The Kansas state capitol in Wichita became a hotseat of debate Monday over a bill criminalizing surrogate motherhood.
The standing-room-only hearing drew staunch supporters and opponents of the bill, which could subject pregnant woman to a $10,000 fine and a one-year jail sentence, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
"When reading Senate Bill 302, my heart aches and my stomach turns," said four-time surrogate Lynlee Weber, who has a 12-year-old daughter of her own. "Women must be able to decide for themselves if carrying a child for someone else is best for them. Intended parents must be able to decide for themselves if surrogacy is the best way for their child to enter this world."
Weber was one of more than a dozen witnesses to protest the ban, citing women or couples who cannot have their own children due to infertility or other reasons.
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Religious and ideological arguments were repeatedly sounded on the opposing side. Kathleen Sloan, program director at the Council for Responsible Genetics, pointed to the danger of the country becoming the "wild west of third-party reproduction" with unregulated surrogate pregnancies.
"Surrogacy is the stark manifestation of the commodification of women and their bodies," she said.
"The commercialism of surrogacy raises the specter of a black market and baby selling, of the establishment of a breeder class of factory farmed women. Surrogacy degrades a pregnancy to a service for sale and a baby to a product for purchase."
One doctor, David Grainger of the Center for Reproductive Medicine, cited the Bible in support of surrogate pregnancies.
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"This bill would have criminalized the most important surrogacy pregnancy this world has ever seen. Mary had a verbal contract with Gabriel. She was carrying a pregnancy that was not her husband's, and she gave that pregnancy back to God after he was born. What a gift. What a sacrifice," Grainger said.
The bill was proposed by Rep. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) and patterned after a similar law in Washington, D.C. While Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) said that the surrogacy bill must be heard in the name of democracy, she doesn't feel that surrogacy falls in the domain of the state government’s decision-making power.
"I personally don't support this bill and I certainly don't think a majority of our members do either. Criminalizing surrogate mothers is not a priority of the Legislature,” Wagle said.
Pilcher-Cook said she doesn’t know when the committee will act on the bill. For now, the testimony, and the debate, continue.