Dear President Sweeney and Speaker Oliver:
The recent news that S1599 and A2646 have swiftly passed out of committee has caused great alarm in New Jersey and nationally among leaders, authors, physicians and organizations who are concerned about the rights of women, as well as the rights of children. We write with a sense of urgency to ask that neither bill be posted for a floor vote at this time.
S1599 and A2646 are enabling statutes that broadly sweep away every policy and statute that provides protection of the rights of mothers and children that have been in place for many scores of decades in our state. We fear it is being done without proper public discussion and understanding of the harms gestational surrogacy poses for women and how, once legalized, it will dramatically alter our culture.
When the beautiful and poetic unanimous decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the Baby M case was published, the Court held that surrogacy contracts were in violation of every statute and public policy of our state that dealt with the rights of mothers, the rights of children, the issues dealing with adoption and termination of a mother's rights.
Our Supreme Court influenced the nation and the world for the better and is taught in almost every law school in the country.
At the end of that opinion, our Supreme Court observed that the case highlights many of the problems and evils of surrogacy- including the potential exploitation of women- but that the people and the culture must determine if our policies and laws, after careful consideration, should be changed subject to constitutional constraints.
As a result of that decision, the Governor and the Legislature asked the New Jersey Bioethics Commission to study the issue of whether laws should be changed to create an enabling statute.
The Bioethics Commission, made up of people from both parties, psychologists, scientist, physicians, lawyers, healthcare providers and those from other walks of life, held public hearings, had a task force do research and make field trips, held public debates on the policy issues over 18 months, and after a process that took three years, issued a powerful 171 page comprehensive report.
In that report, the Bioethics Commission strongly condemned all forms of surrogacy including "gestational surrogacy," which is not a new method to attempt to avoid state law. In that report, the Commission noted that every evil associated with surrogacy where the mother giving birth is genetically related to the child, is present with so-called "gestational surrogacy." In that report, the Bioethics Commission, chaired by the Honorable Paul Armstrong, recommended that the legislature pass legislation that deters the conduct, including some quasi-criminal sanctions, and impose rules specially tailored for the award of custody in those limited instances when deterrence fails.
We attach a copy of that Bioethics report for your consideration. In a subsequent letter, we shall outline each of the negative consequences and the deleterious effects of gestational surrogacy on the culture at large and the women and children of our state. We fear the short traced hearing in the legislature is a very poor and inadequate public review of these serious issues when compared to the careful, non-politicized, detailed review and analysis conducted by the Bioethics Commission.
We shall explain our concerns over exploitation of women, the use of women as an object, the disregard of their rights and the natural bonding during and the important role of pregnancy, as well as the commodification of women and children and in many instances, the deprivation of a child's right to have a relationship with his or her mother, as a result of a plan devised, prior to conception, to deliberately separate them without regard for the best interest of either the mother or child.
We ask for an opportunity to assist the legislature in better understanding the problems posed by gestational surrogacy before a floor vote takes place.
You can find a full copy of the New Jersey Bioethics Commission Report by clicking on the following link: NJ Ethics Report on Surrogacy September 1992. Please allow up to three minutes for the file to load as it is a rather large file.
There is a very extensive and thoughtful summary located at the begging of the report for ease of reference of the findings and recommendations to the Legislature.