Surrogacy bill amended, then passed

A controversial bill to set up a legal framework in Louisiana for surrogate motherhood contracts emerged from the Louisiana House Wednesday on a 88-4 vote after significant changes. Senate Bill 162 must return to the state Senate for consideration of the changes.

The House added language to ensure gay and unmarried couples would not be able to enter into a surrogate contract enforceable by the courts. A physician also would have to deem the surrogacy medically necessary to assist in reproduction, eliminating the possibility, as one legislator put it, of women hiring surrogates to avoid weight gains and stretch marks.

The Louisiana Family Forum and the Center for Medical Ethics asked House members to vote against SB162, characterizing it as not pro-life. The Family Forum purports to serve as the voice of traditional families. The Center for Medical Ethics is an arm of Louisiana Right to Life.

At issue was whether surrogacy contracts could result in abortions because of birth defects.

State Sen. Gary Smith, R-Norco, filed SB162 after he and his wife, Katherine, used an out-of-state surrogate to become parents. They now have a son and a daughter.

Amid vocal concerns about the bill on the House floor, state Rep. Joseph Lopinto approached the podium and admitted that he and his wife conceived their two-year-old twins through in vitro fertilization, after struggling for years with infertility.

Lopinto, R-Metairie, said he embraces SB162, although he does not believe in abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, said the surrogate could not be forced to have an abortion.

“I refuse not to see the hand of God in the medical miracle that can occur,” said Leger, who handled the bill on the House floor.