against the bill.
The discussion between South Dakota lawmakers is being framed in the wrong way, according to Daae.
“Traditional surrogacy is when the woman herself uses her own egg, with the man’s sperm,” she said. “She is literally giving her genetic baby to a couple.”
The majority of surrogacy is not traditional, but rather gestational. The way the discussion is being framed in Pierre, according to Daae, is traditional.
“Gestational carriers, it is their egg, their sperm. You are just returning their baby to them,” Daae said. “If that mother were to keep this baby, it would technically be kidnapping, because it’s not her baby and she knows that. She knows that going in it. There is no buying and selling.”
Hansen said this legislation would keep altruistic surrogacy in South Dakota. That normally still includes the payment of expenses to the woman carrying the child, but nothing more than that. This is a practice common in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“This bill bans commercial businesses, who profit off the buying and selling of children,” he said. “Making a commodity of mothers and children and bans enforcement of contracts.”
Those commercial businesses are the agencies designed to match parents with potential surrogates and among other things ensure both sides receive psychological, physical and financial health screenings to ensure everyone knows what they’re getting into.
“At first, you will pay for a lot of bills yourself and you get reimbursed for them. You need to be able to pay for that,” Daae said.
Her belief is if South Dakota adopts laws that only allow only altruistic surrogacy, that surrogacy will almost be nonexistent in the state. Part of the bill only allows altruistic surrogacy, but another section of the bill gets rid of contracts. So, even a woman who wanted to be an altruistic surrogate wouldn’t have a contract to solidify aspects of the arrangement.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. I feel there would be a lot of pitfalls and legalities that could slide under the radar without it,” she said.
KELOLAND News looked at a surrogacy contract. Many of them outline every step of the process including reimbursements and even life support plans if needed.
“Gestational Carrier and Gestational Carrier’s Husband agree that in the event Gestational Carrier is seriously injured or suffers a life-threatening condition during the second or third trimester, if medically necessitated and advisable, and if required by the intended parents, the Gestational Carrier will be sustained with life support equipment to protect the fetus’s viability and ensure a healthy birth on the Intended Parents’ behalf.”Sample language in a surrogacy contract
Daae told us she wasn’t pressured into any wording in her own contracts and has the power to change the wording in the contract prior to signing it. Both the surrogate and the parents each have their own lawyer. If an agreement can’t be reached the match dissolves.
The owner of South Dakota-based Dakota Surrogacy agency said in Wednesday’s hearing she supports regulations, but not a ban.
The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to move the commercial ban of surrogacy to the full House chamber. House Bill 1096 will head to the full House, before going to the Senate.