Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Whitmer Signs Legislation Lifting Ban On Surrogacy Contracts For Compensation 

04/02/24 10:39 AM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 04/01/2024) (ROYAL OAK) - Surrogate parentage contracts – agreements between prospective parents and individuals willing to carry their fetus – will no longer be considered "void and unenforceable" by Michigan statute under legislation signed by the Governor Monday morning.  

Since September 1988, Michigan has followed the Surrogate Parenting Act, listing agreements involving surrogate carriers as "contrary to public policy," and penalizing those who entered a contract for compensation with a $10,000, one-year misdemeanor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 18,400 infants have been born through a gestational carrier – someone who carries a baby without sharing a genetic link to them, following an embryo transfer – between 1999 and 2013.  

Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 5207 , HB 5208 , HB 5209 , HB 5210 , HB 5211 , HB 5212 , HB 5213 , HB 5214 and HB 5215 , obliterating the nearly 36-year-old ban on surrogate parentage contracts for compensation. The legislation establishes a new system authorizing and regulating surrogate agreements in the state, which will be titled the "Michigan Family Protection Act".  

The bill signing took place at the Royal Oak Public Library this morning, specifically within the children's section. Attendees included families who used surrogates and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have their children.  

Across the room's brightly colored tiles, youngsters chased each other and laughed while waiting for the remarks to begin. Several strollers and infant carriers additionally sat alongside tables and bookshelves.  

One of the families standing alongside the event's podium was the Myers family from the Grand Rapids area. The mother, Tammy MYERS, discovered she could not conceive a child naturally when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 33.  

In 2019, a woman agreed to be their gestational carrier. She carried twins for them, but when they were born prematurely during the COVID-19 pandemic, two local judges denied Myers and her husband legal rights over the infants as they were being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).  

While speaking to the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on March 7, Myers said the state's Medicaid program footed the bill for the twins' care because the couple was unable to claim them as their own on their health insurance. 

For nearly two years, the Myers family was subjected to psychological testing, home visits and meetings to discuss their parenting plans until they were able to adopt their biological children.  

Monday, Myers watched the Governor and other speakers with tears in her eyes, with her twins, her 11-year-old daughter Corrine and husband by her side.  

On Monday's lineup of speakers was Leah Zeintek, who was a gestational carrier for her friend's two children without compensation. Her friend Alex has a congenital heart defect, making pregnancy an unsafe option for her. She gave birth to their youngest son, Barrett, slightly over nine months ago, "so what an incredible way to celebrate nine months in and nine months out."  

"It was June 29, 2023. I remember my views of joy watching Alex and Allan hold their son Barrett for the very first time. I also remember that for the entirety of his time in the hospital, Barrett's hospital bracelet said 'Baby Zeintek,' my last name," Zeintek said. "Your actions ensure that all children born through assisted reproduction and surrogacy are treated equally under the law."  

Other speakers were Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Stephanie Jones, founder of the Michigan Fertility Alliance (MFA) and Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), the lead sponsor behind Mondbill package.  

Steckloff said to members of the media Monday that providing "really concrete" birth certificates is sort of the "pillar of everything."  

"Right now, with the way the state of Michigan is set up, it's up to individual judges to provide a pre-birth order. In Oakland County, it's very different (from) in western Michigan," Steckloff said. "So it kind of depends on what judge you have. We even had a judge testify who said how difficult it is to make these rulings because there is no intended path, and these bills create that, so we will never see these problems again."  

For example, on top of the legislation requiring prospective surrogates to be at least 21 years old, to have previously given birth at least once and to have their individual legal representation – of their choice – as contracts are assembled, the bills ensure children are aligned to access to Social Security benefits and inheritance from their intended parents after being born through surrogacy or IVF.  

After battling with breast cancer for nearly nine years, Steckloff received the greenlight last spring that she could carry her own child. She is going to start de-thawing nine of the eggs she had harvested before beginning chemotherapy, "and see what embryos we're going to get."  

"Just because you're going through IVF doesn't mean (there's) a 100 percent chance of having a child, so if that doesn't happen, we'll talk about the next steps," Steckloff said. "I was diagnosed at 31 years old, and the most difficult part of being diagnosed was that I was no longer in control of my family planning, and my doctor had spoken to me about one day … 'you could go through surrogacy. Surrogacy is very common for a lot of people going through health-related issues, but you (will) have to go to another state.'"  

After the bill-singing, MIRS spoke with obstetrician-gynecologist Molly Moravek of University of Michigan Health, who said at least monthly, she'd come across a patient interested in surrogacy.  

 She currently works on a fertility preservation program, assisting patients with things like egg harvesting or storing sperm ahead of them undergoing cancer treatment.  

"So as you may imagine, because of the way that cancer treatment affects their body, a lot of those patients are no longer able to carry a pregnancy on their own, and so they need a gestational carrier," Moravek said, explaining earlier that she advises patients to seek out-of-state agencies if they're interested in gestational carriers.  

She said having patients who have just survived cancer no longer having to worry about going outside of Michigan to find a gestational carrier "will be a huge burden lifted," especially after they've already invested money into storing eggs, sperm or embryos. 

However, in a statement of opposition to Monday's bill signing, Chief Executive Officer Paul Long of the Michigan Catholic Conference said the legislation approved Monday will allow for those with resources to obtain a child at the expense of women in financial need.  

"For profit surrogacy contracts that pay females for the use of their reproductive means violate the inherent dignity of women and unethically allow children to be the subject of a contract. The practice of surrogacy undermines the significant prenatal bond formed between a child and the mother who nurtured him or her through birth," Long said in a press release.  

Monday's event involved Democrats trying to make a larger connection between IVF, assisted reproductive technology and reproductive freedom ahead of the 2024 elections.  

The podium and bill-signing table were ornamented with pink "Reproductive Freedom" signs, and the Governor used the word "abortion" five times in her remarks.  

Across the country, individuals question whether the summer 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade – the now-overturned federal safeguard around abortion access – will also lead to judicial rulings preventing the storage and discarding of embryos.  

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling in February that frozen embryos should be considered living beings is viewed by Democrats as an after effect of overturning Roe.  

"I think that abortion is going to receive a lot of attention from Democrats over the campaign cycle. That's going to be an issue they continue to revisit again and again and again, in part because I think that that's one of the only issues right now that Democrats have in their favor, and I think they're going to try to capitalize," said Director Dave DULIO of the Oakland University Center for Civic Engagement on this week's episode of the MIRS Monday podcast.