Gov. Chris Christie today vetoed a bill that would have relaxed New Jersey's strict surrogate parenting law, saying the state hadn't yet answered the "profound" questions that surround creating a child through a contract.
According to the governor's statement explaining the veto obtained by The Star-Ledger, "Permitting adults to contract with others regarding a child in such a manner unquestionably raises serious and significant issues."
"In contrast to traditional surrogacy, a gestational surrogate birth does not use the egg of the carrier," the governor wrote. "In this scenario, the gestational carrier lacks any genetic connection to the baby, and in some cases, it is feasible that neither parent is genetically related to the child. Instead, children born to gestational surrogates are linked to their parents by contract."
"While some all applaud the freedom to explore these new, and sometimes necessary, arranged births, others will note the profound change in the traditional beginnings of the family that this bill will enact. I am not satisfied that these questions have been sufficiently studied by the Legislature at this time," according to the statement.
The bill (S1599) would have eliminated the three-day waiting period for parents of children born to surrogates to be listed on their birth certificates. It also would have required the "gestational carrier" to surrender custody of the child immediately upon the child's birth.
The state has not updated its surrogacy law since the Baby M case in 1988, which defined the legal relationship between a surrogate using her egg and a husband who used his sperm to conceive a child. But that case involved artificial insemination, not in vitro fertilization, which is what sparked this bill involving a Union County couple.
The state Bureau of Vital Statistics initially allowed the couple to be listed on their son's birth certificate after the three-day waiting period. But state went to court to block it because the intended mother had no genetic or biological tie to the infant - conceived with an anonymous donor egg and her husband's sperm. She had to adopt the baby despite a surrogacy contract recognized by a judge.
The couple's attorney took the matter to the state Supreme Court; a decision is pending.
Opponents predicted the law would "create a breeder case of women," and didn't take into account the emotional issues of the women carrying the child.
There has been a 28 percent increase in how often people use gestational carriers to have a child since 2007, according to data from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
The governor's office declined to comment on the veto until it releases it later in the day.
Gregory Quinlan, director of government affairs for the New Jersey Family Policy Council, called the veto "excellent" news. "We fought the 'rent a womb' bill," he said,
"This is not just about creating a family, it's the use of another human being's body -- commercializing someone else's uterus," Quinlan said.
Quinlan agreed with the governor that the legislation did not answer all of the important questions, such as what happens if a birth defect is diagnosed in utero. "Do the parents have the right to abort?"
"We are creating an industry to satisfy rich couples' need for a child. There are other ways to do this. They could adopt," he added.
Donald C. Cofsky, the attorney representing the Union County couple whose case inspired the bill, said he thinks the governor missed the point. "Gestational carrier arrangements have been taking place in New Jersey for well over a decade, and are, and will remain, legal."
The bill would have allowed parties to fashion agreements that would have taken into account what happens when a parent dies, or the child is born with disabilities, Cofsky said. "Traditional family law does not cover this event, a child could be left with no parent at all, forcing the state and thus all of us as taxpayers to assume the responsibility."
"This bill was designed to regulate this practice, set responsibilities, and protect the rights of all parties - most importantly the rights of children," said Cofsky of Haddonfield, the president-elect of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
"I am profoundly disappointed," he said.
Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), one of the bill's sponsors, said he was "deeply disappointed with the Governor's decision. . .I dedicated over one year discussing this issue with a variety of groups and individuals, including my colleagues."
"Many parents and women who cannot otherwise have their own children have used this procedure for many years. It is a major setback for parents who wish to create life and give a baby a loving home," Vitale said.
Suan Livio, Newark Star-Ledger